OpenOffice: Tips and Tricks Part I

Using the free and open-source productivity suite can be a godsend for those that don’t want to hand over more money to Microsoft. Its word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and database applications almost mirror that of the MS Office suite. However as you may have already noticed, there are some differences between the two. If you have been a regular MS Office user, the lack of some features and minor differences in and converting between the two formats can become quite bothersome. Just don’t give up yet.

This tutorial series will take you through some tips and tricks on migrating from MS Office to 2.4. You’ll see how to replicate some of the functionality and features that are lacking in Soon you’ll be more comfortable using for just about all your desktop publishing needs.

Adding More Templates

After browsing through’s templates, you’ll see there are basically none. Its few presentation templates for Impress and Writer’s label and business card wizards don’t come close to all the templates offered in MS Office for letters, calendars, resumes, a variety of presentations, spreadsheet solutions, and other projects. However, you don’t have to start your documents from scratch; you can download more templates. screen shot

Grammar Checker and Splitting the Window

Another major feature that is not available in by default is a grammar checker. You’ll find a spell checker is automatically installed and enabled, however it does not check grammar; duplicate words, punctuation, fragments, capitalization, and so on. A grammar checker is pretty useful if you plan to do much writing at all — saves me from submitting a lot of grammatically-incorrect articles.

The LanguageTool extension comes to the rescue. Just download and install it like the other add-ons. Then you’ll see the LT button (see Figure 2) on the toolbar. A quick click of the button will let you know if the document is error-free or it will pop-up a dialog box similar to the spelling and grammar checker of Word. screen shot
Firgure 2: Language Tool Button
(Click for larger image)

Splitting the Window in Word/Writer

When you’re working on a document with more than a page or two in Microsoft Word, the split window feature can be incredibly useful — I use it just about every day. You just have to click Window — Split on the main toolbar and you’ll see double; two windows of the same document. Now you can adjust the windows to see and edit two different parts of your document without having to scroll back and forth.

If try to do this in Writer, you’ll see that the Window menu on the toolbar doesn’t have a Split option, but there is a way to replicate this feature. When you have your document open, click Window — New Window to open a duplicate window of the document. Similar to Word, when you edit the document on one window, the changes are also visible on the other windows.

How does that replicate Word’s split window feature, you might ask. Well you don’t have to keep switching between the windows. You can manually resize the windows to fit both on the screen at once or if you’re running Windows you can tell Windows to arrange them for you:

  1. Click one of the window title buttons on the taskbar to open the window.
  2. Hold the Control (Ctrl) key and click the other window title button on the taskbar.
  3. Right-click on either of the title buttons and select how you want to arrange the selected windows; stacked or side by side.
Figure 3 shows how to do this and what it looks like when you stack the windows. screen shot
Firgure 3: Splitscreen
(Click for larger image)

Now you can remove the toolbars of at least one of the windows to make more room for displaying the actual document. Simply click the small down arrow on the right end of the toolbars and click Close. This process of splitting windows in Writer isn’t quite as quick as in Word, but it works.

Stay tuned — more parts will sprinkle in, giving you more tips and tricks to using

Eric Geier is the Founder and President of Sky-Nets, Ltd., a Wi-Fi Hotspot Network. He is also the author of many networking and computing books, including Home Networking All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies (Wiley 2008) and 100 Things You Need to Know about Microsoft Windows Vista (Que 2007).

Adapted from

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the Forums. Join the discussion today!

Must Read

Get the Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Daily Tech Insider for top news, trends, and analysis.