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OpenOffice was originally created by a small German company called Star Division. The original suite's name was Star Office and was criticized for being too large. The suite was all integrated into one larger "desktop" tool. To start up any of the individual tools the entire Star Office "desktop" had to be started. Naturally this did not meet the approval of users who needed their applications to start quickly. Of course this has come full circle with the release of OpenOffice 3 (which reverts to the "desktop" metaphor.) In 1999 the Star Office code was purchased by Sun Microsystems and the suite renamed OpenOffice (to reflect the open source nature of the tool.)
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OpenOffice 3 contains the standard office tools with the addition of a few extra tools to help out. The key players in the OpenOffice suite are:
oowriter: This is the word processor of OpenOffice. This word processor will open and save in nearly all Microsoft Word formats. As of release 3, the docx format can now be opened in OpenOffice with some small issues (mostly pertaining to track changes and comments.) The oowriter tool matches MS Word nearly feature for feature. On top of matching features, oowriter does an outstanding job of matching the user interface so that using oowriter is very similar to using MS Word.
oocalc: This is the spreadsheet application. Like oowriter, oocalc matches the Microsoft equivalent feature for feature. The OpenOffice spreadsheet program does an outstanding job of opening and saving Excel spreadsheets.
ooimpress: This is the presentation application. Any PowerPoint user will feel right at home with 'Impress'. Not only do the applications share a similar look, they share a similar feel, and Impress does open and save PowerPoint documents with ease. Impress also has the native ability to save presentations as flash documents so they can be placed online to be viewed via web browsers.
oobase: This is the database portion of OpenOffice. As with MS Access, OpenOffice Base is one of the more complex applications within the OpenOffice suite of tools. This is the one aspect of OpenOffice where importing of the Microsoft equivalent (Access) is not 100%. But creating a database from start to finish with oobase offers as complete a package as MS Access.
oomath: This portion of OpenOffice allows you to create formulas that can be embedded into various tools or exported as pdf documents.
oodraw: This is a vector graphics tool similar to Microsoft Publisher. Although not nearly the quality (or containing the capabilities) of The Gimp, oodraw is an outstanding tool for desktop publishing, page layout, and typography.
ooweb: This is the web editor of OpenOffice. The ooweb application enjoys the same layout as oowriter but adds the necessary web-layout and viewer tools necessary for basic web design. This tool is primarily for basic web editing. It is a WYSIWYG designer similar to MS Frontpage.
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Getting and Installing
As a general rule OpenOffice is installed by default in any new modern Linux distribution. If, by chance, your distribution doesn't include OpenOffice you can install it one of two ways: Open up your graphical installation tool (such as Yumex, rpmdrake, or Synaptic) and do a search for openoffice, or you can install via the command line (such as yum install openofficeX.X or apt-get install openofficeX.X Where X.X is the current release number).
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OpenOffice is most certainly a must have/must use application for anyone who works within the Linux operating system. With a feature list comparable to that of Microsoft Office and a price tag of $0.00, OpenOffice is, without doubt, one of the finest applications available for Linux. For more information about OpenOffice visit the OpenOffice.org web site.
Linux Applications: OpenOffice
In this series I will highlight those Linux applications that are must haves for personal, school, or office use. And once you get to know them, you won't be able to go without them.