OpenOffice.org is the greatest open source alternative to Microsoft’s Office suite. Over the years OpenOffice has evolved to become much more than just an alternative to MS Office however. Let’s look at some hacks that will allow you to become more of a power user of OpenOffice, enabling you to be more productive with the software.
OpenOffice.org Macro Feature
A macro in OpenOffice is a saved sequence of steps or commands which can be called with the click of a button. Macros are very useful in making repetitive tasks a lot more efficient. Say you need to put your signature, address and company logo at the end of a number documents you create using OpenOffice. You can create a macro that does this for you. This way, all you have to do is to call the macro and it will fill in the necessary information. Creating macros might seem rather intimidating at first, but it is quite simple to get started with it.
Record a macro
The simplest way to create a macro is to use OpenOffice’s built-in macro recording tool. You launch the macro recorder, run the steps you want to be recorded in the macro, then stop the recorder. Voilà, your macro is now ready. Let’s look at how to do this. Go to Tools>Macros>Record Macro, then press the sequence of keystrokes you want. At the end of your sequence, click on Stop Recording. In the new window that pops up, give the file a name and save it. Try to come up with apt names for your macros, as weak names will drive you nuts in the future.
Run your saved macro
Once you have saved a macro in OpenOffice, it’s quite simple to run it. Go to Tools>Macros>Run Macro. A window will pop up with a list of all the macros available, the ones from the OpenOffice.org team, as well as the ones created by you. Select the macro you want to execute and hit Run. The macro will execute. Errors, if any, will be displayed in a pop-up notification window.
If you create a macro that you want to share with other users of the OpenOffice suite, there are two ways for you to do that. You can either share the code used by the macro, or you can package the macro into an ‘extension’ and then share it via email or put it up for download. The second method is usually the better approach. Let’s look at how to package an OpenOffice macro into an extension.
An OpenOffice extension pretty much consists of the code of an OpenOffice macro and some XML files, all wrapped up into a zip file. To create an extension, first follow the steps shown above and create an OpenOffice macro. Once you have the macro saved in OpenOffice, there are two ways you can proceed. You can either write the necessary XML files manually using a text editor, or you can use the OpenOffice tool, BasicAddonBuilder (BAB), to generate the XML files for you. Let’s look at the second method.
Install the BasicAddonBuilder
Installing the BasicAddonBuilder is quite a straightforward process. – just start here. This is the page for the BasicAddonBuilder OpenOffice extension. On this page, click on the ‘Get it!’ button to begin the installation of BasicAddonBuilder. Once the download is complete, OpenOffice’s extension system will take over the installation. Just follow the steps that it asks you to and you should soon be in business.