Open Source

Performing common Word tasks in OpenOffice.org 2.0's Writer

When you see the Templates dialog box, you'll type a name for your custom template

This gallery is also available as a TechRepublic article.

Many folks may be a bit apprehensive about making the switch from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org because of the learning curve. Sure the cost difference, several hundred bucks vs. free, is very, very attractive! But is that savings going to be eaten away by training costs and lost productivity? Fortunately, the answer is no! OpenOffice.org 2.0's cadre of open source developers has spent a great deal of time in an attempt to make the two office suites as alike as possible in both the feature set and more importantly in the user interface. And, they've succeeded!

Realistically speaking, it will take some time to make the transition as many features and settings are named differently and are in different locations, but the names and locations aren't too far of a stretch of the imagination and it's easy to make the connections. As such, it won't take nearly as much time as you might think for seasoned Microsoft Office users to train themselves how to use OpenOffice.org 2.0.

One of the most commonly used applications in an office suite is the word processor and while Microsoft Word has all but tied up the top spot in this application category, OpenOffice.org 2.0's Writer could very easily unseat Word and take over the throne. In the arena of word processing tasks, feature by feature, Writer can match or better Word in every way really matters. With this challenge in mind, let's take a look at performing some common Word tasks in OpenOffice.org 2.0's Writer.

Creating custom templates and styles

In most business environments, all documents are based on templates, which can contain font settings, formatting, or boilerplate text, so that they all have a similar look and feel. For example, you might use a letterhead template for your company correspondence to make sure all letters from your company have a standard look. Similarly, you might use templates for memos, faxes, legal documents, or marketing materials. To ensure that the formatting in the document based on your templates remains consistent you can create styles and save them in your templates.

As such, creating templates and styles is a pretty common task that you'll want to perform in Writer. Fortunately, this operation is quite straight-forward in Writer.

To begin, just open a new document using the default template. Once you have a blank document open, create a complete mockup of the type information that a document based on this template should contain. For example, you should include titles, headings, sample body text, as well as any boilerplate text. As you do, go ahead apply all the formatting you'll want to each element such as font settings and spacing.

Now, pull down the File menu, select the Templates | Save command. When you see the Templates dialog box, as shown above, type a name for your custom template in the New Template text box and click OK.

About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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