Business-like, isn't he?


Using - Setup and Configuration

Setup and configuration
Word Processor
Other features


I'm assuming that you've successfully download a copy of (OO.o) 1.1.x or 1.9 from (or Mac NeoOffice/J) or Star Office and installed it onto your computer. Setup varies both according to the version you've installed and the operating system you're working with. I'm going to primarily focus on the Windows versions.

The Windows 1.1.x version is downloaded as a zipped file; inside is a folder including a large number of files; near the end of the long list of included files is a Setup.exe file. Running that will install to your computer. The OO.o beta is also a zipped file; inside is a smaller number of files, including a Setup.exe.

(If you double-clicking the downloaded file only gets you an error message, you don't have a program installed to deal with Zip files; I recommend the free QuickZip).

Before installing OO.o, however, you may want to make sure that you have a Java program installed; the OO.o installation will look for a Java installation, and complain if it doesn't find one. (Microsoft's Java doesn't count). I haven't noticed any problems with OO.o on systems that don't have an installed Java, but I'd recommend installing it first anyway, just in case).

To check whether an acceptable Java is already installed, open your Windows Control Panel; if you see an icon labelled Java Plug-in, then you're in business. Otherwise, you can get the latest Java Plug-in from Sun: .

With Java installed, you can proceed to install Note that if you are installing OO.o version 2, it will ignore an existing OO.o 1.x installation; you can safely have both versions on your computer at one time. However, any customized settings that you have made to an OO.o 1.x installation will be have to be redone under the new version. If you are installing OO.o version 1.1x onto a system with an older OO.o 1.x installation, you'll get a choice whether to overwrite the old installation (keeping that installation's custom settings) or install a new, clean, uncustomized version. Generally, I would recommend overwriting the older installation.

 Here's what happens while installing OO.o 1.9.79 (beta) on my Windows XP system:

1. You'll be asked to agree to a license. (In OO.o 1.1 installations, you have to scroll to the bottom of the license text before you can click that you agree).  Unlike many software licenses, this one is pretty short, basically say you agree to the GNU Public License. Since it's unlikely you're aware of these terms, it includes a link to this license. You can safely agree to this license.

2. You are asked for the user's name and organization and can choose to install for the current user, or for all users of the computer.

3. You can choose a complete or custom installation; with the custom installation, you can choose to install individual components. Unless you are desperately short of hard drive space, I would recommend the complete installation. A full installation takes up about 210 MB of drive space.

4. A dialogue box lets you set up your computer so that OO.o will automatically open Microsoft Office data files. By default, these options are turned off; if you don't have the appropriate MS Office programs installed, you may want to check some or all of these options. (If you have MS Word installed, perhaps as part of the low-end MS Works Suite, and want to continue using Word, you might choose to use OO.o to open  MS Excel spreadsheet and MS Powerpoint presentation documents). Note that selecting these options does not set up OO.o to save files in MS Office formats by default. We'll find out how to do that later.

5. After these dialogue boxes, the actual install takes place. It may take several minutes; be patient! When it is finished, you'll be able to use OO.o right away; no reset is needed.


OO.o loads a little Quickstarter startup icon when your computer restarts (or you log in again); this sits in the Windows system tray, and speeds OO.o startup. It also allows you to open a new OO.o document (of the various types) from the context menu that pops up when you right-click on the icon. You won't see that little icon after running the Setup program.

If the Quickstart icon is present, you can start your choice of blank OO.o documents by right-clicking it; alternatively, look in your Windows Start Menu. OO.o 1.9.79 (the OO.o 2.0 beta I installed) adds an item to the Start Menu that includes options to start the various components:

Start Menu options

  • OO.o Base opens a Database Wizard; this module is new to OO.o 2.0
  • OO.o Calc opens a new spreadsheet; this module is the equivalent of Microsoft Excel
  • OO.o Draw opens a drawing program
  • OO.o Impress opens a wizard to create a new Presentation; this module is the equivalent of Microsoft Powerpoint
  • OO.o Math opens a math formula editor
  • OO.o Writer opens a blank word processor document
The Windows versions of OO.o 1.1.x use different names, referring to Calc, Impress, and Writer as Spreadsheet, Presentation, and Text respectively (though the 1.1.x Linux versions use the Calc, Imress, and Writer names as do the various OO.o 1.0.x versions).

Note that startup time can be an issue, even with the Quickstart icon loading at system startup. On my school's Celeron 600 MHz systems, with 128 MB of RAM (generally adequate for Windows 98SE), it takes 55 seconds for OO.o 1.1.4 to open up a new text document. On newer systems, this is much less of an issue; on this 2 year old Dell Inspiron 8200 notebook (running Windows XP with 512 MB of RAM), the same task took under 4 seconds. After you have loaded OO.o for the first time, it will generally take much less time to start up.

When you start up OpenOffice for the first time, you'll see an option to register. You can choose to never register (unlike some other software, that makes you lie and say you'll do it later). Unlike some programs, it's not going to keep bugging you periodically. Or you can send registration data to; you're not going to become a spam target by doing so.


Open a blank Writer (word processor/text) document, allowing us to take a look at the configuration options. You'll find them by clicking on the Tools menu and then choosing Options. (Mac NeoOffice/J users can also get the options by clicking the NeoOffice/J menu and choosing Preferences). You'll see something like:


There are a lot of options! You access a section by clicking the [+] beside the section name (or double-clicking the section name); this expands that section, allowing you to edit the default options for that area. I am going to highlight the ones where I make changes.

  • Load/Save- General: this lets you choose to always create a backup copy, and to set the time for autosaves. I tend to change the default Save Autorecovery information time from the default (15 minutes) to 5 minutes, reducing the amount of data I might lose in case of power failure or other problem. As well, I set the Default File Formats for Text document, Spreadsheet, and Presentation to Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP, Microsoft Excel 97/2000/XP, and Microsoft Powerpoint 97/2000/XP respectively. (The program may complain about these choices after you click OK... just ignore it!)


  • Load/Save- Microsoft Office: I haven't figured out whether it makes any difference whether these options are selected or not. Anyone know?

    Load/Save- Microsoft Office

  • Language Settings- Writing Aids: if you've downloaded alternative dictionaries (for example, for Canadian English), you would tell OO.o about it here, after copying the downloaded files into the appropriate folder (which you can identify using the option in this dialogue box). (I've had mixed results trying to add alternate dictionaries). As well, you can turn real-time spell checking on or off (the default is on), and set a number of other options that check while you are writing.
  • Writer- Basic Fonts (Western): here you can set default fonts for new word processor documents. In MS Word, this is a pain to do, requiring editing the template (which Word doesn't let you do directly). It's really nice that OO.o lets you choose an alternative default font with minimal muss and fuss!
  • Writer- Print : among other print options, you can also set whether footnotes appear at the end of a document, at the bottom of the appropriate page, or not at all.
In OO.o 1.x, you can set options for all the modules at one time, in the Options dialogue that appears when any module is open. In the new 1.9/2.0, you can only set options for the currently-open module. In the Impress presentation module, I like to look at the:
  • Impress- Print dialogue. I almost always only print presentation handouts; I remove the checkmark from [x] Drawing and add it to [x] Handouts. As well, since I usually photocopy these handouts, I set the Quality to Black and White, which removes fancy coloured backgrounds and makes printouts that make clear photocopies. You can always change these options at print time; setting them in the Options in this way means that what I do most of the time is the way will happen unless I tell the program to do otherwise.
Configuring the toolbars

Icons on a toolbar is a quick and handy way to access commonly-used features. In many cases, though, default toolbars are loaded down with icons that I never seem to need, while leaving out icons for features that I would like to use frequently. I find that I like to make a few changes to OO.o's word processor tool bars (while I have fewer complaints about the other modules). To do that, open the word processor (either with a blank document or a previously-saved document), click on the Tools menu, and click Customize. (The menu item is named Configure in OO.o 1.x). These look and work differently in OO.o 1.9/2.0 and in the older 1.1; I'm going to describe what to do for each.

The new way:

Click on the Toolbars tab and pick a toolbar to modify. I'm pretty content with the defaults for the Standard toolbar, but I tend to want to change the Text Object icons.

Customize Toolbar dialogue

I don't want the option to Justify text alignment; no word processor does a good job of this, and the result is ugly text. I also don't need to change text direction from left-to-right or right-to-left, since I'm not writing in Hebrew, Yiddish, or Arabic. Removing these items (by removing the checkmarks besides them) gives me room on the toolbar to add some options, by clicking on the Add button.

The Add dialogue is complex-looking, with far too many possible options; they're arranged in categories and include a huge list of possible commands. Some have icons beside them, which will appear on the toolbar, others have no icons. I like to add three items in the Format category: Line Spacing 1, Line Spacing 1.5, and Line Spacing 2, letting me easily double, single, or line-and-a-half space all or sections of a document.

Add toolbar icons

Note the instructions... you can drag a command to a desired location, from this dialogue box right up to the toolbar.

The old way...

In 1.1.x, to do the same thing, click on the Tools menu then Configure. Click on the Toolbars tab. Then click on Main Toolbar and click the Customize button. Next, look for the Toolbars drop-down list near the top-right of the new dialogue box; drop down the list and select Text Object Bar.

Here, you can scroll down the list of Buttons in use, unchecking items you don't want (like Justified), and adding checkmarks besides the ones you wan to add (such as the three Line-spacing items). When you click on one of the items, you can use the Move Up or Move Down buttons to change the icons location in the toolbar. Easy!

Tools/Configure dialogue

There are lots of other options in the Tools/Customize or Tools/Configure dialogues... you can edit menu commands, set up customized actions for the various F-keys, and more. Personally, I haven't found a need for any of these, but your mileage may vary!

Other settings

When I open an OO.o word processor for the first time, I set several settings which then remain in effect each time I start up the word processor. Some of the things I do:

  • Close the Styles box. I just find it in the way. On the other hand, once you close it, it's hard to get it back... so be sure! (If someone knows how to get it back, please let me know!). On the other hand, in OO.o 1.x's presentation module (aka Impress), I find the floating box with options like Insert Slide... (etc) to be very handy, so I'm careful not to close it... once again, I don't know how to get it back. (In Impress 1.9/2.x, the interface has changed, getting rid of that floater).
  • I change the default view for the word processor. Along the bottom, in the middle, you should see the current view-- probably 100%. Right-click on it to change the view. I like to choose Optimal, which even on an 800x600 display will show a somewhat magnified view.
  • Decide whether you want real-time spell checking on or off. In OO.o 1.1, you'll see a row of icons along the left-side of the window. Clicking on the ABC icon with a red-squiggle underneath will turn real-time spell checking on or off. (It's on if there's a square around the icon). OO.o 1.9/2.x lacks the icons on the side; instead, you'll find the same icon in the top toolbar row.
  • OO.o's word processor has a word-completion function... it watches what you type and tries to predict what the word will be. You may find this helpful-- it can be especially useful for some special-needs children with writing difficulties. I find it annoying. To turn it off click on the Tools menu and select AutoCorrect. Go to the Word Completion tab and remove the checkmark beside Enable Word Completion.
If you make these changes to a blank document, when you go to close the program, you'll be prompted to save the document. You can click Cancel and not save... these settings will remain for all future documents.

April 10, 2005


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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at  E-mail Alan