Open Office Writer is an open source word processing software. This can be used for anything from writing a quick letter to producing an entire book with embedded illustrations, cross-references, tables of contents; indexes, bibliographies, Auto-complete, auto-format, and real-time spelling check make light work of the hardest task. Writer is powerful enough to tackle desktop publishing tasks such as creating multi-column newsletters and brochures. This software can be downloaded free of charge and used in any way without being affected by copyright laws.
Styles allow users to define formats once and then apply them to multiple blocks of text. In the Open Office Writer by formatting manually without using styles, tasks such as adding a different header or footer become a matter of difficulty adding page breaks. In general, Writer pressures users to format with styles for anything beyond the simplest, shortest of documents.
Most word processors, both Open Office Writer and Microsoft Word have paragraph and character styles. However, Open Office Writer consistently allows more control, offering settings for hyphenation, automatic page breaks, and the last line in a fully justified paragraph. Writer extends the concept of styles to frames, lists, and page styles. Write automatically uses many styles in each of these categories. Also the ability to tweak them gives Open Office Writer basic to intermediate desktop publishing capabilities.
Writer's page styles are especially useful for designers. The largest trouble spot in Open Office Writer is the pre-defined Left and Right page styles, which add blank pages. In the latest version of open Office Writer it uses a floating window entitled Styles and Formatting for applying and managing styles. Open Office Writer has managed to influence Microsoft Word in order to incorporate it in their latest versions. The Open Office Writer's tabbed window remains much more convenient for style design in word processing documents.
Templates are documents saved so that other documents can be based upon them. In Open Office Writer handling of templates seems specifically designed to avoid such problems that occur in Microsoft Word. The main issue being is how the same document will look on a different machine. In Open Office Writer the relationship between templates and documents is looser than it is in Microsoft Word. In Writer a template determines only the initial formatting of a document. A link is maintained only to give you the option of updating the document with changes to the template. However, users can ignore this link because the source of formatting information is the document itself.
Open Office Writer templates cannot be altered from within a document based on them and the default template, not the same thing as "template set as default" cannot be changed. Neither can more than one template be loaded into the same document. Instead users must choose Format > Styles > Load to modify a template with the settings of another document. The result of these arrangements is that file corruption is much rarer in Writer than in Word.
Open Office Writer uses a floating window called the Navigator for document outlines. The Navigator's main function is to help you jump to key points in a document, such as a heading, a table, or a graphic. From this it is a small step to outlining.
The problem is that Writer's Navigator is less flexible than Word's Outline View. Navigator allows only levels of headings to be concealed, not individual headings. The Navigator does not display body text styles, unless you customize Tools > Outline Numbering. Even after doing that Writer has no word wrap, so viewing more than the first line of a body text style with Navigator is often impossible.
Bulleted and Numbered lists
Open Office Writer adds all numbers or bullets inside a field. With bullets and numbers safely contained, list items can be rearranged with few permanent problems. This avoids the problem faced by Word in which rearranging items corrupts the numbering. Another advantage of Writer is that it creates list formats in a separate style that users can then assign to any number of paragraph styles. This separation not only allows list styles to be re-used with different styles, but also provides the screen real estate for an entire dialog window full of options. Writer offers bulleted and numbered lists, as well as outline numbering, which uses a single style for formal outlining. Writer also offers a choice of bullet styles, including special characters and graphics. Open Office Writer goes beyond Word with detailed options for positioning numbers or bullets for adding characters before or after, and for formatting them differently from the list item text.
In earlier versions Open Office Writer tables suffered from two main drawbacks: They did not allow rows to break across a page or column, and they could not be nested (a feature often used in HTML documents to create complex layouts). Even more the number recognition was turned on by default so that entering numbers in an Open Office Writer table immediately aligned them with the lower right corner. All these features have been corrected in version 2.0. The Writer tables are now a closer match for Word tables. Writer has moved tables from the Insert menu to a top level menu, which makes the resemblance to Word even stronger.
While open Office Writer allows users to define auto-formats the feature remains less flexible than Word 2003's table styles. Admittedly, Word's table styles are limited, but Writer's auto-formats are very much accurate. For instance, if you create an auto-format with 10 rows with alternate blue and black backgrounds, then it is useful for only tables with 10 or fewer rows. Add an eleventh row, and it has a white background and the entire purpose of the auto-format is lost.
Writer fares better in its ability to perform basic calculations. Although it includes mere differences, adding calculations in a Writer table is much the same as adding a formula to a spreadsheet. This arrangement is much more convenient than Word's arcane system for table calculations.
Headers and Footers
In Open Office Writer headers and footers are a less intimidating proposition. All headers and footers are visible in the editing window. Unlike Microsoft Word's, they can be edited using the full array of Writer features. Employing multiple headers is simply a matter of defining new page styles, and jumping to the current page's header or footer is a matter of repositioning the cursor or using a keyboard shortcut. Writer also boasts two tabs of options for headers and footers. These options include both positioning and design choices such as borders, backgrounds, and shadows.
Indexes and tables of contents
In both Writer and Word, users can create indexes and various tables of contents (TOC) from individual markers and a selection of styles, but Writer includes more options. For instance, assigning index markers in Writer to several entries or apply them automatically by creating a file of key words. Similarly, one can customize TOC and index entries using a graphical representation of elements that include lists, cross-references, and variables. Writer also allows dividing indexes and TOCs into columns, or giving them a background color or graphic.
In cross-references Open Office Writer's cannot be built by selecting specific styles, such as heading styles or caption. Instead they rely on entirely on markers entered in the text. Neither Writer nor Word handles cross-references particularly well. Neither allows users to store introductory text for a cross-reference. In the case of Writer it creates user-defined fields for them. More importantly neither application cross-references other files easily. In Open Office Writer cross-referencing another document requires a complex workaround involving the Drag Mode in the Navigator. In master documents maintaining a list of references is possible so that one can add a cross-reference marker despite being unable to see a source in another document. Writer's support for cross-references remains inadequate.
Conditional text is a block that can be hidden or revealed as needed. This functionality is most often used for maintaining two versions of a document in a single file. For instance, a technical writer documenting a basic and an advanced version of a piece of software could set as conditional text those passages that referred only to the advanced version. Before printing the basic version of the manual, the writer could hide the references to the advanced version and print only the passages that refer to the basic version.
In earlier versions of Writer, conditional text was supported only by the use of fields that were hidden or revealed by a logical statement. Only a single line of the fields is visible at one time, they were impractical for large blocks of conditional text. Although Writer supported conditional page sections users had to visit each one individually to show or hide them. Conditional fields and sections are supported in version 2.0 but they have become obsolete with the addition of a Hidden check box on the Font Effects tab for character and paragraph styles. This new feature allows hidden characters and paragraphs to be turned on or off without any need to locate them.
Master documents are collections of files that allow users to work on smaller and more responsive files. When the smaller files are finished, the master document collates them for publication. In Writer the practice of master documents are much closer and users can manage a master document from a special view of the Navigator's floating window. Because of its small size, this Navigator view is much easier to use than Word's outline view for a master document. The strongest resemblance in Writer is in its stability. It is possible to manage several master documents in Writer of more than 500 pages which includes screen shots and never experience a crash. The only down side is the unavoidable slowing of response when reaching the limit of system memory.
In version 2.0, Writer has a drawing toolbar that is a near clone of Word 2003. Both offer small libraries of geometrical shapes and callouts for diagrams. The resemblance is so similar that Writer goes so far as to take a step backwards by replacing its earlier versions' Fontworks tool with the more cumbersome Fontworks Gallery, an imitation of Word's WordArt Gallery. The drawing tools in both programs are adequate for simple graphics. Open Office Writer offers a richer choice of general graphics tools in drawing than compared with Word. Drawing capabilities of Open Office Writer is beyond anything when compared with Microsoft Word.
Open Office Writer lacks several of the following features like a thesaurus with links to other data sources, e.g. - thesaurus with links to Microsoft Encarta. Translation is also unavailable in the Open Office Writer. The Writer also excludes a grammar checker attached to the spell checker. The Writer does not have multiple clipboards like Word. Writer's unique tools include wizards for automating support for additional languages and for downloading and installing free fonts. Writer's strongest unique feature is built-in PDF export. In version 2.0, this feature has been enhanced to give users some control over export settings, and to allow the creation of PDF files with bookmarks and links. The Writer has fewer PDF options than Acrobat itself and it cannot edit PDFs. The new version of the PDF export tool makes the purchase of Acrobat unnecessary even if operating on a platform that it supports.