The office suite. Ah the importance you hold over the PC user. You help our business to flow, you help us to draft our papers and novels, and you help us communicate. But what of those users who previously were using Microsoft Office or any other office suite? How does one gain any sort of efficiency or familiarity with another office suite - especially when there is so little time to do so? It's really not so difficult. After all, the features are, for the most part, all there.
In this article I am going to present a few tips to help you help others migrate to the open source office suite. In the end, your users will enjoy a full-featured office suite that will cost $0.00 per seat to use (CAL about that?).
1. Change the default file type
For most users the default "save as" file types in OpenOffice will cause more trouble than not. They will create a document and then, when their co-workers/instructors/friends/etc recieve that .odt file, have no idea that Microsoft Office won't be able to play nicely with their work. Although I prefer the open document format, I generally switch all default file types to the Microsoft equivalent. This is done in Tools > Options > Load/Save > General. Make sure you go through the drop-down and change all the necessary default formats so that when your user saves that precious document, it will open in other office suites.
2. Avoid the ribbon
I don't know about you, but I am not a fan of the 2007 Ribbon interface of Microsoft Office. Of course there are plenty of people using it. Now if you are coming from a standard interface to a ribbon interface the migration is much more difficult. I would imagine coming from a ribbon to a standard interface doesn't hold nearly the challenge. But even still, what do you do? If you're really desperate you can hold off until Project Renaissance comes to fruition. This project aims at create Open Office's very own ribbon-like interface. Otherwise, ween your users off of the dreaded ribbon before migrating them to OpenOffice (if you think they will have any issues going back to a standard interface.)
3. Tool for tool, feature for feature
One thing that always surprises new-to-OO-users is that the open source suite does contain just about every feature they are used to using - and more. You will want to show the new users where all of the Open Office tools are: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, and Base (if installed). And once they see where all the tools are, show them that generally OpenOffice mimics MSO feature for feature. Keyboard shortcuts are similar (<Ctrl>c, <Ctrl>v, <Ctrl>p for example), menu entires are similar, spreadsheet formulas are similar. One of the best ways to ease a new user into OpenOffice is by showing them how little difference there truly is.
4. No personalized menus
MSO offers a feature some users grow to depend upon. After using a feature a number of times that feature will find its way to the top of menus in MSO. That is not the case in OO. Instead, in OO, the menu entries are static, so your users will need to get to know the full location of all the menu entries they need to use.
This is a huge feature in both suites. And fortunately, for new OO users, it works very similar in both suites. But OO offers one other tool that MSO doesn't - word completion. You will find this in Tools > Autocorrect > Word Completion.
6. No side panes
Starting with Office XP, Microsoft introduced side panes to MSO. OO does not have side panes. The closest OO has to side panes are docked and/or floating windows for Navigator, Styles and Formatting, Gallery, Function Wizard, and Data Source Explorer. If your users insist on having sidebars in OO you can open the equivalent floating window, click on it's title bar, and drag it to the side of the OO window until you see a dark outline where the window can dock. When you see that outline release the title bar and the window will dock.
7. Where is Print Preview?
Many users like to view their documents before printing. Print Preview allows the user to see what that document will look like in printed form. If you look through the OO menus you will not find a Print Preview. You will find, however, a Page Preview (File > Page Preview) They are the same thing.
The migration from other office suites to OpenOffice really isn't that difficult. In fact, many users might hardly notice the difference. But there are users that might wind up in a panic when they see their old friend MSO was replaced with OO. With these tips it shouldn't be all that difficult to ease their worries. What about you? Have you found a tip or two to help ease the migration? If so, share.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.