If you've used the latest incarnation of OpenOffice you may have seen or read about the addition of extensions. With the latest OpenOffice you can expand the capabilities of this outstanding office suite by adding various types of extensions. The types of extensions range from simple templates all the way to full document management systems (and everything in between). You can think of this in a similar way to the Firefox add-ons.
And just like the Firefox add-ons, you will find plenty of extensions that could become invaluable to your day-in and day-out routine. You will also find extensions that have no value for you or your company. Your needs and demands will dictate what you will install.
To search the extension database, go to the OpenOffice Extension page and browse through the various extensions. You can search by Top rated, Highest downloads, Most recent, By application, etc.
The installation process isn't complicated. In fact, there are multiple ways to install an extension for OpenOffice. In this article we will highlight each method. This article will assume you have a full OpenOffice installation greater than or equal to 3.0. That is all you need to get going on the extensions. And with that said, let's move ahead.
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The Extension ManagerIf you go to the Tools menu, you will see the Extension Manager entry. When you open this, you will notice a fairly simple, straightforward interface (Figure A).
Not only can you install extensions from within this window, you can update your currently installed extensions as well.
From within the Extension Manager you will find two of the easiest ways to install an extension: from a local file and directly from the Web. These are the two primary methods of installing. The former allows you to add extensions that you have downloaded by clicking the Add button and then locating the extension that you saved to your hard drive. The latter method takes you to the OpenOffice Extension page where you can search for an extension to install.
Let's walk through the process of installing from the Web.The first thing to do is to open the Extension Manager. You can either open it as described above, or you can open the main OpenOffice desktop. To open the desktop, go to the OpenOffice menu and select the OpenOffice.org entry. This will open the main OpenOffice window (Figure B), which allows you to open any type of OpenOffice document or template and install the extension.
To open the Extension Manager, click on the icon second from the left.
Once you have the Manager open, click on the Get More Extensions Online link at the bottom left, which will open your default browser to the OpenOffice Extension page. For simplicity's sake, we'll install the Sun PDF Importer Extension. If you navigate to the extension page, you will see Get It buttons for various operating systems. Since we are working in Windows (in this case, Windows 7), click the Get It button for Windows. Once the file is saved, depending on your browser, either you will have to click it to start the process or the browser will automatically start the process for you.Once the process is initiated, you will have to only OK the installation. In some instances, however, you might have to agree to the terms of a license. Such is the case with the Sun PDF Importer. Once the extension is installed, you will not have to restart OpenOffice to use said extension. The new extension will immediately show up in the Extension Manager (Figure C) where you can disable it or uninstall it. There are some extensions that also offer a Preferences button.
It doesn't hurt to check for updates now and then.
Now let's install from a local file. When you download an OpenOffice extension to a local directory, all you need to do is click the Add button from within the Extension Manager window. After you click that, you will have to navigate to where you downloaded the file and then click Open. Next, you will be taken back to the Extension Manager where you will see the progress of the installation. After the extension is installed, you can delete the downloaded file.
I have added numerous extensions to various OpenOffice installations. Some of these Extensions make your office life so much easier. And since these extensions are free and easy to install, it is a no-brainer that you should take advantage of this method to extend the capabilities of OpenOffice. And if you are a developer that has a functionality need that OpenOffice doesn't offer, you can check out OpenOffice Extensions Developer Resource page and look into developing your own extensions.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.