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OpenOffice: Getting Started

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 5/25/2010

Are you thinking about using OpenOffice? Now is as good a time as any to install and start learning the software. This basic guide will give you all of the information you need to download and start using OpenOffice.

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    Who Needs Office When You Have OpenOffice?

    While Microsoft Office is still the default choice of productivity program for many users, OpenOffice provides an excellent alternative. OpenOffice includes most of the same functionality as Office, but it comes with a very attractive price - free!

    While OpenOffice does not deviate from Office too much, it is a different program, and there are aspects of it which might take some getting used to. This quick OpenOffice tutorial will help bring you up to speed with OpenOffice

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    What Does OpenOffice Include?

    OpenOffice Tutorial OpenOffice's suite of programs is similar to what would be found in Microsoft Office, the programs are of course called by different names, and there aren't direct correlations for every single item in the Microsoft Suite. Here are the following programs found in the OpenOffice suite and a summary of what they do.

    • Writer - This is the OpenOffice word processor. The Office equivalent is Microsoft Word.
    • Calc - This is the OpenOffice spreadsheet software. The Office equivalent is Microsoft Excel.
    • Impress - This is the OpenOffice presentation software. The Office equivalent is Microsoft PowerPoint.
    • Base- This is the OpenOffice database management software. The Office equivalent is Microsoft Access.
    • Draw - This is the OpenOffice vector graphic editor. It has functionality similar to Microsoft Visio and Microsoft Publisher.
    • Math - This is a mathematical formula tool similar to Microsoft Equation Editor.
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    How to Install OpenOffice

    Installing OpenOffice is perhaps even easier than installing the Microsoft Office suite of products.

    To start you'll need to go to the OpenOffice website. Here you will find a selection which says "I want to download" Click the green download arrow to begin downloading the installer. OpenOffice is approximately 150 megabytes in size, so the download may take some time depending on the speed of your connection.

    Once you have downloaded the OpenOffice installer you simply need to run the installer as you would any other installer software. The OpenOffice suite will be installed into the directory of your choosing, and you will then have the chance to start OpenOffice for the first time.

    OpenOffice will then ask for some information, such as you name and if you want to register. This is all optional, but filling everything out has its benefits. For example, OpenOffice Writer templates which use your name (like resume templates) will automatically display your name if you enter it while doing your install.

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    Using OpenOffice with Microsoft Office

    One major concern which new users to OpenOffice will inevitably have is the compatibility with Microsoft Office documents. While you may choose to use OpenOffice, others will choose to use Microsoft Office, and you'll need to know that you can exchanges files with them.

    Thankfully, OpenOffice has the ability to export files into formats which Microsoft Office users should have no trouble opening. These include:

    • Writer - The .rtf and .doc (Microsoft Office 6.0) formats.
    • Calc - The .xlt (Microsoft Excel 5.0) format.
    • Impress - The .ppt (Microsoft Powerpoint) format.
    • Base - File support is complex. Files can be transferred between OpenOffice and Microsoft Office, but some features may not work.

    If you have a stubborn document which doesn't seem to open correctly you can convert files using an online file conversion service like Zamzar.

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    Enjoy OpenOffice

    These basics should get you started with OpenOffice. For more information about OpenOffice, check out the following article.

    Microsoft Office 2010 vs Open Office