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OpenOffice.org Writer: The Free Alternative to Microsoft Word Paperback – Aug 2 2004
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"I would recommending this for anyone who uses the OpenOffice.org suite and I can only hope that the author considers adding the missing suite applications as future volumes." Linux Magazine, November 2004
About the Author
Jean Hollis Weber has a Master of Science degree and over 25 years of experience as a scientific and technical editor in the fields of biology, mathematics, engineering, and computing. She has taught short courses in writing and editing and lectured to graduate and undergraduate classes in writing and editing at several Australian universities.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I've read (or looked over) a lot of books on Microsoft Word. I find the book a lot more pleasing. It doesn't treat you like an idiot. It understands that the common case is that you understand the basics of the application and you are just looking for how to do one particular thing.
I recommend this book for anyone using Writer.
Chapter list: Setting Up Writer to Work Your Way; Writing, Editing, and Reviewing Documents; Controlling Page Layout; Using Templates and Styles Effectively; Getting the Most from Fields; Tables of Contents, Indexes, and Bibliographies; Working with Large or Complex Documents; Working with Graphics in Writer; Miscellaneous Tips and Tricks; Moving from Microsoft Word; Index
This is one of those books that falls outside the normal expectations for tech books. It's published by O'Reilly Community Press, which is described this way:
Unlike classic O'Reilly animal books, O'Reilly's role in the series is limited to providing manufacturing and distribution services rather than editorial development, so that each Community Press title reflects the editorial voice and organization of the community that has created it.
As a result, it doesn't have the same polish and finish as what you'd expect from an O'Reilly title. But don't let that deter you from the excellent content contained within. There's a three page preface stating the target audience, conventions in font, and all the other standard preface stuff. After that, it's all practical content on how to do specific tasks in Writer. The target audience is for intermediate to advanced users, so if you're competent around Word, you'll quickly catch on to what steps are required to produce the same time of reports you normally create in Word. And if you're just getting exposed to Writer, you'll be amazed at how much power you'll have at your fingertips. And of course, free is a very good price.
The other thing I appreciate about the book is the section on converting to and from Word documents. That's obviously the biggest concern since Word is nearly a standard in the business place. The author doesn't try to gloss over and hype the conversion process. Some things (simple documents) will convert with no problems at all. Other more complex documents may not convert well at all. This could lead to some manual tweaking once the document has been moved to the other platform. But still, you get a good idea as to what you're up against.
No fluff, plenty of meat, and highly practical... A definite winner.
For someone already familiar with word processing applications this book is a great help in showing how OpenOffice.org Writer accomplishes the task. It is written for someone who has experience in this type of software. As the subtitle is "The Free Alternative to Microsoft Word" you can imagine that much of the differences she shows are differences between Writer and Word.
The author does a great job at showing what can and cannot be done with OOo. She does not pretend that OOo Writer is perfect and is quick to show how to avoid some common pitfalls. The book is refreshing in that it does admit some weaknesses of the software, but also provides ways around the problems.
Because it is written for current users of word processors, it gives few examples of what can be done with the features. If you already know what you want to accomplish but are unsure of how it is done in Writer, then this book is a great help.
One of the strengths of OOo is "Styles." The author explained how to use styles in a very concise manner. The only thing lacking was a thorough explanation as to why someone should use styles. Other word processors handle formatting on a paragraph to paragraph, or word to word basis. OOo handles its formatting through styles, though you can do it the wrong way if you like. Styles are document wide formating and is much more powerful. But the book lacked the convincing paragraph or two as to why one should try to learn to use the Stylist.
There are lots of screen captures. Of which 183 are dialog boxes or menus. The other 8 show something other than those 2 items. Precisely two, and only two are an example of actual text being formated. The problem I have with this is if I go through the steps that are given in the book, I can, without fail, end up at the same dialog box as the book references. What would have been more to my liking would have been to see more examples of how you can use OOo to put text on a page.
The saving grace of this though is the one huge example that the book shows of what can be done with OOo...the entire book was written in and typeset from OOo Writer. Anything you see in the book can be done with the OOo Writer program. That is a testimony to the power of the tool. Because of this, the author goes into great detail as to how to manage large documents with Writer. This is something that OOo does very well. With its Stylist to help manage the uniform formatting and the Navigator to help manage a large document, OOo not only competes for MS Word's secretarial market, but WordPerfect's dominance in the legal and governmental fields.
I look forward to the release of OpenOffice.org 2.0. I hope that O'Reilly will work with the author to produce a new version of the book in line with the new version and features of the software. As well, I would like to see O'Reilly do a book on each of the components in the OpenOffice.org suite.
The only criticism that I have is that it is too short. I read the book in about two hours and was left wanting more. At a little over 200 pages, it is still amazing how much information that the author covers:
* Writer Customization
* Using Writer to create and edit documents
* Templates and Styles
* Indexes, Table of Contents, Bibliographies
* Master Documents, Footnotes, Endnotes
* Cool Tricks - PDF, Docbook XML, Hyperlinking
* The Migration from Word to Writer
I highly recommend this book for readers that have recently begun to use Writer, are considering using Writer or who are just plain curious what all the hubub is about.
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