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10 simple tips and tricks for new users

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OpenOffice is a suite of free productivity tools that replaces most of the functionality of Microsoft’s Office platform and adds additional features (though you can’t track stock prices the way you can on Google Sheets). It also works across multiple operating systems, even on the best Chromebooks, and it plays well with existing MS Office documents and spreadsheets.

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Many of its best features aren’t immediately apparent to new users. We compiled a list of our favorite OpenOffice tips and tricks to help you take advantage of OpenOffice’s versatile offerings.

OpenOffice has one of the most broadly customizable interfaces of any software of its kind. You can customize the existing headers and add functions to make them accessible with a single click.

  1. Click
    View
    on the toolbar.
  2. Select
    Toolbars
    .
  3. Go to the
    Toolbars
    drop-down menu to toggle toolbars on or off, or select
    Customize
    to alter the content of existing toolbars.

2 Add extensions for more features

OpenOffice comes with an impressive number of tools. One advantage of its open platform is that you can add third-party extensions to fill gaps that exist.

  1. Select
    Tools
    from the toolbar.
  2. Click
    Extension Manager
    in the drop-down menu.

    A screenshot of OpenOffice showing the Extension Manager option in the Tools drop down menu

  3. In the Extension Manager window, select
    Get more extensions online
    .
  4. This opens a browser page where you can search for extensions or browse by categories like operating system or application.

Extensions give you access to dictionaries in other languages, allow you to import and edit PDFs, add new template options, and other useful functions.

3 Turn on writing assists

OpenOffice has several modules to help you draft clean, grammatically valid text documents. You can activate automatic spellchecking, access a thesaurus, or add non-standard dictionaries.

  1. Click
    Tools
    in the toolbar and select
    Options
    .
  2. In the
    Options
    window, open
    Language Settings
    and choose
    Writing Aids.

    A screenshot of the OpenOffice Writing Aids menu

  3. Choose the language modules and dictionaries you want to activate and the live spelling and grammatical tools you want to use.

4 Add a table of contents to your document

Add a table of contents to documents with several subsections or longer documents you want to break into digestible sections for easier navigation.

  1. A table of contents requires headers. To create a header, click
    Format
    , then select
    Styles and Formatting
    .
  2. Select a header style, click the document where you’d like to place it, and enter the header text.

    A screenshot showing the OpenOffice headers formatting menu

  3. To create a table of contents, click
    Insert
    in the toolbar. Then, choose
    Indexes and Tables
    and select
    Indexes and Tables
    from the sub-menu.
  4. In the
    Insert index/table window
    , enter a title for your table of contents or leave it as default, and select the
    Table of Contents
    option in the
    Type
    drop-down menu.

    A screenshot of the OpenOffice Insert index/table window

  5. If you only want the table of contents to include a certain number of headers, choose
    Chapter
    in the
    Create index/table for
    drop-down and set the number of headers you want in the
    Evaluate up to level
    box.
  6. To alter the format and style of your table of contents, click
    Additional styles
    and then select the
    ellipsis (…)
    to the right of it.
  7. Click
    OK
    to add the table of contents to your document.

5 Quickly search the web for keywords in your document

OpenOffice allows you to quickly search the text in your documents on popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, and others. Add this functionality to your toolbar for easy access.

  1. Click
    View
    from the toolbar, choose
    Toolbars
    , and then toggle on the
    Hyperlink Bar
    option.

    A screenshot showing how to add the Hyperlink Bar option in OpenOffice

  2. To search the web for text in your document, highlight it, click the
    binoculars
    icon, and choose which search engine to use from the drop-down menu.

    A screenshot showing off the web search function in OpenOffice

6 Create a bibliography to cite your sources

OpenOffice offers a built-in tool for citing sources in formal or academic documents.

  1. To cite a reference, click
    Insert
    on the toolbar, choose
    Indexes and tables
    , and choose
    Bibliography entry
    .
  2. Select
    From document content
    and then click
    New
    .

    A screenshot of the OpenOffice bibliography interface

  3. Enter your reference information, choose its
    Type
    , click
    OK
    ,

    and select
    Insert
    . This inserts the reference into the text in square brackets.
  4. After creating your references, you’re ready to collate a bibliography. Choose
    Insert
    , select
    Indexes and tables
    , select
    Indexes and tables
    again, and select
    Bibliography
    .

7 Quickly get a word count

OpenOffice displays the word count in a selected block of text or in the entire document. For the former, select the text you want to count and click Word Count under the Tools menu in the toolbar. To see word and character count in the document, as well as supplementary information, navigate to File > Properties > Statistics.

8 Precisely position text

OpenOffice has a Direct cursor feature that allows you to drop text almost anywhere in a document. This feature is especially handy for formatting presentations.

  1. Go to
    Tools
    on the toolbar and select
    Options
    .
  2. Open the
    OpenOffice Writer
    sub-menu and choose
    Formatting Aids
    in the drop-down menu.
  3. Check the
    Direct cursor
    box. You can also choose how you want OpenOffice to determine the position of the Direct cursor.

    A screenshot of the OpenOffice options menu showing how to enable Direct Cursor

  4. To change the color of the Direct cursor, open the
    OpenOffice
    sub-menu in the
    Options
    window and select
    Appearance
    . Then scroll down to
    Direct cursor
    , and choose the color you want from the
    Color setting
    menu.

9 Email your document

OpenOffice lets you skip the process of manually attaching a document to an email. Instead, you can send it from the program.

  1. Choose
    File
    , and then select
    Send
    .
  2. Select
    Document as Email
    .

    An OpenOffice screenshot showing how to email a document

  3. OpenOffice opens your default email client, and the document appears as an attachment.

You can email a document in other formats, like PDF. However, the send document as email feature doesn’t work with web-based email clients like Gmail. To take advantage of it, install a mail program and add your email account to it.

10 OpenOffice Calc spreadsheet tips

Calc is OpenOffice’s equivalent of Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets and lets you build and manage spreadsheets. Here are some quick tips to use some of its most powerful features:

  • Quickly create charts

    by clicking
    Menu
    >
    Insert
    >
    Chart
    and choosing the type of chart you want to build.
  • Access over 100 functions by clicking
    Menu
    >
    Insert
    >
    Functions
    .
  • Take advantage of standard and automatic filters to parse data by clicking
    Menu
    >
    Data
    >
    Filter
    and choosing
    Auto
    or
    Standard Filter
    . You can also create an advanced filter and add conditions within the spreadsheet.
  • Quickly add a hyperlink by choosing
    Insert
    >
    Hyperlink
    , and then customize the link text or insert it inside a frame.
  • Save a range of cells and assign a name to them so that you can re-select them later through
    Menu
    >
    Data
    >
    Define Range
    .

Become an OpenOffice Jedi

Like some of the best software, OpenOffice becomes more powerful and intuitive the more you use it. Start with the above as a cheatsheet, and soon you’ll be creating, formatting, and exporting docs and spreadsheets like a champion. If you’re interested in OpenOffice Writer and use Google’s platform for spreadsheets, check out some quick tips for Google Sheets.

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