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Feature: Office Software

Nifty OpenOffice.org extensions

By Dmitri Popov on January 07, 2008 (9:00:00 AM)

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Apparently, the only thing that stopped developers from creating useful OpenOffice.org extensions was the lack of a place to publish them. With the launch of the OpenOffice.org Extension Repository, the number of extensions listed there has shot up, and there are no signs of a slowdown. Although quantity doesn't always mean quality, the repository already offers a few nifty extensions that can expand the functionality of OpenOffice.org and make your work more efficient.

Bookmarks Menu

 On the face of it, the Bookmarks Menu just adds bookmarks to documents, but dig deeper and you'll discover that this extension can do much more. Once you've installed the Bookmarks Menu, it appears only in the Tools -> Add-Ons menu. To add the Bookmarks menu to the main toolbar, choose the Bookmark Menu item and press OK. By default, the menu contains two items: Bookmark This Document and Edit Bookmarks. The former allows you to quickly bookmark the currently opened document, so you don't have to navigate to the desired document every time you want to open it. Of course, you can use the Recent Documents feature to do that, but it has some limitations: it can hold only up to 10 entries and you can't sort the entries. More importantly, the Bookmarks Menu can bookmark not only documents but also macros and shell commands, and you can do this in just a few clicks.

To bookmark, for example, an often-used macro, choose Edit Bookmarks and press the New button. Give the bookmark a name, select Macro from the Type drop-down list, press the Open button, and select the macro you want. Press OK to save the new bookmark, and you are done. In fact, it takes longer to explain how this works than actually bookmarking a macro.

The extension's ability to bookmark shell commands can come in even more handy, since it allows you to create bookmarks that send commands to external applications. For example, you can create a bookmark that opens your favorite Web site in the default browser. To do this, choose Edit Bookmarks, press New, and give the new entry a name. Select the ShellCommand item from the Type drop-down menu, and type the Web address into the Arguments list. Then type firefox (or another browser) into the Url field, press OK to save the bookmark, and you are done.

By using the Menu button in the Edit Bookmarks window you can also export your shell commands and settings, which can be useful if you are using the extension on several machines.

OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs

No prizes for guessing what OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs does. Once installed, the extension adds a menu in the main toolbar that allows you to easily exchange documents between OpenOffice.org and Google Docs. The upload part of the extension supports not only ODT documents, but also SXW, DOC, and spreadsheets in ODS, XLS, and CVS formats, as well as PPT presentations. The download part of the OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs extension is still under heavy development, and right now it can only import Google Docs documents as plain text files.

Code Formatter

If your Writer documents contain a lot of code, and you want to make it look pretty by adding syntax color, the Code Formatter extension can help you. The current version supports C++, Java, and OpenOffice.org Basic syntax only, but the extension comes with a detailed description of how it works, so you can add other languages yourself.

To apply syntax color to a code block, you have to apply the _OOoComputerCode paragraph to it and then run an appropriate macro (e.g. MacroFormatterADP -> Basic -> FMT_ColorCodeCurrentBasic for OpenOffice.org Basic code). Unfortunately, the extension doesn't add a dedicated menu, so you have to manually select the coloring macro. Alternatively, you can use the Bookmarks Menu to create bookmarks for the Code Formatter macros.

OOoSVN

The idea of using Subversion for document versioning is nothing new, but OOoSVN allows you to use the system right from within OpenOffice.org, hiding Subversion's complexity behind a few easy-to-use commands. Before you can make use of OOoSVN, you have to install Subversion on your machine, but most mainstream Linux distributions have Subversion in their repositories. During the first run, OOoSVN sets up a repository for your documents and moves the currently opened document into it. Using commands available under the SVN menu in OpenOffice.org, you can commit changes, revert the document to a previous version, and graphically browse the document's versions. OOoSVN even allows you to compare two versions of the document using OpenOffice.org's Compare feature.

mOOo Impress Controller

If you've got a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone, why not use it for something fancy and useful like controlling Impress presentations? mOOo Impress controller allows you to do just that. It consists of an OpenOffice.org extension for the desktop and a Java-based client that must be installed on the mobile phone. The client's functionality is rather limited: using it, you can launch the presentation and move between slides. On the other hand, its simplicity has one major advantage: with only three functions, you are less likely to do something wrong during the presentation.

Once you've installed the Java client on your mobile phone and extension in OpenOffice.org, open a presentation and launch the mobile client. In OpenOffice.org, choose mOOo Menu -> Select Device and press the Search button. Select your mobile phone from the list of found devices, and press OK. Choose mOOo Menu-> On, and you are ready to control your presentation from the mobile phone. To close the connection, choose again mOOo -> On.

Speaking of presentations, there is another nifty extension you might want to give a try. Sun Presentation Minimizer can shrink an Impress file to a fraction of its original size, which can come in handy if you need to email a presentation to colleagues. Interestingly, the tool can handle not only the native ODP files but also Microsoft Office PPT presentations.

Every Monday we highlight a different extension, plugin, or add-on. Write an article of less than 1,000 words telling us about one that you use and how it makes your work easier, along with tips for getting the most out of it. If we publish it, we'll pay you $100. (Send us a query first to be sure we haven't already published a story on your chosen topic recently or have one in hand.)

Dmitri Popov is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Russian, British, US, German, and Danish computer magazines.

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Nifty OpenOffice.org extensions

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.236.163.214] on January 07, 2008 02:30 PM
IMHO, this is one of the key features that helped Firefox take off. People love the fact that they can customize FF and make it their own and I think it should be very helpful in pushing Open Office forward. You would think this would work even better for Open Office since the main alternative costs a significant amount of money, whereas Firefox's main rival was basically free as well.
<a href="http://www.javasigns.com/signs">Custom License Plates</a>

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Nifty OpenOffice.org extensions

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 143.215.129.45] on January 07, 2008 08:22 PM
OOoLatex is also indispensable, especially for those of us who need to use equations once in a while on presentations.

http://ooolatex.sourceforge.net/

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Nifty OpenOffice.org extensions

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.242.108.31] on January 07, 2008 08:31 PM
The extension I'd like (and am unqualified to create, but hope to inspire someone else, or to hear that it already exists) is for customizable find-and-replace-from-a-list. That is, if I want to replace *every* instance of word/letter combo "Q" with a different word/letter combo "Z" (and every "Y" with "P," etc.), I don't want to do it one word at a time, but rather from a list of replacements.

(Better yet, use an existing list built for use with sed, in the format "s/thing-a/thing-a-prime/g")

Use case 1: For note-taking, I use a lot of abbreviations. For later reading / study, I find it simpler and faster to read the full version, because it means I don't have to spend any brain cycles expanding my idiocsyncratic abbreviations. Other people have their own pet abbreviations, and it should be easy to create a "translator" so the result is closer to plain English (or plain whatever-language-one-speaks). (Silly) example: "T 1st ppl in contUS were smlr, n tf wore smlr cardigans" would be expanded into the more readable "The first people in the continental U.S. were smaller, and therefore word smaller cardigans." When I'm *taking* the notes, it's faster to skip as many letters as I can get away with; when reading, though, too many shortenings of the wrong kind really get in the way of speed.

Use case 2: When I'm trying to put a lot of information on one sheet of paper (sometimes I prefer fewer sheets, even when it *does* cut down slightly on the speed with which it can be read, when I'm making outlines, "cheatsheets," written directions, etc), I like to eliminate articles, cull vowels when they can be easily culled without breaking the speed of reading too badly, substitute shorter synonyms, etc. Basically, something close to the opposite of the expansion I described in Use case 1, but (I'd think) identical from the computer's point of view. Example: Find the phrase "Supreme Court of the United States," and replace it with "SupCt," and do that for hundreds of other words or phrases.

Use case 3: I have a lot of frequently repeated typos and spellos; certain words seem to hang me up sometimes. I dislike (despise, hate, sneer at) most autocorrection tools as intrusive and annoying. If I type "poeple's" rather than "peoples," I don't want to hit the distracting red squiggly line of doubt (If it's *not* a typo, just a word the inbuilt dictionary doesn't know, it's especially annoying). Instead, I want to keep typing and fix all of my (predictable) typos at the end in one fell swoop, and run some sort of word-by-word spelling check only after the obvious ones are fixed. Example: Change all instances of "judgement" to "judgment."

Basically, I'd like to be able to choose "Find and Replace with Custom Word List 'Fix Notes'" "Find and Replace with Custom Word List 'Compress for Space.'"

Right now, for printing, I'll often use OpenOffice.org as a tool with which to tweak fonts, margins, columns, etc, but I need to do all the word replacement stuff using sed -- not terrible, but more complicated than I'd prefer. I'd rather be able to do word expansion/compression from my own list all in OO.o.

Cheers,

Tim Lord


Aside: The "Are You Human?" box has gotten slightly better, why why print the word so small? Keep it blocky etc (jeesh, the lengths to which it's necessary to to go to foil asshat spammers!), but please, make it larger :) (It sits in a pretty big mostly-white rectangle, after all.) On small, hi-res screens especially, this is a real pain to read.

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Nifty OpenOffice.org extensions

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 205.250.86.130] on January 08, 2008 01:33 PM
There is an essential plugin for Openoffice Calc, called the OOoStat Statistics package, that give Calc the statistics functionality that Excel gets from the Analysis ToolPak plugin. If you use Calc and do statistical analysis it's a must have. It is available from :

http://www.ooomacros.org/user.php

It is currently not hosted on the OpenOffice.org Extension Repository

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Nifty OpenOffice.org extensions

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 128.192.147.92] on January 08, 2008 09:18 PM
An indispensable one is the Zotero plugin, that enables OOWriter to access a bibliographical references database. Then one can add external references while typing and, with 2 clicks, format the references according to the journal the text is intended to be published.

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Nifty OpenOffice.org extensions

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 203.184.28.221] on January 08, 2008 11:13 PM
I second the Zotero plugin, although you obviously need zotero for firefox as well. Excellent bibliographical management.

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Zotero plugin

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.148.13.142] on January 09, 2008 10:51 PM
Anyone got a url for this? Some of us are even to lazy to do a google search. :-)

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Zotero plugin

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 58.196.140.110] on January 11, 2008 02:06 PM
Zotero plugin is at this URL: Zotero.org/

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