Open Source

Making Applixware more efficient

Tired of repeating certain tasks in Applixware? Jack Wallen, Jr. explains how to use macros, customizable toolbars, and hot keys to create a seamless way of handling repetitious tasks within this Linux office suite.

If you're like me, you use certain applications over and over. And, within those certain applications, you do particular tasks over and over. (Welcome carpal tunnel syndrome!)

Fortunately, most good applications that require repetitive tasks, such as word processors, spreadsheets, etc., include tools to make these tasks more efficient. Some of these tools include:
  • Macros
  • Customizable toolbars
  • Hot keys

Applixware combines these tools to create a very seamless and painless way of minimizing the repetition of these tasks. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll show you how to take advantage of the efficiencies Applixware has to offer.

Don't worry, we're not talking about the same macros that have brought down many a Microsoft product. Applixware has its own macro language built entirely on the Extended Language Facility (ELF) language, and it includes nearly 4,000 built-in macros as well as a complete set of development tools that allow you to develop and run ELF programs.

A macro is a single computer instruction that stands for a sequence of operations. Said plainly, a macro is a simple keystroke or menu option that will run a number of commands or functions.

Make it simple
Creating a macro in Applixware is very similar (in function only) to creating macros in nearly any other word processing software. The simplest and quickest method is using the macro recorder. If you've ever used MS Words' macro recorder, you'll feel right at home here.

From the main drop-down menu, marked with an * (see Figure A), you select Record Macro, or you hit [Shift][F8]. Once you start the macro recorder, your cursor will change from the standard pointer to a circle. With the macro recorder cursor active, you go through the steps of formatting (or saving, or e-mailing, or whatever you choose). Then when you are through, you select Record Macro once again.

Figure A
Select Record Macro from this menu.

Once you've selected Record Macro the second time, you will have to name your macro and tell the configuration tool whether you want to locate it in a current menu (and if so, which menu), the name that will appear in the menu, and an accelerator key (shortcut key).

A simple walk-through
Now, I’ll explain how to create a macro for adding your contact information to the top of our business correspondence. The first step is to open up a new Applix Words document, select (from the proper drop-down menu) Record Macro, type in all the information, select (again) Record Macro, name the macro, give it a home, name the macro within the home, give it an accelerator key, and okay the changes.

Say what?

Don't panic, I’m going to walk you through it now.
  1. Open up a new Applix Words document.
  2. Select Record Macro.
  3. Type in your information. In my case, I’m going to type the following:
    Jack Wallen, Jr.
    Editor in Chief of Linux content
  4. Select Record Macro again.
  5. In the Name field, enter BizHeader.
  6. From the drop-down menu, select Format.
  7. In the Name In Menu field, enter BizHeader.
  8. In the Accelerator field, enter a \ character after the ^ character (this will represent the key combination of [Ctrl][\]).
  9. Click OK.

Now, when you hit the key combination [Ctrl][\], the above contact information will be placed at the cursor’s position. Figure B shows you the window where steps 5 through 9 occur.

Figure B
In this window, perform the final steps for creating a user-defined macro.

Of course, macros can be much more complicated than what I've outlined above. Let's say you’ve been designated to create and mail particular documents to numerous recipients each day. Instead of having to use two applications (as well as pointing and clicking yourself to death), why don't you create an Applix macro to do this for you?
To create this macro, you’ll need to have e-mail configured properly within Applix.
  1. Start up a document and choose Record Macro.
  2. Click the Send icon (the small mail icon next to the Save icon in the first ExpressLine).
  3. Select the recipients (if they’re not listed, you can create new users from the Alias List entry in the Lists menu), and click Add.
  4. Add any message to the e-mail and indicate whether or not the e-mail is urgent (or certified to be copied to the outbox and/or to add the recipients to a personal list).
  5. Click OK.
  6. Choose Record Macro again.
  7. Name the macro MailDocument.
  8. Place the macro in the Other menu.
  9. Name the macro (within the menu) MailDocument.
  10. Give the macro the ^m accelerator.
  11. Click OK.

Now, whenever you finish up a document (but before you close that document), hit [Ctrl]m and you will mail that document to the configured users. Pretty snazzy, I'd say!

Customizable toolbars
Users of Applixware have the good fortune of being able to completely customize their toolbars. As you can see from Figure C, the Applix Words toolbar has a typical setup that most users will find familiar.

Figure C
The Applix Words toolbar should seem familiar to most users.

The above figure shows the standard Applixware application toolbar. Within each Applixware application, there will be unique buttons and menus, but the standard applies nearly across the board.
With the exception of the Styles menu, this is a default toolbar.
Each aspect of this toolbar (or menu bar) can be customized to give a completely unique look and feel. To begin your customization, first open up the right tool for the job. This tool can be found in the * menu from the Customize Menu Bar entry. This tool allows you to add, remove, and alter all entries in the toolbar and both ExpressLine bars (the ExpressLine bars are the two lower bars that contain the clickable icons that execute various tasks). Figure D shows the opening view of the customization tool.

Figure D
Here is the opening menu customization screen.

On the left, you will see a large vertical text area with entries that look like these:

Each of these entries represents a menu entry in the upper toolbar. Some or all of these menu entries will be present, depending on how your installation is configured (I'll talk about adding or removing them later).

Below these entries you'll see

which represent the two lower toolbars.

The right-hand side of this tool contains the various configuration entries for each toolbar/toolbar entry. This is where you will do much of your work on the menus and toolbars. Get to know it. Get to love it.

Let's take a closer look at what the left-hand side has to offer, shall we? When we expand one of these menus (let's work with the File menu first), we see something like this:
Import Styles...
Save As...
Page Setup...

Each of the lines above represents a menu entry within the File menu (the dashed lines represent separators). As you click on each one, you’ll see its configuration option—the most important of which is the macro that the entry calls. For example, when you click New..., you’ll see what is shown in Figure E.

Figure E
Here you can see the unique entries for the New… menu entry.

As you can see in Figure E, the following entries have unique content:
  • Name
  • Macro
  • Accelerator
  • Mnemonic
  • Micro Help
  • Display In Menu Bar

As you click through each menu entry, you’ll see that each has its own unique names, macros, etc. I hope you're getting an idea of how this works.

Creating a new entry within a menu
This is where customizing the menu and ExpressLines excels beyond most other suites. What you’re going to do is create a new entry for one of those super snappy macros you created above and place it in a newly created drop-down menu and in an ExpressLine icon.

The first step is to decide what your new drop-down menu will contain. Some of you will want to house all of your personal styles (such as I've done for my work with TechProGuild). Others may prefer to create a Miscellaneous drop-down menu. Regardless of what you call it (and what you plan on putting in it), we’re going to create a new entry called Stuff. Within Stuff, we’re going to put our new macros, BizHeader and MailDocument.

The next step is to open the configuration tool (discussed above and shown in Figure D) and click the Menu button. Once you click that button, you’ll see a new menu on the left pane called New_Menu->.

You can now begin to customize this menu. The first step is to name it. We’re going to name ours Stuff by highlighting (from the left pane) the New_Menu-> option we just created. Once it’s highlighted, you will see New_Menu in the Name area, None in the (grayed out) Accelerator area, and the Display In Menu Bar option selected. Now you will delete New_Menu from the Name space and enter Stuff. Along with the new name, you’ll now want to give the menu a mnemonic. If you don't already know, a mnemonic (in this situation) is a key press that will open up the specified drop-down menu. If you look at your current menu offerings, you’ll notice individual characters underlined. The underlined character is that menu’s mnemonic. To use the mnemonic, you simply press [Alt] plus that menu’s mnemonic key. For instance, the File menu has a mnemonic of F. By pressing [Alt]f (the cap isn't necessary), you’ll see the File menu open.

For our Stuff menu, we’ll use the S mnemonic, so enter an S in the Mnemonic field. Once you've completed this, click Apply. You’d think that the new menu would immediately appear in the menu bar. Au contraire, mes amis. In order to get your new menu to appear, you must put some stuff in Stuff.

To place our macros in Stuff, we must go back to the initial configuration screen, double-click the Format menu (remember, this is where we placed our first macro), select the BizHeader macro, click Cut, click Up, double-click Stuff, click Paste, and (finally) click Apply. You should now see your new Stuff menu in the menu bar. Now run back through the steps in order to place the MailDocument macro inside the Stuff menu.

One step further
Let's say you use the MailDocument macro even more than you thought you would, and you don't want to have to either use a key combination or a drop-down menu. What can you do? You can place the macro in one of the ExpressLines.

The ExpressLines, you recall, are the lower two menu bars that contain icons and drop-down, text-area menus. Here you can enter your macros so that all it takes is a single click of the mouse to activate them.

To add your macro into the first ExpressLine, you are going to open up the configuration tool (shown in Figure D) and perform the following steps:
  1. Double-click Stuff.
  2. Highlight MailDocument.
  3. Click Cut.
  4. Click Up.
  5. Double-click ExpressLinux 1->.
  6. Click Paste.
  7. Highlight the newly added MailDocument.
  8. Select 1 from the Display In ExpressLine drop-down menu.
  9. Click Bitmap.
  10. Select the box to the right of the Bitmap text area.
  11. Select a bitmap image to use for your macro.
  12. Click Apply.

Blam! Your new clickable icon is in the first ExpressLine. Go on, test it out!

In this Daily Drill Down, I’ve shown you that Applixware is a one-of-a-kind office suite with regard to user-friendliness. Its ability to add to and remove items from the menu bars makes it a dream for those in need of a lightning-fast (and reliable, mind you) work environment. I can honestly say that once you begin taking advantage of this Applixware feature, you won't ever want to go back to the other side.
The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox