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PC Mag’s OpenOffice Tips

April 9th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

It’s great to see the increase in ordinary articles about in mainstream computer (and other) magazines. Not just “here’s an open source alternative app” but instead, “how to do X in OpenOffice”…

Today’s entry in this category comes from PC Mag, in 7 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do.

They are not complex things, and you probably already knew they were possible, but for the target audience of this article, the tips it contains could be quite helpful.

The first tip is for editing multiple parts of a document in different windows at one time: doesn’t let you split a window into two panes, but it offers an even better feature. Click the Window menu, then New Window, to open a new window that displays the same document you’re working on. You can open as many windows as you want, each at a different place in your document; any change you make in one window immediately appears in all others.

(I don’t think I knew this one…)

Other tips include opening legacy document formats–in which OOo is a true champion–modifying the default saved file format, playing an easter egg game, and automating various actions with macros.

Mail Merge in

January 21st, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Mail merge can be a hassle, and is usually an adjustment for new OOo users. I’ve collected a list of articles on performing a mail merge with OpenOffice before, but a new one’s just been published that bears review.

For the blog, Solveig Haugland writes Mail Merge in Everything You Need to Know.

If you don’t know what exactly a mail merge is, Haugland explains:

A mail merge is a way to take a letter you’ve written and send it to a whole bunch of people, personalizing it with information about them so they might think that you typed that letter personally for them. A mail merge can also be a quick way to take a list of people’s mailing addresses and generate labels or envelopes with the address for a different person on each label or envelope. In short, it’s a way to be personal, yet efficient. It’s essential for any person or organization that has a lot of clients, partners, parents and children, or other people to communicate with.

Because there are many details and possible custom options you may want to experiment with, it’s a long article. Fortunately, numerous screenshots and a good organization of the content keep it clear and readable.

Mail Merge in

June 19th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Free Software Magazine collects several years of experience into an article detailing how to Mail Merge in

“In OOo there are lots of different ways to do mail merge. It took some trial-and-error to find the best methods for us, and that is what I will be describing here. The first choice to make is database format… I ran across a suggestion to use dBASE files, which have been the perfect solution.”

While writing the letter, you’ll enter variables that are custom-filled for each recipient.

“You may either type your entire letter first and then add the fields to be merged, or you may add the fields as you go. There are (at least) two ways to add fields. Using View→Data Sources, you may click on a column header (field name) and drag it to the letter in the spot where you want the field… The other method is to place your cursor where you want the field, and go to Insert→Fields→Other…, which opens the Fields dialog box (see figure 2). Go to the Database tab, and click on “Mail merge fields” on the left, then open up your table on the right and select the desired field.”

The second page in the article covers using mail merge to print envelopes, a particularly tricky but important task.

The third page covers printing labels from a mail merge, which is what I use mail merge for most frequently.

View ODFs in Firefox

November 6th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Among the many programs that can display ODF files, you can add Firefox to the list. (Though I’m not sure this is fair, since we’re actually relying on OOo in the background with the following trick.)

Mozilla Links explains how to “view documents in Firefox.”

It’s pretty easy, in fact: “you need to activate the plugin. To do so, in, select Options… in the Tools menu. Expand the Internet item, select Mozilla Plug-in and check Enable.”

Once you have set this option, you can click on a link to an ODF in your browser (with .odt, .ods, .odg, and .odp or the other extensions) to simply open it within your browser window for viewing.

Install Drupal with MAMP

September 5th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

As I get deeper into researching Drupal for some upcoming projects, I was seeking a way to install it on my MacBook for home testing purposes.

Along comes MAMP, a pre-packaged installer for Apache, MySQL and PHP on your Mac OS X system. And Rob Cottingham provides a tutorial for installing MAMP and Drupal on your Mac. Very handy!

Five quick steps, and you’re up and running. I was able to install and configure everything while also watching Law and Order.