Wednesday, August 19, 2009

OOW Interoperability - Custom Fields from Word Docs

Long and rambling intro - skip to the next heading if you want to get to the real content
I had a colleague phone from Wellington today needing to work on a document riddled with custom fields, only, it was a Word doc and he wanted to work on it in his Linux environment (I think, either way, he wanted to use Open Office). Problem was though, he couldn't work out how to edit the fields once the doc was open in OOW.

So I suggested Ctrl+F2 and check out the Variables Tab and the User Fields section. Nope, not there. Ok, try double clicking on one of the fields. Yep - opens the Fields Dialog, to the DocInformation tab and there are all the fields listed under the Custom type. But they're not editable there. So, I hunted around, and I have to confess this one took a bit of hunting and adding puzzle pieces together from a variety of hints found on disparate forums, help files, and feature update info, but I got there in the end. So for your knowledge and edification, this has been a very long and grutuitiously babbly intro to:

Beating Fields into Submission When You're Working on a Doc Created in Word
A quick recommendation first up - if the document in question is one you intend to use over and over again and create mutliple versions with different values in the various fields, I would strongly recommend taking the time to go through it and actually put in OpenOffice native fields and remove the converted Word Custom fields. But if it's just a one off use, go ahead and use the instructions below to change the field values to what you need them to be.

NB: remember I am using OOW 3.1 - I believe what I'm about to describe has worked since about 2.4, but I have no way of testing that, so do get the latest version!

  1. Open your custom-field-riddled MS Word document in Open Office Writer.
  2. Do a Save As, choose the default Open Office format (odt) and save the file.
  3. Now close it. Seriously, just close the file. The rest simply won't work if you don't close it. I know, I've tried, many times in many ways. It won't work.
  4. Open the recently re-saved file (the odt).
  5. Go to File | Properties
  6. Click on the Custom Properties tab
  7. Here you will find all of the fields that had been created as custom fields in Word. You can change their values in here, you can add more, you can remove them as well. (NB: If you didn't believe me at step 3 and insisted on not closing the file before proceeding, you will now discover that every change you make in this tab is a teaser only - close the dialog, open it again and you'll note that the updates you have made - poof! They've disappeared. Bugger. Should have closed the file at step 3. Better do it now and go back to step 4.)
  8. Once you've updated the values to what you want them to be, close the dialog box.
  9. Your document won't look any different at this point. This is where these fields differ from the ones I've described in an earlier post. They don't automatically update. Easy fixed, just hit F9 (or go to Tools | Update | Fields) and all of the field instances will be updated throughout the doco (unlike word, you don't have to do a Select All first).
  10. Save the file.
Easy once you know how huh?

Monday, August 17, 2009

OOW - Setting your default fonts

I've just reset my user profile (I'll tell you why at a later date providing it fixes what I'm hoping it will!) and consequently need to re-set my default fonts, so I'll take the opportunity to document it while I'm at it. This is one of those things that took me a little while to work out. To be fair, in comparison to Word though, it is a lot simpler in OOW, and it only took me a while to find because again, I'd been conditioned by MS Word to expect this to be difficult.

  1. Go to Tools | Options
  2. Open the Writer menu and select Basic Fonts (Western)
  3. Change your default fonts to whatever you prefer. (Personally I hate Times New Roman, so I I never leave it on this!)
You have to admit, this is a whole lot easier than having to locate your and setting the fonts like you have to in Word. (Have I mentionted lately that I continue to be impressed with OOW?)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Challenge - Update and What Next

I've been sitting here playing silly games this evening, in between catching up on some of my RSS feeds and have been feeling a little guilty that I haven't blogged in a bit on my challenge. Then I got to thinking about what to post next. Then I went back to my original Challenge post and realised that I've actually acheived all of the goals I set out to. Which is great. Except that I'm not ready to stop this little blog journey. So I'm going to just modify my intention statement a little bit.

From here on in, the purpose of my posts will be about sharing tidbits I'm finding about Open Office Writer, in User 101 style instructions. (Occaisionally I'll get into a bit more technical detail, but I'll continue to indicate when I'm doing that!) This isn't really a change to what I've been doing, I'm just being clear about it!

One of the things I'd like to be able to do, is to help people make the switch from MS Word to OO Writer. So I'm also completely open to questions - some of my posts so far have been inspired by people commenting about their pet hates in OOW to me.

See my previous post on my 6 solutions philosophy, and you'll understand that whatever your pet peeve is, I'm pretty confident I can find a way around it, unless of course you're being intentionally difficult! (And if I really genuinely can't come up with something, I'll seriously consider logging a feature request if there isn't already one).

So feel free to leave a comment if you have a question, or message me on Twitter. There is a huge community out there supporting OOo and quite honestly, the answers are already there, but frankly, I enjoy finding them, and a lot of them I find are often very technically phrased and not especially user friendly at times - I like making things 'graspable', so you'll be doing me a favour. :)

There it is! More from me soon!

My Philosophy: At least 6 solutions

I have this philosophy that there are at least 6 solutions to every problem.

This isn't an original philosophy. I heard it first from a musician at a music conference about 15 years ago, and I suspect he wasn't the one who coined it either, but it's a damn good philosophy and has served me well ever since.

There are at least 6 solutions to every problem - you only have to find one - and that can't be too hard!
You could call it tenacity, perserverence, optimism, or a mixture of all 3.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Minimising the irritation factor of context senstive toolbars

One thing that a colleague had mentioned to me as being the thing that annoyed him most about Open Office is the way that the display jumps around when you have tables in a document. I recognised exactly what he meant today while I was converting over half of my monthly report documents to OOW. It's really irritating! BUT, now I know how to stop it.

So firstly, for those who don't know what I'm on about, when you click into a table in an OOW document, it turns on the context sensitive Table Toolbar. Now, I have my toolbars docked as I don't particularly like them floating over my workspace, so my Table Toolbar is down the left hand side of my screen. However, when this comes on, it takes up some additional space in your application window, so OOW reformats the screen display to recenter your document in the window - generally pushing it to the right by a centimetre. Seriously disconcerting.

But easily fixed! Follow the destructions....
  1. View | Toolbars | Customize....
  2. Click on the Toolbars Tab
  3. Click the "New..." button
  4. I called mine PlaceHolder, whatever, give it a name
  5. I did add a button to mine (the Toolbars button in fact) but I've just checked and you don't actually even need to have a button, you can just leave it empty.
  6. Hit OK to close the customize dialogue.
  7. Now, View | Toolbars | select your new toolbar (PlaceHolder in my case)
  8. Drag it to the wherever you have docked the context sensitive toolbar that's annoying you (it may not be the tables one after all!), and position it either at the top or bottom (I went for the bottom).
  9. Now, the space is already allocated in your application window for a toolbar in that position, so when the Context Sensitive one is activated, your document position doesn't get adjusted. Phew!
Thanks to the Open Office forum for the answer on this one.