Top 10 Ways You Can Get to Know and Love

by Solveig Haugland

So, you know you should be using, it's free, it's the Right Thing to Do, but like switching from Hostess Cupcakes to high-fiber cereal, it's hard to break the habit of MS Office and switch to Here are a few things to help make the transition less traumatic and more fun.

  1. Get a book. Because Germans don't do usability. You can do a whole lot in OOo but easily find the options to do everything is not one of them. To create a background in OOo's Powerpoint equivalent, for example, you need to click on either Slide Design or choose View > Master > Drawing. Actually making the background is really easy and you have a lot of power and flexibility but getting there isn't obvious. The mantra of OOo users is "It's easy when you know how."

  2. "My " Resource Kit" has the CD in it, if you don't want to wait for the download. Michael Koch also has a book on StarOffice 6.0 which you can use for OOo.

    For a simple download page (the site is a bit labyrinthian), go to

  3. The datasource connection is pretty cool. Easier than last time and more useful, the premise is that you can connect to any database you want, including a bunch of open source databases. You just get to choose your means of connection: ADO, JDBC, ODBC, etc. You can also just create a plain delimited text file or spreadsheet and use that as your data source.
  4. Take a look at the Stylist. (Choose Format > Stylist.) You've got a bunch of built-in styles, and as you've probably been told by upstanding technical writers, using styles makes your life so much easier. The Stylist is one of the easiest and most effective tools in the program. Just format text how you want it and click the New Style From Selection to create a new style. Want to update the style? Just select that same text, change it, and click Update Style. It's pretty straightforward.
  5. Spend some time in Draw. Get to know the connector lines. It's like a mini-Visio. The lines stay connected to the objects no matter where you move them.
  6. Spend some time in Draw with the 3D features. You will probably be surprised. You get spheres, toruses, cubes, half spheres, etc. Rotate the shapes around and you'll see the frame rotating as you turn it.
  7. Spend some time in Draw with the text. AutoText has some pretty cool stuff for curving text to preset lines or your own line.
  9. Check the conversion of your MS documents. Feed them through the converter (File > AutoPilot > Document Converter). The wizard makes an OOo copy of each of your MS documents, so you can see how they did. This is an easy way to tell how much work you'll need to do on the OOo end to tweak formatting, and what you'd have to do after switching to OOo to work with people who do straight MS files.
  10. Choose Tools > AutoCorrect/AutoFormat and turn off everything under every tab. This is how you turn off nearly everything annoying like word completion.
  11. Note that in the latest version of OOo, you can print straight to PDF, and you can also export Impress (Powerpoint equivalent) presentations to Flash as well as HTML.
  12. All files are compressed XML. Unzip any OOo file and you get styles.xml, content.xml, and so on. Open the XML file in Textpad or your favorite editor and you can change any of the source (providing you don't goof up the XML, of course). This is particularly useful for editing broken graphics links or getting rid of the 2000 extra styles you somehow got when you converted from Word.
Compressed XML also means the files are very very small.

Solveig Haugland is an independent writer and trainer based in Colorado. Among other things, she's the author of the " Resource Kit" and "StarOffice 6.0 Companion." She does training for both programs and sells her book/workbook learning kit, and as of September 8th will be an international trainer when she heads to Norway to do a week of training.

You can contact Solveig through her training and books Web site,, or via