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Questions about OpenOffice (long read)

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NathanJ79
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Questions about OpenOffice (long read)

I was really tempted to make this post a couple days ago, when I really had to get my feet wet with OpenOffice. Used to be, I had MS Office XP on my computer, and OpenOffice was like the "backup". Well, I've decided to make a clean break from MS Office. I almost reinstalled it for my experience with Word and Excel, but I made it work, all the while wanting to say some very unkind words to the developers. But, I cooled off, and would still like to raise some issues I had, in a more civilized manner:

Calc - Borders are a real pain to work with. in Excel, I feel like I have total control over the borders. In Calc, for example, I cannot apply two thicknesses of lines to a cell or set of cells; this is trivial in Excel. If I want to do that, I must set the borders for one thickness, hit OK, go back in, and set the borders for the next thickness.

On top of this, Calc makes certain unnecessary assumptions about what I want to do. I highlight the cells in my A column, and attempt to put a thick border on the left. But I can't just put the border on the left, it draws a T, rotated counter-clockwise 90 degrees, and if I hit OK, it draws the thick border on the left, and between the cells. I don't want this. What I ended up having to do was, I inserted a column before A (making A, B) and highlighted the appropriate cells in the new Column A. For some reason it let me apply just the right side, not the horizontal lines.

I suppose Calc is good for calculations, but what I really love about Excel 2002 is the ability to create really sharp forms, and reliable bordering is required to do this. You have to be able to have a design in mind and apply it without the software second-guessing you.

Write - No apparent way to make a Landscape document? I searched and searched, but couldn't find it. Is there really no way? I ended up using Impress to make my cover sheet. I found the WordArt function (what it's called, I can't recall) but not the method of changing the text. I realized you just type it, as it appears over the WordArt if you click the right way.

Sounds simple now, but I was ready to throw something or hit someone Friday night.

What I did was, I took my database of Rock Band songs (we have 394 currently) from MyRockBandSongs.com and imported it into Calc to make a better booklet than the site offers. They use the PlayStation 3 difficulty levels, which are different from the Xbox 360 ones; for some reason PlayStation uses a 0-6 scale, while Xbox uses 1-7. So for the individual instrument ratings, I just made a column beside each, did something like =k+1, and dragged it down, then hid the original column. (But, is there a way to convert the result of the equation to plain text, so I can delete the original column?) The whole-band difficulty was not so easy, as it was graphics, that did not line up with the rows. That was a chore. As for Write/Impress, I wanted a fancy cover sheet.

Anyway, Microsoft's argument that Office costs less than OpenOffice because you have to re-train your people to use it is now clearer to me; it's not just something they're saying because they want you to pay for their product instead of using OpenOffice for free. MS Office is smart, and intuitive. However, I'm sticking with OpenOffice - despite Microsoft being right, OpenOffice is an open source project currently in development. MS Office XP is no longer in development, and I'm not paying for a new one, only to have it outdated a year later by a more expensive version. Besides, if I want to jump to Linux -- and I do, eventually -- I can't be tied to something that's only for Windows.

So, I know this sounds like a long rant -- and, it kind of is -- but are the features in question still being worked on, or did I do something wrong perhaps?

I'm still using 3.0.1 at home, and I'm pretty sure PortableApps.com has 3.1 up, with 3.1.1 on the way, so I will certainly upgrade before I tackle another project.

And keeping that spreadsheet database up to date will be trivial compared to the effort required to get it started. Now when we buy songs for the game, I'll just enter them manually, as well as update the site separately.

Oh yeah, one last question: I have two files, the spreadsheet and the cover sheet. Is there any way to get them in one file? Whether it's an OpenOffice-editable file (unlikely) or a PDF I can link to on my blog? If not, I'll just post the database, but the cover sheet is nice. I suppose I can take a screenshot of it and put it above the spreadsheet; is that my best bet?

Sorry for the long post.

horusofoz
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Some responding notes
  • To get a landscape document you go to Format>Page then select the Landscape radio button.
  • Though I hadn't encountered this borders issue in a real world scenario I can see how it could be frustrating. Have you tried scrolling through the lines styles to see if any of them align with your preference?
  • The Word Art equivalent is called Font Work. I agree it's a bit clunky.
  • With regards to combining files, it should be relatively easy to simply copy and paste both files into a Writer document in the correct setting. OpenOffice has a lot better interoperability of data between the separate apps.
  • OpenOffice can take some getting used to when migrating from MS Office but don't get discouraged. Just keep trying "live" use of OpenOffice to work out it's quirks. Same thing applies to when people first learn MS Office.
  • Please note that being open source software OpenOffice is still in development. Therefore it would benefit OpenOffice, yourself and all other users to make your suggestions in the OpenOffice forums.

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SakiTC
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Answer to your last question

It seems that there is no way of getting them in one file within OpenOffice.org. Although you can create master documents (consisting of several documents) in OpenOffice.org, it seems that spreadsheets can't be a part of them.
What you can do is this: export both files to PDF and then join the PDFs using PDFTK Builder Portable. Although this requires using one more app, PDFTK Builder is really very easy to use.

No typin th las lette ca sav yo plent o spac

horusofoz
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On the contrary

You can copy the table out of Calc and paste into Writer, the same with the cover sheet. Because of OpenOffice's interoperability it should work without issue. Alternatively embed the spreadsheet into Writer the same as you do with Office 2007 Word/Excel. Instructions here. You may also find these guides very helpful as well. Lastly, in the help.html file included OpenOffice Portable install directory there is a link to OpenOffice documentation which is fairly comprehensive.

Hope that helps Smile

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SakiTC
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You are right

But starting from the assumption that NathanJ79 has already spent some time formatting the spreadsheet in Calc, after copying the table into Writer he would almost certainly have some more formatting to do. If I had a "perfect" page printable in Calc and a "perfect" page printable in Writer, joining PDFs would be the easiest solution. Remember that he needs the Writer doc only as a cover page.

Sometimes less is more.

No typin th las lette ca sav yo plent o spac

NathanJ79
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Distribution not a priority

The distribution's not a priority anyway. I mean, I can just give people this link right here and they can see the database as it exists on the site. Any time I add songs, they're gonna get added to the site either just before, or just after, I add them to my own personal copy of the database, but in any case, much before I re-PDF it and put it online, if I'm even gonna do that. Nah, I only intend to offer the PDF as intended for offline viewing, which is why I printed out the spreadsheet with a pretty cover. But the online database will always be the superior way of looking at it, as you can sort by difficulty for any instrument (or whole band), or sort by the date it was added to the PlayStation Network (2 days after it hit Xbox Live, but no indication of when we bought the song). Or song title. I have it by artist name (then by song title).

Great game, too -- Rock Band 2, that is -- and a real example of 21st century gaming, something that you really can't say we had anything at all like in the 20th century. Not the best game for any console (and a shame it's not on the PC and moddable) but it's nice to have a party game, kind of an arcade/karaoke thing, and having the printed list is great, like how the bars have printed lists of their karaoke songs. Same idea, when we're playing, non-players can refer to the list and request songs from it. (Or if they're rotating in, they can get an advance idea of what they want to pick.)

BTW, for the sake of argument, the cover's in Impress, just as a single/first frame, but it could be done in Write, now that I know how to make a page landscape. No need to change it now though.

Pyromaniac
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I got the impression you were angry when you wrote this topic

I read on their website (a couple of years ago) that they intended to make OOo user-friendly to MS Office 2003 users. I felt that 2.x was really good at doing so, but I lost a lot of that feel after I started using 3.x.

I know I should have put this in the OO.o forum but I was too lazy Blum

NathanJ79
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horusofozTo get a landscape document you go to Format>Page then select the Landscape radio button.

Oh, OK. I was looking in the File menu, and maybe View or Edit or something. I suppose I just didn't look everywhere.

horusofozThough I hadn't encountered this borders issue in a real world scenario I can see how it could be frustrating. Have you tried scrolling through the lines styles to see if any of them align with your preference?

No, I only wanted to use, I think, 1.0 and 2.5 thicknesses. This was just a simple table, I wasn't looking for anything complex. Besides, it was putting borders where I didn't want them, not sure this would have helped.

horusofozPlease note that being open source software OpenOffice is still in development. Therefore it would benefit OpenOffice, yourself and all other users to make your suggestions in the OpenOffice forums.

Well, all software is currently in development by default, but point taken, I will make a point to do that. I just don't like registering for more sites than I have to. Just the other day I figured out the folders in KeePass (had just been putting them all in one) as well as the icons, so now I have a lot more room before I have to scroll, but the database is getting kinda big. Still, wouldn't kill me to drop them a line, especially if I continue using it and might have other questions later.

SakiTCWhat you can do is this: export both files to PDF and then join the PDFs using PDFTK Builder Portable. Although this requires using one more app, PDFTK Builder is really very easy to use.

I will do that. I don't mind adding another portable app on the home computer. Unlike installed apps, the more the merrier!

PyromaniacI got the impression you were angry when you wrote this topic

No, though remembering the problems I had did make me a little annoyed. But no, not angry in the least.

Megafrog
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I understand the frustration

I don't have any tips on OOo but as a Word 2002/Adobe Acrobat 8.1 user I know there are some things that just make OOo unusable for print work like the lack of PDFX or full bleed to page edge in Writer.

However it is 1) free 2) not cluttering my registry on computers that don't have my print setup and 3) good for just about everything you want if you don't have to run it through a pro printer. The help manual is very good too.

Aside from open source folks giving online support at no cost, it gets updated fairly often.

Like the weather in any city where people have this same joke, if you don't like OOo, wait an hour.

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