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Integrating Writer into Your Business - page 2

Writer Has The Right Stuff

  • January 5, 2004
  • By Rob Reilly

OpenOffice.org Writer is a comprehensive Open Source word processing program for Linux. The layout and function is very similar to other proprietary word processors, under Windows like MS Word and Word Perfect. The program is remarkably easy to use, if you've used any of the other modern text editors, regardless of platform. Writer has a main screen that is used for entering and viewing your document with tool bars across the top and left sides. Selections are generally done through drop-down menus.

Want to send one of your clients a letter with an invoice? You could simply start up OpenOffice.org, click File, New, Text Document and just start typing. You'll have to set margins, place the address lines, enter the date and so on. An easier way is to switch to AutoPilot and follow its route to your business letter destination.

Start OpenOffice.org, then click on File, AutoPilot, letter. The AutoPilot will lead you through various screens where you to select whether you want personal or business, along with the style of the letter. It also lets you input the sender and recipient address, margins, pagination, etc. All the values are typed into a "fill in the blank" style interface and can be saved as a template or form letter file for later use.

One particular area of interest might be the ability for Writer to grab data from a database for the recipient information and stick it into your form letters. Obviously, you should have address information in a database somewhere. It could be a Mozilla address book, an LDAP server directory, a spreadsheet, a dbase file or what have you.

The way it works is that you create your form letter, then define your database location while you are in the AutoPilot session. After you've selected Create, the letter will appear on the screen with your selected field names. You can edit you letter or move the fields and text around to your heart's content. When you're happy with the letter, just hit print. You'll be asked if you want to print a form letter. Answer Yes. At that point you can simply click on a record in the little database window to select your recipient.

One thing to watch. When the question of "Do you want to print field names?" comes up, answer "No." Otherwise, you'll print the names of the database fields on your paper, instead of the recipients information. Other than that it works great and can save you lots of work.

Before you leave your form letter, you'll also need an envelope.

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