Mastering OpenOffice: Tips And Tricks For Your OpenOffice (Part I)

Being an open source software, OpenOffice has made it very easy for Microsoft Office users to migrate over. Not only is it highly versatile and has almost the same user interface as Microsoft Office, it also contains tons of great features that put other paid office-suites to shame.

The following are some of the useful OpenOffice tips and tricks unknown to many.

1) Shortcut keys

In OpenOffice, you can basically configure any shortcut keys to perform any tasks. Go to Tools -> Customize… Select the Keyboard tab.

You will see a couple of boxes with options. The upper box shows the current shortcut keys while the lower boxes show the available functions that you can map to.

On the lower box, scroll to the functions that you need and highlight it. Now on the upper box, select the key that you want to set as the shortcut and click Modify. For example, to configure the open office to open a new window with the key Ctrl+N, first scroll to New (Left lower box -> application and right lower box -> New) and highlight it. Next, select Ctrl+N on the upper box and click Modify. Now you can see the configured shortcut key at the right lower box.

oo-shortcut-key.jpg

You can mix and match till you find the most comfortable shortcut keys for your frequently used functions. There is no need to be bounded by the default shortcut key configuration.

If you want to migrate to another machine and don’t wish to reconfigure the shortcut key again, you can simply save the current shortcut keys as a configuration file and load it in the new machine.

2) Sending Your Document as E-mail

It is easy to send your document to your partners/friends/colleagues as email within OpenOffice. There is no need to save the file, start your email program, compose new mail, attach the file, enter the email address and click send. All you need to do is to go to File->Send->Document as Email. OO will take a snapshot of your current document, fire up a ‘compose new mail‘ window from your default mail program and attach the snapshot as a attachment. All you need to do is just enter the email address of your friends and click send.

You can choose to attach the document as OpenOffice document (.odt), Microsoft words doc (.doc) or as PDF file (.PDF). OO will automatically convert the snapshot to the format you want. In addition, the file format uses ZIP compression by default, which makes the attachment file small and compact.

3) Get help at any time

OpenOffice comes with a huge library of functions, which means that there are plenty of icons residing on your tool bar. If you are overwhelmed by the array of icons and cannot make out what is the function of each icon, you can simply press “Shift+F1” to load the help function.

Upon pressing Shift+F1, the mouse cursor will instantly change to a question marks with a down arrow. Point the question mark to the icon and a dialog box will appear to explain the function of that icon.

To deactivate the help function, simply click your mouse anywhere inside OO.

4) Feeling bored? Play StarWars game in OpenOffice

Open up OO Calc, click on any cell, type =GAME(“StarWars”) and press Enter.

You can now play StarWars game inside OpenOffice.

oo-starwars.jpg

5) Enable spellchecking

You can easily turn on the spell check function for OpenOffice. Simply go to Tools->Options. On the left pane, navigate to Language -> Writing Aids. Put a check on “OpenOffice SpellChecker“, “Hyphenator” and “Thesaurus“. On the last box, put a check on “check spelling as you type“.

oo-spellchecker.jpg

If you can’t find the spell checker function for your default language, you can download the complete spell checker dictionary from http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Dictionaries. You can install via File -> Wizards -> Install new dictionaries.

6) Searching the Web From Within OpenOffice

oo-websearch.jpgWhen you are typing your document, there will be moments where you want to check up one word/phrase. Instead of firing up your browser, navigate to your search engine and perform the search, now you can do it all in your OpenOffice.

Go to View->Toolbar. Locate Hyperlink bar and put a check beside it. A new toolbar will now appear. Now, whenever you highlight a word, it will appear on the left column of the hyperlink bar. On the extreme right, you can see a icon of a globe and magnifying glass with a dropdown option. Select the dropdown option and you can find a list of search engine. Click on your favorite search engine. Your default web browser opens and searches the highlighted terms in the search engine.

You are not restricted to the search engines listed in the hyperlink bar. You can add new sites for OO to search. Simply go to Tool->Options->Internet->Search. Click on the “New” button to add your favorite sites.

7) Alternative way to insert Tables

While you can insert tables via the Insert->Tables functions, you can also insert table by typing the syntax

“+—+————-+—–+”.

Enter a line like this “+——–+———+”. The very moment you press Enter, the line gets converted into a table, where the “+” characters are turned into vertical borders.

oo-insert-table.jpg

If that conversion doesn’t happen, you might have deactivated the feature in the past. Go to Tools -> AutoCorrect -> Options. Put a check beside “Create table”. Check that Format -> AutoFormat -> While Typing is enabled too.

This ends the first part of OpenOffice tips and tricks. I will continue to uncover more tips and tricks and post it here. If you have any tricks up your sleeves, feel free to leave your comment here and share with the rest.

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