OpenOffice Writer training notes (request: make training video plz!)

OpenOffice.org is one of the most important layers of the open-source stack. Although it does a superb job, we really need to make effort to get more users working on it.

Here we present training notes for the use of Writer, the word processor component of OpenOffice.org. We aim to make the best use of styles by creating well-structured documents. What we show here is built on work of others, including the OpenOffice Linux.com articles by Bruce Byfield, the amazing OpenOffice.org documentation and the spot-on article of Christian Paratschek at osnews.com. Actually, the following follow more or less Christian’s article.

When training in OpenOffice.org, it is important to create a fluid workflow that starts from the basics and increases gradually in complexity. It would be great if someone could turn the notes in a training video.

  1. We start of with running OpenOffice.org Writer. The default windows appears. Compared with other word processors, in OOo we see this text boundary in the document (the dim rectangle that shows the area we can write in). We mention we can show/hide it with View/Text boundaries.
  2. When creating a document, it is good to set the properties such as Title and Subject. We do that from File/Properties/Description. It may look too much effort now, but it will help us later wherever we want to write the document title or subject. Use Using OpenOffice.org Writer for title and How to write nice document in OpenOffice.org Writer for subject.
  3. Writer supports styles which makes life much easier. You probably have used styles before; using Heading 1, Heading 2 for headings so that you can create easily the Table of Contents. Writer has a Styles and Formatting window that is accessible from the icon/button near the File menu. The icon looks like a hand clicking on a 3×3 grid. You can also get the windows from Format/Styles and Formatting, or by simply pressing F11. Once you do that, you get a floating window. You can dock it by dragging it to the right edge of the Writer window. If you are into 3D desktop, it may not be easy to dock (it automatically switches to another side of the desktop cube). In this case, use the key combination Ctrl-Shift-F10 to dock the Styles and Formatting window. It is good here to resize the document (that is, change the magnification) so that it appears centered with little empty space around.
  4. Writer supports styles, not only for Paragraphs (like Heading 1) but also for Pages. See the status bar at the bottom of the Writer window; it mentions Default which is the default page style. When we write a document, the first page is good to have a distinct style that is appropriate to the properties of a first page. This includes, making sure the second page appears empty, the page gets no page numbering and so on. On the Styles and Formating dock we select the Page styles tab and we double-click on the First Page style. This will set the current page to the First Page style, and we can verify visually by looking at the status bar (Now First Page instead of the old Default).
  5. We are not writing yet; lets create the subsequent pages first. To do so, we insert manual breaks in our document. Click on Insent/Manual Break…/ and select to insert a Page Break. As style for the page after the break choose the Index page style, tick on Change page number, and make sure the numbering starts from 1. Click OK. Proper documents start numbering from the Index page. The Index page is the page we put the Table of Contents, Table of Figures and so on.
  6. Make sure the cursor is on the new page with the Index style. We need to create a new page break, so that we can get writing the actual document. Click on Insert/Manual Break…/ and select a Page Break. As style for the page after the break you can choose Default. Leave any page numbering settings as is because it inherits from before. Click OK.
  7. Now, to view what we have achieved, let’s go to Print Preview, and choose to see four pages at a time. We can see the first page, another page which is intentionally left blank, the Index page and the Default page. Close Print preview and return to the document.
  8. Now let’s go back to the first page. We want to put the title on the first page. Nothing extravagant, at least yet. What we do is we visit the Paragraph styles and find the Title style. While the cursor is on the first page at the start, we double-click on the Title style. The cursor moves the the center of the document and we can verify that the Title paragraph style has been applied; see on the right of the Styles and Formating icon on the top-left of the Writer window. Shall we write the title of the document now? Not so fast. We can insert the title as a field, because we already wrote it in the properties at the beginning in Step 2. Click Insert/Fields/Title.
  9. Now press Enter; the cursor moves down and it somehow automatically changes to the Subtitle style. Styles in OpenOffice allow you to choose a Next style (a followup style) and in this case, when someone presses Enter on the Title style, they get a new paragraph in the Subtitle style. While in the line/paragraph with Subtitle style, click on Insert/Field…/Subject. Fields in OpenOffice.org appear with a dark gray background; this does not appear in printing, it is just there to help you identify where the fields are.
  10. Now lets move to the last page, the page with Default style and write something. Select the Heading 1 paragraph style and type Introduction. Press enter and you notice that the next style is Text body. Text body is the natural paragraph style for text in Writer (most documents have the default Default paragraph style which is wrong). Now write something in Text Body such as I love writing documents in OpenOffice.org Writer. Copy the line and paste several times so that we get a nice paragraph of at least five lines. Make sure when pasting that after a full stop there should be a single space, then the new sentence starts.
  11. Press Enter and now we are ready to add a new heading. Type Writing documents and set the Heading 1 paragraph style. Press Enter and fill up a paragraph with more of I love writing documents in OpenOffice.org Writer.
  12. Press Enter and create a new section (add a Heading 2, name it Writing documents in style and fill up a corresponding paragraph).
  13. Press Enter and create a last section (add a Heading 1, name it Conclusion, and fill up a corresponding paragraph style).
  14. Now we are ready to place the cursor at the Index page we created before, and go for the Table of Contents. Click on Insert/Indexes and Tables/Indexes and Tables. The default index type is Table of Contents. We keep the default settings and click OK. We get a nice looking table of contents.
  15. At this stage we have a complete basic document, with first page, index page and default page.

The next set of steps include more polishing and adding extra elements to our document.

  1. The text body style is configured to have the left alignment by default. Normally, one would select paragraphs and click on a paragraph alignment button on the toolbar to change the alignment. Because we are using styles, we can modify the Text Body style to have another alignment, and presto the whole document with text in the same style follow suit. In the Styles and Formating dock, at the paragraph styles tab, select the Text Body style. Right-click on the Text Body style and choose to Modify style. Find the Alignment tab and choose Justified as the new alignment for Text Body paragraphs. Click Ok and observe the document changing to the new configuration.
  2. It is nice to the section numbers on the headings, such as 2.1 Writing documents in style. To do this, we need to change the default outline numbering. Click on Tools/Outline numbering… and select to modify the numbering for all levels (under Level, click 1-10). Then, under the Numbering group, change the Number option from the default None to 1, 2, 3, …. Click OK and the number is changed in the document.
  3. Go back to the Table of Contents. You notice that the numbering format does not look nice; some section numbers are too close to the section names. To fix, right click on the gray area of the table of contents and select Edit Index/Table. In the new dialog box, select the Entries tab. Under Structure and Formatting you can see the structure of each line of line in the table of contents table. The button labeled E# is the placeholder for the chapter number. After that there is a placeholder that you can actually type text. In our case we simply click and press the space bar to add another space. We then click the All button and finally click OK. Now, all entries in the Table of contents will have a space between the chapter number and chapter title.
  4. In order to add a footer with the current page number, click on Insert/Footer and pick Index, then Default. Both the Index and the Default style of pages get to show page numbers. Then, place the cursor in the footer area and Insert/Field/Page Number. You can modify the Footer paragraph style so that the text alignment is centered. You have to insert the field in both an Index page and a Default page.
  5. The page number in the Index page is commonly shown in Roman lowercase numbers. How can we fix that? We simply have to modify the Index page style accordingly; click on the Page Styles tab in Styles and Formatting, click to modify the Index page style, and at the Page tab in Layout Settings select the i, ii, iii, … format. Click OK.
  6. It would be nice to have the title on the header of each page, either Index or Default. Click on Insert/Header and add a header for Index and Default. Then, place the cursor in the header for both styles and click to add the Title field (Insert/Field/Title). Would it be nice to put a line under the header? The header text has the Header paragraph style. In the Styles and Formatting, click the Paragraph styles tab and select the Header paragraph style. Right-click and choose to Modify. In the Borders tab enable a bottom line and click OK.

OpenOffice.org Writer in Style

You can download this sample document (.odt) from the link Using OpenOffice.org Writer.

I’ll stop here for now. There are more to put such as Table of Figures, Index of Tables and Bibliography.
It would be good to leave feedback if there is interest to work on this direction.

Update 15Mar2008: This appears to be a Farsi translation/adaptation of the article.

6 comments

  • Nick

    Excellent, I already knew how to do a lot of this, but much is new to me and this is an excellent guide for setting up a good document. Thanks!

  • Salar

    Hello.
    Please someone tell me how can I insert a video with subtitle in OpenOffice?
    I already can insert video but subtitle does not appears.
    My media player normally showing subs but in presentation I is not showing!

  • Simos Xenitellis

    Salar: You need to superimpose the subtitles on the video in order to have them shown in OpenOffice.org. What I believe is your case is that the subtitles are in a separate file, and your player (Totem, VLC, mplayer, etc) simply is smart enough to pick them up. The OpenOffice.org player is probably not picking them up by default.

    Do some google searches in order to find how to superimpose subtitles in the video stream.

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