OpenOffice.org tips and tricks
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tips and tricks by Dmitri Popov Subsequent
to our interview, Dmitri offered to share some of
his best suggestions for optimizing your OpenOffice.org
user experience- here you go!
Expanding clipboard’s capabilities
If you do a lot of cutting and pasting, you may find
OpenOffice.org’s clipboard tool a bit limited. Ditto
is a clever utility that turns the clipboard into
a powerful archiving tool. Once installed, Ditto archives
everything that you copy to the clipboard. Ditto supports
virtually any type of content including formatted
text, pictures, links, and HTML-snippets. To paste
an item into the open document, double-click on Ditto’s
system tray icon, select the item, and double-click
Using Ditto you can arrange the saved
items into groups, perform searches and even edit
text snippets. If you’re connected to a network, you
can also take advantage of Ditto’s networking features,
including its ability to send a selected clip to another
computer as well as synchronize Ditto’s content between
different machines. Ditto even encrypts all the data
sent via the network for you. By default, Ditto saves
the clips indefinitely, but you can also specify an
expiry date, and you can even exclude individual clips
from being purged.
Keeping track of time spent
on Writer documents
If you are a freelancer, keeping track of time spent
on each Writer document is crucial. Although Writer
doesn’t include a dedicated time tracking feature,
you can view the total editing time for a particular
Writer document by choosing File > General.
Encrypting documents with
If you work with confidential documents, you have
to take care of security issues. The best and easiest
way to prevent unauthorised access to confidential
files is to encrypt them using AxCrypt,
an encryption tool based on the AES-128 and SHA-1
cryptographic primitives. Although AxCrypt employs
advanced encryption technologies, it’s easy to use.
Once installed, you can access AxCrypt’s commands
through the context menu. Right-click on the database
file, choose the Encrypt command, and enter the desired
passphrase. To open the encrypted database, double-click
on it, enter the correct passphrase, and the file
will be decrypted and opened in OOo Base. You can
also encrypt your database as an .EXE file, so it
can be decrypted on another machine without AxCrypt.
Finally, to make the encrypted file even more difficult
to break, you can create a key file and save it on
an external storage device (for example, a USB key).
This will allow you to decrypt the file only if the
key file is present.
Checking grammar in Writer
As you may already know, Writer lacks an integrated
grammar check. However, there is a Java-based tool
that can fill the void. The software allows you to
run a grammar check on the pasted text. JLanguageTool
supports both English and German, and although it’s
not on par with commercial grammar tools, its grammar
rules can be easily improved by editing the configuration
Typing shortcuts with AutoCorrect
The AutoCorrect feature in OpenOffice.org serves many
purposes. A common usage is to automatically correct
spelling errors. For example, for English (USA), ‘acomodate’
and ‘acommodate’ are automatically corrected to be
‘accommodate’. AutoCorrect is not only a good tool
for correcting mistakes, it can also save you a lot
of typing. For example, instead of typing ‘deoxyribonucleic
acid’ every single time, you can create a replacement
rule that saves you the trouble of typing such a long
1.Choose AutoCorrect/AutoFormat from the Tools menu.
2.From the Replacements and exceptions for language
drop-down list (at the top of the dialog), choose
the desired language. To apply the rule globally,
3.Select the Replace tab.
4.Create the rule and click on the New button to add
it to the existing list. The New button is disabled
until a new rule is entered.
5.Press OK and test the rule.
Inserting special characters
Instead of inserting special characters manually,
you can create a macro and assign it a keyboard shortcut.
1.Choose Tools > Macro > Record to start the
2.Click Insert > Special Character, choose the
character you want, insert it, and close the Special
Character dialogue window.
3.Click Stop recording in the small macro recorder
A dialogue window appears asking you to save the macro
with a name. Be sure to save it the Standard library
under My Macros, not in the tree for the currently
opened document. That way you’ll be able to use the
macro in any Writer document.
Now that you have recorded the macro,
you’ll need to assign it to a keystroke:
1.Choose > Tools > Macro > Organize Macros
> OpenOffice.org Basic.
2.Click on the Assign button.
3.Click on the Keyboard tab and in the Functions section
and then locate your macro using the Category tree.
4.Select a keystroke in the Shortcut Keys list and
click Modify. The key that you select will appear
in the Keys window.
5.Click OK > Close.
(For more tips and other open source
projects, check the book Hands
on Open Source)
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