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A First Look at OpenOffice.org 1.0 - page 3

Evaluating the OpenOffice.org 1.0 Production Release

  • May 8, 2002
  • By Rob Reilly

Let's talk about fonts, another issue that crops up from critics of OpenOffice.

Some of my old Word documents used "comic sans" and "arial" fonts. When I imported these documents into OpenOffice.org, these font names did show up in the tool bar box, but not on the drop-down list. The font that appeared for "comic sans" was some funky italic script style. If you do a lot of wedding invitations, this would be a great font. Not really what I had in mind. The application apparently tried to match my font with the closest one it had in its inventory. Likewise with "arial" except OpenOffice.org matched it to "helvetica". I can live with that because it's a nice simple style that will work for my letters and other documents.

We always seem to be back to the TrueType font issue, which is actually a problem under X, not OpenOffice. To its credit, the program does supply some good usable fonts. If you need more, you can monkey around with the font replacement feature under the Options, OpenOffice.org, Font Replacement menu command. In this way, OpenOffice tries to provide for the font translation problems that currently exist between Windows and Linux.

In spite of my difficulty with fonts, there are many time and labor saving features in this package.

If you edit many complicated documents with graphics, tables, hyperlinks, etc. you'll like the Navigator function under the Edit menu. The Navigator gives a tree-like view of all the elements in your document. If there are graphics in your document you can go right to them by clicking on that item in the Navigator tree. The names of the entities represent the type of object and are (by default) numerically incremented. For clarity, you can rename the object in the Navigator tree structure so it will be easier to recognize later. You can also start up the Navigator from the menu bar by using the 4-sided pinwheel star button.

Speaking of graphics, OpenOffice.org also has a feature that allows you to do some PhotoShop-type operations right there on the screen within Writer (see Figure 2). Simply highlight the graphical element in your document and a tool bar will appear that allows you to adjust the graphics mode, red/green/ blue color, brightness, contrast, gamma and transparency. The effects are applied very quickly and are individually set for each graphical element in your document. Now you can get those pictures to look just right without having to start up an external graphics program and go through the import shuffle. If you click on the graphics property button (on the far right of the graphics tool bar) you will see that you can also crop the image, flip it horizontally or vertically and do other tricks. Best of all these functions happen very quickly, saving you time.

The Writer screen seems to be well laid out with the traditional locations for File, Edit, Insert, Format, Tools and so on. There are also menu buttons along the left side (default) for common functions like Insert objects, Spell check, and Find. While the initial loading of OpenOffice.org was high, around 14 seconds, once it was up I didn't have to wait for any functions or screens to appear. Even using the internal graphics functions (outlined later) were fast.

I tried saving a document in several formats. The native (default) format has a .sxw file extension. When I saved a test file in .html I was back to the font issue again. The text on the editor screen was "helvetica" and the same .html page text appeared as "times new roman" or plain text. I was happy to see the animated GIF that I inserted into my text document did spin around while in the OpenOffice.org text editor, as well as in the Mozilla browser.

If you simply must work with Word files on a regular basis, just change the save default file type to Word 97/2000/XP. OpenOffice.org warns you that some data may be lost by using a format other than the standard OpenOffice.org text document format. I saved some documents in Word format and found no loss of data or formatting. Believe it or not, my "comic sans" fonts came back too when I viewed the saved documents in Word (using a Windows 2000 machine at Kinkos). The default saved file type can be changed on a screen under the Options, Load/Save, General menu command (see Figure 3).

One setting you should be aware of is the default measurement unit. As installed my OpenOffice.org came up using Centimeters as the default unit of measure. Interestingly enough, the Word documents I imported displayed and printed correctly, even before I changed the default from centimeters to inches. The setting can be changed under the Tools, Options, General, Text Documents menu command. I switched over to inches while still in my document and the column margin numbers magically changed to inches. Now my margins are from 0 to 6 inches instead of 0 to 15.2 centimeters. The units can be switched at will. Once I switched to inches, subsequent text documents came up in inches.

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