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Linux Beacon on Writer

September 28th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Linux Beacon publishes Getting the Most Out of Writer, providing a number of tips for users of OpenOffice Writer.

Linux Beacon (formerly known as No Thick Manuals) is a wiki that offers a growing collection of quality hands-on articles and tips to the best open source applications for Linux.

With great detail, the article covers a wide range of tasks in Writer. Very advanced topics, such as “Creating conditional content using sections” and “Inserting data from a data source into a Writer document,” are discussed alongside simpler tasks that will benefit newer users.

Another interesting article on Linux Beacon focuses on creating ODFs, titled “Create ODF documents without”

While you can create and save documents in the OpenDocument format using, KWord, or AbiWord, there are other ways to generate ODF files. odtwriter, for example, can help you to quickly convert plain text files formatted using reStructured Text markup into odt ( Writer-compatible ODF) documents.

Windows Pulse Finds 12% Use OpenOffice

September 10th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

InfoWorld runs an article titled Windows Pulse: The Real-World State of Windows, in which they report the results from a network of machines that voluntarily downloaded a reporting application. How the machines were chosen was not specified, and the sample size of 20,000 may not provide an accurate picture of global trends, but the data shows OpenOffice installed on 12% of those machines, which looks like great progress!

KDE’s Social Desktop

July 5th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Slashdot pointed out the gradual arrival of the social desktop elements long-planned by the KDE project in Social Desktop Starts to Arrive in KDE.

The concept behind the Social Desktop is to bring the power of online communities and group collaboration to desktop applications and the desktop shell itself. One of the strongest assets of the Free Software community is its worldwide group of contributors and users who believe in free software and who work hard to bring the software and solutions to the mainstream. A core idea of the Social Desktop is connecting to your peers in the community, making the sharing and exchanging of knowledge (PDF) easier to integrate into applications and the desktop itself.

This ties in with the Dashboard Concept I’ve been working on as well. Integrating web with desktop applications is one important step, and then moving beyond that to integrate social software makes it yet more valuable to the community of users.

SourceForge Community Choice Awards

June 24th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Louis passes along the message that has been chosen as a finalist for the 2009 Community Choice Awards in the category of Best Project for Government.

Click the image below to visit the site and vote for! And be sure to check out all the other great projects while you’re there.

Project Renaissance Designs

June 10th, 2009 Benjamin Horst’s Project Renaissance continues to progress, with the announcement last week in Elizabeth Matthis’ post UI Design Proposals Wrap Up and a Look Forward that “17 proposals were submitted and reviewed by our brilliant and creative community members. They contain a total of 145 user interface design mockups. (Wow!) There were 80 comments or questions added by OOo-community reviewers.”

She highlights some of the proposals and includes several design mockups in the post to illustrate the participation levels already achieved.

What’s Next? The Renaissance team is determining which ideas (note: mixing and matching will happen here!) appear to implement the design directives* most successfully. Those that do will be used to create a handful of (wire frame) prototypes. Later, the concepts the Renaissance team is working on will be the basis for mid-fidelity prototypes that will be validated in tests: We need to confirm that the UI changes will be real improvements and will be well-accepted before we roll them out to our whole user base.

The team will publish further information as they go, so stay tuned! The excitement isn’t over yet.

Ogre to Provide OpenOffice Training

May 28th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

In the Latvian town called Ogre, the city council provides free training courses for as part of a policy to support and develop local businesses, writes in LV: City council to provide OpenOffice courses.

The city wants to increase the number of local businesses. The initiative to organise OpenOffice training was taken by the municipal IT centre, the Ogre United Municipality Information System Centre (Ogre PVIS Centre), following discussions with organisations providing adult education.

The trainings are meant for all those in public administration, local businesses and citizens of the Ogre region. The courses will be hosted by the PVIS Centre. This is located next to the public library and provides cheap Internet access.

OpenOffice Project Renaissance Designs

May 20th, 2009 Benjamin Horst’s Project Renaissance, a bid to reinvent the application’s user interface with no preconceptions as restraint, is currently in the design phase. Slashdot reported on it in OpenOffice UI Design Proposals Published, and the proposals are collected in the OOo wiki here.

Johannes Eva and Jaron Baron have created two that I quite like, although I haven’t had the opportunity to look at all submissions yet.

Better ODF Support for MS Office

May 18th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

While Microsoft Office 2007’s latest service pack purports ODF support, it’s not complete, nor does it appear designed to provide usable interoperabilty with other ODF-capable applications.

For users of MS Office who need better compatibility, the solution is the Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office:

  • The Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office gives users of Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint the ability to read, edit and save to the ISO-standard Open Document Format (ODF).
  • The plugin works with Microsoft Office 2007 (Service Pack 1 or higher), Microsoft Office 2003, XP and Microsoft Office 2000.

Malte Timmermann explains the situation in his recent post Better ODF support in Microsoft Office via Sun’s ODF Plugin:

So many people complain (everywhere, including in OOo mailing lists) about the bad ODF support in Microsoft Office 2007 SP2, that I thought it might be a good idea to post some information about the ODF Plugin here…

The Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office, which is based on, adds support for ODF to Microsoft Office 2000 and newer versions. So you don’t have to use the very latest Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 version (in case you really need Microsoft Office for some reason) , where ODF support is insufficient anyway.

Lifehacker on OpenOffice 3.1

May 15th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Lifehacker has been a fan of OpenOffice for some time now, and recently published an overview of 3.1’s Usability Tweaks.

Anti-aliased rendering for Draw and charts, “eye-friendly” highlighting, spreadsheet zoom slider, formula hints, and comment replies got special attention from the Lifehacker team.

Those are just a few of the 3.1 changes we thought the average user might appreciate, but there are more technical and core-based upgrades—like spreadsheet performance, sorting defaults, and built-in document locking—detailed at‘s release notes.

It’s always good to see and other open source software get attention from more mainstream media outlets. (I know, Lifehacker is not mainstream, but it’s a lot closer than free software-specific outlets!)

TestFreaks’ 50 OpenOffice Tips

May 11th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

The TestFreaks Blog publishes Mastering OpenOffice: 50 Useful Tips to Get You Started:

OpenOffice is the unsung software for personal usage. It offers two very convincing reasons to download: 1.) It’s free. And 2.) It comes with 24/7 online help.

Yes, both true, but there is more.

The article continues, with a collection of progressively more advanced tips for new users of OOo. It covers wizards for installing new dictionaries and fonts, and the Math component is discussed, as well as Calc, although very briefly. Of course it covers Writer, Impress and Draw as well, and one final tip on Base.