LIBREOFFICE, the free and open source productivity suite, is a boon to companies that want to save on software licenses and still get lots of work done.
For years, I’ve been using the program and its predecessor, OpenOffice.org, as a drop-in replacement for MS Office on three platforms – Windows, the Mac and Linux – and have had few reasons to complain.
The latest release, Version 3.5, features a major overhaul of the underlying code that has made the program more efficient and more responsive. Last week, I wrote about some of the new features in LibreOffice 3.5; this week, I’ll offer a few tips to make the most of three of its five core programs – Writer (for word processing), Calc (for spreadsheets) and Impress (for presentations). As I do not use Draw (vector graphics) and Base (database) extensively, I will save these for another time.
The Write Stuff
In Writer, here are some ways to work smarter
Use the Word Completion feature. This may throw you off at first, but it will save you a lot of typing and speed up your work by remembering long words that you type. To activate this feature, go to Tools > AutoCorrect Options and choose the Word Completion tab. In this same dialog box, you can set the minimum number of letters for a long word (the default is 10) and the number of words LibreOffice will remember (set to 500). The more you type, the more words LibreOffice will recognize, so this is a tool that gets better with use.
Find a better word. If you’re looking for a better word, highlight the word you want to alter and hit Ctrl-F7 (on the Mac, Command-F7) to call up LibreOffice’s built-in Thesaurus. Find the appropriate word and click on Replace.
Use shortcut keys. Memorize and learn to use the most common shortcut keys. These will save your mouse many trips to the menu. Ctrl-C to copy; Ctrl-X to cut; Ctrl-V to paste; Ctrl-P to print; Ctrl-Z to undo; and Ctrl-S to save. You can find the complete list of keyboard shortcuts in Tools > Customize > Keyboard. On the Mac, use Command instead of Ctrl.
Take advantage of the PDF filter. The next time you need to create a PDF document, remember that LibreOffice can import and export this file format. This could save you the trouble of firing up another program (such as Acrobat) to do what you can do in Writer.
Do quick calculations. You don’t need to call up a separate calculator program to do quick calculations. Simply call up the Formula toolbar (View > Toolbars > Formula) and type in what you want to compute.
I’m a casual user of Calc, but here are a few tips that have helped me work with spreadsheets, which I use mostly to compute grades for my students.
Freeze. To keep a row or column from scrolling off the screen, use the Freeze command. Select the row below, or the column to the right of the row or column that you want to be in the frozen region. To freeze both horizontally and vertically, select the cell that is below the row and to the right of the column that you want to freeze. Then go to Window > Freeze. To deactivate, choose Window > Freeze again.
Change how the Enter key works. By default, when the Enter key is pressed, the cell below the current working cell is selected. However, if you need to keep moving right frequently, you can set the Enter key to move to the immediate right side cell through Tools > Options > LibreOffice Calc > General.
Impress your audience
See your notes. You can improve your presentations by using LibreOffice’s Presenter Console, which allows you to view your slide notes on our computer while projecting only the slides on an LCD screen.
Hide your slides. Sometimes, I need to shorten a presentation but I don’t want to delete any slides permanently from the original document. Fortunately, LibreOffice lets you hide slides to prevent them from showing in your slide show. To hide a slide, simply right-click on it and select “hide slide.”
Don’t get stuck with ugly templates. Sadly, LibreOffice has not updated the ugly and amateurish default templates that come with OpenOffice Impress. Look around for better templates. Ironically, you can find the best Impress templates in the OpenOffice.org site. Modern Impress Templates is one of the best I’ve seen.