Writing documents with OpenOffice.org Writer

Writing documents with OpenOffice.org Writer


Everybody uses word processors, but very few people use them in the right way. Maybe it’s time you learned to use your word processor with... style!

Despite their obvious advantages, WYSIWIG word processors have a fundamental drawback: people get interested in the final layout of the document too soon, and concentrate less on the content, which is exactly the opposite of what one should do when writing a document (and, by the way, it’s also the opposite of what happens with systems like LaTeX, where you are required to take care of the content first, and concentrate on the visual side later).

With WYSIWIG word processors people get interested in the final layout of the document too soon

Taking care of the layout too soon has inauspicious consequences. Suppose you are writing a report, for example. You start writing and, before you’re finish, you start messing around with fonts, font sizes, text alignment, colours and so on; you also mark important keywords in a bold, italicised typeface so that they stand up clearly through the document.

Then you bring the document to your boss for a review; he likes the idea of the highlighted keywords, but he doesn’t like the formatting and asks you to make them just bold. Now, since you didn’t mark keywords logically as such, you have to select them one by one and change the formatting. And you start crying of course, because you know you’re going to waste a lot of time doing a stupid and boring job. Not to mention that when you take the document to the boss to review it again, he will also ask you to change the fonts and alignment of the titles... or worse, ask you to put the italics back because he likes it better the way it was.

Well, I’m here to help you in doing first things first.

A little history

It all started in 1989, with the first release of Microsoft Word.

Soon after, in 1991, Word 2.0 was released and it finally brought WYSIWIG text processing to the masses. WYSIWIG, as you may already know, is an acronym for “What You See Is What You Get”, which means that you can set the layout of a document on the screen, and that will be the layout of the printed document.

Everybody uses a word processor nowadays. You do, too.

What you need

To make the most out of this article you need:

  • a PC
  • a good Word Processor, like OpenOffice.org Writer is!
  • patience and relax: don’t hurry
  • a simple, short document to write, like a letter

Step 1: start OpenOffice.org Writer

Figure 1: The graphical interface of OpenOffice.org WriterFigure 1: The graphical interface of OpenOffice.org Writer

Start the program. Probably you already have a “OpenOffice.org Writer” item in your menu; in GNOME it’s usually in the “Applications” menu, under the “Office” submenu. Or you can run the oowriter command straight from a terminal window.

Once you start it, you’ll see a window like the one in figure 1. This is the graphical interface of OpenOffice’s Writer module.

Step 2: start writing

Figure 2: Start writing, concentrating only on the contentFigure 2: Start writing, concentrating only on the content

Start writing. Care only about the content. Don’t be concerned about the fonts, don’t be concerned about font sizes, don’t be concerned about anything but the content.

Start writing. Care only about the content. Don’t be concerned about the fonts, don’t be concerned about font sizes, don’t be concerned about anything but the content

Step 3: once finished, think about the style

Once you are done with the content and you are happy with the things you wrote, it’s time to do a kind of document make-over.

Figure 3: Doing things with style: start hereFigure 3: Doing things with style: start here

Open the “Format” menu and look for the “Styles and Formatting” item (see figure 3), or just press the F11 key. You will get a pop-up window where you can select and modify existing styles, or create your own.

Figure 4: Modifying the default styleFigure 4: Modifying the default style

Many of the styles are based on the “Default” style. Hence, if you want to change, say, the font of nearly the whole document you can start modifying this one. Look for the “Default” item in the pop-up window, right click and select “Modify...” (see figure 4).

Figure 5: Changing the “Default” styleFigure 5: Changing the “Default” style

A new window pops up. From this window you can define almost all aspects of the style. For the moment just change the font family, by choosing a beautiful Bitstream Vera, sans-serif font (one of my favourites, and it’s released under a free license too!). As soon as you press the “Ok” button you’ll see how the fonts of the entire document suddenly change to reflect your choice.

Step 4: logically restyle individual parts of the document

Now it’s time to think about the text from a logical perspective, and apply styles according to the logic. In the specific case of our letter, it’s easy to decompose it into a few blocks, each one playing a specific role:

  1. the address;
  2. the opening, that is: the salutation that opens the letter;
  3. the body of the letter, where the real content of the message is; usually, that’s the biggest part of the letter;
  4. the closing, that is: the salutation that ends the letter;
  5. the signature, that is: your name (and some room for the real signature that you will write by hand).

Each of these parts need different formatting. Start formatting the body.

Figure 6: Starting the real styling: we select the body of the letter to redefine its styleFigure 6: Starting the real styling: we select the body of the letter to redefine its style

Select it with the mouse, then go to the styles pop-up. The “Text body” item is active: as shown before with the Default style, just right click on it, select “Modify...”, then change the style however you want. In my case, I just added some vertical space at the end of each paragraph (want to know how to do it? keep reading!) and indented the first line, but you may want to experiment by changing different parameters and seeing the results of your customisations: it’s an interesting experience!

Figure 7: Customising the signature styleFigure 7: Customising the signature style

You can customise all the other parts of the document in the same way, for example: select the signature, look up the “Signature” style in the pop-up and apply it; if you don’t like it, just customise it the same way as above. Go on and customise all the other parts.

Think about the text from a logical perspective, and apply styles according to the logic

Step 5: adding you own styles

In the letter above, I intentionally “forgot” to put in a subject line. Now I’ll show you how to add one, customise it and create a style out of it.

Figure 8: Creating a new style from selectionFigure 8: Creating a new style from selection

First of all: type in the subject line. Once you are done, select it, right click and select “Paragraph”: that’s where you will define how a subject line should appear.

Figure 9: Creating a new style from selection: styling the textFigure 9: Creating a new style from selection: styling the text

In this case, I just wanted the line in a bold face, so that it stands out and you can easily locate what the letter is about; I also added some room below it. In figure 9, you can see how you can set a 1.00cm space below the paragraph.

Figure 10: Creating a new style from selection: making the style out of the textFigure 10: Creating a new style from selection: making the style out of the text

Having done that, press the rightmost button in the pop-up and select “New style from selection”.

Figure 11: Creating a new style from selection: naming your styleFigure 11: Creating a new style from selection: naming your style

You are then prompted to name your style. It is better that you adopt some kind of naming convention, so that you can easily recognise your styles from the bundled ones. In this case, I chose to prefix my own styles with the word “My”, e.g.: “MySubject”, “MyFirstLine” and so on.

Having dealt with with the subject line, repeat the same steps to create new styles every time OpenOffice.org doesn’t provide one that fits your needs.

Updating existing styles: an easier way

Going through a tabbed pop-up window to personalise a part of a document is not a hassle (or, at least, that’s my opinion but yours could be different). Really, is there no easier way to modify an existing style?

Figure 12: Updating a style from a selectionFigure 12: Updating a style from a selection

Well, actually there is. As before, select a part of the text you have already styled (in figure 12, I selected the closing of the letter, styled with “Complimentary close”), then modify it using the normal tools available in the interface of the program (e.g.: click on the buttons to align the paragraph to the centre, change margins interactively using the cursors in the upside ruler and so on). After you’re done, click the rightmost button in the pop-up again, choosing “Update Style” this time. The style is automatically updated with the changes you made to the text.

Summing up: is it worth it?

This was just a little example, and you may well wonder if the procedure shown is general enough. Well, actually it’s not. The aim of the article was to show why using styles should be preferred over sloppy formatting, not to give a general procedure on how to write documents. It isn’t wise, for example, to write a document of some tens of pages and leave it to the very end to style the text.

Styled documents are ready for automation

So, for longer documents, what you should do? Well, now that you know that styles are important, just apply them on the go. When you are writing a level 1 heading, mark it as such! When you are writing the body of the text, do the same. Once all your text has been completely marked, you can make any changes to your document and you won’t be worried if your boss wants dark red, widely spaced headings or wants to change the font of all the text body. (Even if you don’t have a boss that requires you to write reports, you are exposed to the same problems anyway. Using styles will solve them!)

Another advantage is that styled documents are ready for automation. What do I mean by that? Well, many things...

Inside-document automation

Big documents always have a table of contents. If you styled your documents marking the headings, then OpenOffice.org can create and update the table of contents for you because it knows which parts are headings and where they are (the page number). Creating a tables of contents by hand is a real pain; worse, updating it when parts of the document are changed can lead to suicide! So, why not let something else take care of it for you?

For this functionality look in the “Insert”→“Indexes and Tables”→“Indexes and Tables...” menu.

Outside-document automation

You may want to know that an OpenOffice.org has a lot of XML under the hood. Therefore, if you logically marked the parts of your document and you know what you are doing, you can extract information from the document even if you don’t have an OpenOffice.org installation at all! Of course, if the whole document is just a sloppily-formatted, Default-styled document, it provides the same amount of structural information that a plain text files does (which means: almost nothing). However, if you write your documents wisely then you can, for example, automatically create a pretty web page with all your documents’ titles and abstract.

So, if you’ve never written your documents with style, it’s never too late to start. Begin today, and after a short time you will ask yourself why you never did it before!

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Comments

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Writing content first and then styling is missing half the point of the styles. The styles not only facilitate formatting : they also give the document a hierarchical outline. Writing using a text processing tool that support an outline mode make me much more productive as I can use the word processor not only as a writing tool but as a tool that supports my thinking. Microsoft Word has it but Openoffice Writer does not. Contrary to what the Openoffice FAQ claims, the Navigator does not provide even a fraction of the functionality of MS Word's outline mode.

A year ago, Jim Sabatke said about OO Writer : "For example, it can't collapse multiple sections at a time so you can view/edit several other sections. For some reason, open source word processor teams are resisting this functionality that is an important "thinking" and "organizing" feature that many have come to depend on in almost every MS Windows Word processor". Make sure you take a look at Outliners.com : wou will understand where the many people like me come from ! As Robert P. J Day said about the outline mode : "MS Word is *exactly* what you want to emulate here. There is no need to do things "differently" or "better" from Word WRT outlining - they got it right". I wholeheartedly agree and I am very surprised to see that in the Openoffice issue tracker outline mode is a low priority issue that has been open since 2002 - that is more than four years !

Considering how important it is to many people I know (who are quite representative of the technical writing community) and how much it has been discussed for years all over the Net I really don't understand why outline mode has not been given more attention within the Openoffice project. If I was in a bad mood I would say that this project has a bad case of NIH... But I am not the sort of person who would carry libelous rumors such as this one...

Jean-Marc Liotier - jim@liotier.org

Marco Marongiu's picture

Hello JM

You are right, one should not leave styling for last. In fact, if you read the article through the end, you would notice I wrote this:


This was just a little example, and you may well wonder if the procedure shown is general enough. Well, actually it’s not. The aim of the article was to show why using styles should be preferred over sloppy formatting, not to give a general procedure on how to write documents. It isn’t wise, for example, to write a document of some tens of pages and leave it to the very end to style the text.

So, for longer documents, what you should do? Well, now that you know that styles are important, just apply them on the go.

So the message is: don't care about the visual aspect of the document too early, use styles and you'll be able to format your document consistently. The problem is that too many people don't understand styles at all, they don't even know that they exist! They make a title by simply changing the font and the size of a paragraph and don't understand why it is a bad thing.

The aim of the example is to take those people by the hand and take them in a "style tour". After they understand what styles are and what they are for, they are ready to understand how to use them. It was easy for me (well, I am a LaTeX user after all...) but you should'n think it is obvious for everybody.

About the outline mode, I am not a part of the OOo developers community but it looks a very nice feature to me, too. As long as OOo is free software, people that are good enough at programming can try and add that functionality by themselves. Maybe we should start promoting an effort in that direction, should we?

Ciao
--bronto

Terry Hancock's picture

"Writing using a text processing tool that support an outline mode make me much more productive as I can use the word processor not only as a writing tool but as a tool that supports my thinking. Microsoft Word has it but Openoffice Writer does not."

You should try out Lyx, then. And also, of course, my brief tutorial. This is the sort of thing it is especially good at.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Hi Marco, JM,

when I was getting familiar with Personal Computers in 1985, text processing and formatting was a non-visual thing. That meant, people using text processors mostly didn't have access to a WYSIWYG user interface, albeit the revolutionary Apple Macintosh (nicknamed "yuppie totem" because of it's exorbitantly high price at release) was to be released with a visual text processor at that very moment. So, the mere mortals wrote their texts on a text-font only interface, that could indicate formating only by color highlighting, underlining and cursive letter fonts. So, in these times, it was quite natural to write the full text without formatting.

More than 20 years later, writing a (especially longer) text from a to z without formatting is something that almost demands high discipline from younger users - They mostly format their text as they type. And that's OK to me - fortunately, they don't have to cope with the restrictions of PC's back in the 80's.

Finally, I compare both ways to the development of coding tools. I learned to process text in a machine-friendly way, compared to the younger fellow hackers who do it the "natural" way.

A note on efficiency : I am still almost always done quicker with a text than my younger fellows, making them wonder how that's possible. Now, I tell them the old method, and give them the advice to learn to use their word processor without using a the mouse, learning to use key shortcuts instead. After the first week, the ones that stick to it tell me that they've cut writing and formatting time in half, using the oldschool method consequently. Why? Just because they keep their hands typing on the keyboard now, ignoring the computer mouse, and that's saving them a hell of a lot of time, believe me. And isn't time pure money, at least? ;-)

br,

Beat

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

But, all can I say, I am 19 and every time I start a document takes me like 20 minutes to find the right font, size, color, etc. And when i am finished, i dont like my job, so I think is a good Idea to wait to the last moment to pimp your document, even though you get a better idea of what it would look like if you format it first.

Marco Marongiu's picture

Ciao

Let me try to clarify once again (gee, it's so difficult to be an Italian in this English-speaking world :-)

What I think is the correct path to write a big document is:

  • Write applying styles on the go; styles must be used logically, tagging the text with its meaning in mind, not the appearance
  • Once you are done, do your checks: grammatical, spelling, meaning... you know what I mean
  • Done that, start modifying the appearance of each style you used so that a fantastic content is presented in a good shape :-)
  • Last but not least: refinements: insert page breaks and other little formattings that the word processor couldn't tell by itself

That's my path. Again, I don't recommend the approach that I used in the first part of the article: the bigger the document is, the worse that approach works. That was meant just to let people think "wow! so that bothering Navigator in OpenOffice Writer was something useful, at last" :-)

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The first to bring it to the masses, I think not. I was using Tandy Scriptsit before the PC was a gleam in IBM's eyes. It was some years before any PC based word processor could equal the features of Scriptsit, especially the font selection that when selected was viewed onscreen. I remember Wordstar and WordPerfect from the time and wondered hw and who on earth would use them.

Today, I am a heavy user of templates for writing styles as it helps in my profession but formatting within the templates and adding such things as footnotes, etc. all occur after the content is complete. For many writings, I actually use WordPad as it is simple and easy to work with and not bloated allowing faster times and then import the document into the system I've chosen to complete the document with as I use several depending on its purpose and how it will be utilized.

Terry Hancock's picture

Ooh... Scripsit

I remember that! I wrote most of my college papers with it for the first two years (I switched to Word Perfect, which, for the record, whips MS Word for usability and always has).

Today, though, I write in LyX (for books and longer articles) or gvim (for website content and short articles). I mostly use OpenOffice as a document convertor. It's way too overbuilt for my preferences. I suppose I would see things differently if my job consisted of endlessly writing memos (which I suppose is actually equivalent to what I use Mozilla Thunderbird for today).

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

As a professional writer, Marco is exactly right about the process — get the words down first, worry about formatting later. Many of my colleagues use a text editor to write their copy with, and their first choice is the very powerful and customizable UltraEdit text editor. After composing their content there, they just drop the text into OpenOffice and start laying it out, often with the aid of pre-built templates set with styles that include keyboard shortcuts for various headings.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

'Start writing. Care only about the content. Don’t be concerned about the fonts, don’t be concerned about font sizes, don’t be concerned about anything but the content'

Gee, I'd like to.
But as soon as I've written a page worth of text, I get a massive ugly gap in my text to show me there's a page break.

Are they EVERY going to implement a 'Normal' view?
It' been sitting in their issue system for ages. (It's http://qa.openoffice.org/issues/show_bug.cgi?id=4914 by the way.)

Marco Marongiu's picture

Reading your comments I got the idea that it could be a great thing for FSM to interview one of the chief developers at OpenOffice and ask these questions (and others as well).

Is any of the contributors of FSM in touch enough with OO devel? In case none is, then maybe we need a new contributor ;-)

Ciao
--bronto

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Well, my document is 500 pages long, and no, I don't want to subdivide a master and ever so many small files. I want to be able to zap from page 3 to page 456 to page 297 in a second or two.

I need to, because new biological information is being added all the time, and because the birds in my document are in phylogenetic sequence, and there are almost 10,000 of them, this is a must.

So, what I do is to add data and modify styles as I go along. It's something of an evolutionary process. But the styles I use create the visual ability to USE this document. The writer of the article in OpenOffice seemed to think styles were for prettiness. No way. I need to be able to visually perceive the hierarchical arrangements within the document; I must have styles established from the beginning.

Trouble was, I was betrayed some years ago by Word, after I had mastered its styles very nicely back in Word 5. But Microsoft moved right along and threw out a heck of a lot of what I'd spent a long time learning and a long time formatting.

I was slow to go to all the trouble of relearning it.

Okay, no big problem. Just be careful when you're instructing us. In 2007, I'll have owned and used computers for 20 years. Long enough to know the difference between fonts and typefaces, even if Bill Gates is ignorant on that distinction. So I'll figure out the best ways to do things. I have, for example, my chapter headings which automatically show up with the family heading when I introduce a species in a new family. That was a nice accomplishment.

I wasted a lot of time when I believed some goof that you can easily go back and forth between Word and OpenOffice. No, you can't. Why lie about it? You can't even go back and forth between StarOffice and OpenOffice. Any time you want to disagree, just demonstrate to me, with your own fully-formatted 500-page document, complete with tables and JPGs.

Because if you DON'T mean these things, you might as well keep quiet on the subject. Any idiot can make inter-office memos, and who would care if there were a slight discrepancy, anyway?

I feel a lot of good work has been done. Of course it has. Education was never an easy thing, when done well; my suggestion is simply to never lose sight of the fact that people's livelihoods depend upon their word-processing. Always allow that scientists, as one quick example, need to spend a little bit of time on their fieldwork, instead of all their time on your beloved computer programs. Sometimes I think—no, very often I know—that many computer programmers think people who don't know the tricks of the trade are pretty ignorant. Well, listen, Bub, there are other occupations in the world. Think about it next time you go on vacation, and the pilot asks you to take over flying the jet.

You DO know how to fly a 747, don't you?

—Carson Wade
Canada

Marco Marongiu's picture

Dear Carson

Thank you for posting. I see that you really feel what you are saying, nevertheless I can't easily understand what your real target was.

For example, you write:


Well, my document is 500 pages long, and no, I don't want to subdivide a master and ever so many small files. I want to be able to zap from page 3 to page 456 to page 297 in a second or two.

and since I never said that one should subdivide a big document in small chunks, I don't really see where your sentence fits in the article. But when you say:


The writer of the article in OpenOffice seemed to think styles were for prettiness.

No, I don't, and I don't think I never meant it in the article. Instead, I wrote:


people get interested in the final layout of the document too soon, and concentrate less on the content, which is exactly the opposite of what one should do when writing a document

and


it’s time to think about the text from a logical perspective, and apply styles according to the logic.

and


if you logically marked the parts of your document and you know what you are doing, you can extract information from the document even if you don’t have an OpenOffice.org installation at all! Of course, if the whole document is just a sloppily-formatted, Default-styled document, it provides the same amount of structural information that a plain text files does (which means: almost nothing)

So, definitely, it's not just a matter of prettiness: it's a matter of thinking about the role a word or a sentence has inside a bigger document. And I wouldn't speak about prettiness at all, I would speak (with you) about readability.

But, no doubt, I was your target here. Ok, let's go a bit further and here we are again:


I wasted a lot of time when I believed some goof that you can easily go back and forth between Word and OpenOffice. No, you can't. Why lie about it?

And here, Carson, I don't follow you. The title of the article states it's about OpenOffice Writer, in the article I always talk about OpenOffice Writer. My article is about OpenOffice Writer. So what's the point? Maybe trying to vehicle the message that using styles is important, no matter what word processor you use, I also let a subliminal thought "all word processors are identical" pass through, you think?

I don't lie, and you don't lie either: it's not generally easy to go back and forth from one program to another (say, OOW and MSWord), unless you make a massive use of both of them all the time. This can happen sometime, e.g. I am quite confortable with both vi/vim and XEmacs and I use either of the two depending on what I have to do, but I may not be a general case.


I feel a lot of good work has been done. Of course it has. Education was never an easy thing, when done well; my suggestion is simply to never lose sight of the fact that people's livelihoods depend upon their word-processing. Always allow that scientists, as one quick example, need to spend a little bit of time on their fieldwork, instead of all their time on your beloved computer programs. Sometimes I think—no, very often I know—that many computer programmers think people who don't know the tricks of the trade are pretty ignorant. Well, listen, Bub, there are other occupations in the world. Think about it next time you go on vacation, and the pilot asks you to take over flying the jet.

...and here, Carson, I don't really understand who you are talking to.

Could you please help me (and all other interested readers) and cast some light?

Anyway, thank you for posting; it is definitely an interesting point of view to read!

Ciao
--bronto

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I'm sort off veteran in using WP programs. Coming from html style WP's using first generation type WYSIWYG type WP's, I learned lots off different habits to use them. Basically if you need speed, still the writing first and than formatting style (not using mouse features) speeds every thing up. Further on it supports you to use styles and formats consistent.

But it's all kind of how you feel and get into WP. Sometimes one method is in favour of the other. I think Marco only described a small example how to use OpenOffice efficient, starting as a novice.

By the way using the Microsoft way in big Documents assuming 500 pages +, lots ofd formatting and different styles, who was not experiencing trouble?

Marco, I think you made a good job to show how to use OpenOffice. Maybe if you would write something about MS Word your article would look different. But different products equals different advices. And who really cares about MS Office, once decided to us the free way....

Marco, many thanks for your article and keep up to us the italian style...

Frank

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Well, the title "Teaching Dummies for Dummies" was intended to cast some light, or to introduce the perspective, that education is not easy, when done well.

The original article here is an educational article. When we attempt to instruct or to teach people, we are working as educators.

As soon as anyone attempts to tell us how to use any computer program, he is opening up two areas of interest: his own points of view, of course; and, inevitably, the global, or universal, views on the subject. We may all prefer to just deal with our own view, but the subject (OpenOffice or any program) carries its own with it. It is something like describing a hippopotamus: as soon as I say that word, you immediately have a picture of a hippo, and I am simply not going to be able to control it within my own terms.

So what I intended to do in my reply was to suggest one example of the kind of perspective common amongst end-users. We have a real split, which you can see all over the internet, between the position of the givers-out of computer information, and the receivers. Again and again, what we end up with is the giver-out satisfying himself that he has made things perfectly clear, and really done a fine job—while the end-user, or receiver, is left dissatisfied, and simply disappears.

There is an ideal in communications theory which is a very good ideal, even though it is almost impossible to live up to it. It is that, if at any time the receiver does not understand, then the fault lies with the speaker. In other words, the fault is always mine; never yours. Or, the fault (really the responsibility, not exactly the fault) always lies with the educator or the disseminator of the information.

Well, that really is a tough one. It seems to suggest any student, no matter how lazy or no matter how dumb, is always in the right; and it was the prof's fault for not getting through to him.

And this is indeed what it means. So, yes, education done well is not easy.

I spend quite a lot of my own time teaching people about computers and programs, although formerly I was involved more in research. I am always trying to find ways to connect the end-user with the system he is using. It's hard, though. There definitely is a persistency among both programmers and instructors to forget the end-user's contributions to their own lives, and to wonder why, for example, he won't just sit down and read the book, or why he won't get, for instance, word processing styles into his head.

Well, it's tough, you know, after a hard day doing surgery.

The best way for any teacher to face a class is to look at his students and to remind himself—each any every time he has the privilege of teaching them—that every one of them is more skilled, more knowledgeable, in something (whatever) than he is. Keeps a good teacher humble.

What we never want to do, ever, is to show that we are right. I suppose being "right" is about the wrongest thing we might ever attempt to do, as educators. We are lucky to find ourselves in positions of sharing; that's all.

So, up above I was hoping to suggest some of the perplexities of the thing. Not Open Office per se, but the difficulties in anyone attempting to address other people's needs regarding it.

Yes, styles work wonderfully well. But, as I said, I was soured myself in having my first mastering of the art of styles outdated when programs changed. Never forgetting that people have other things to do as well, here was an example of needing to go through the learning procedure twice.

To be more specific, I could bring in quite a few examples of OpenOffice (but Microsoft, too, definitely) requiring the end-user change or alter his habits or even become quite a different personality in order to suit the computer program. "Here is a great vacuum cleaner," says the salesman, "but you need three arms to use it."

So our work in progress is not just learning styles, but attempting to bring people together in a way in which the end-user feels very happy indeed—because the customer is always right. The customer is the end-user; the student; or the field worker who simply will not read the book. And no matter what our own wishes as educators, he really is right. That's the only perspective that will work.

I didn't intend to take so much of your time away from Mr. Marongiu's excellent article; for which I apologize. Apparently I failed in my own writing to make myself understood; and according to what I've said myself, that's my own fault.

Let me close with one last thought. It's quite important. We must never attack the person. Only the stupidest of world politicians and their followers do that. People carry ideas in their heads, but it is the ideas themselves, and definitely not the people, that we want to work with. Even when I'm bird-watching, I refer to the "focus bird of the day"—that is, the one you hope most to see—and never the "target bird".

As a Canadian, I feel terrible these days that that paragraph requires any teaching to anyone at all. I am ashamed to be a Canadian now.

Up above, my target, if I were to use that word, would be the perils and perplexities of conveying complex concepts in word-processing to end-users. But it wasn't a target. It was just a perspective.

It was only an idea.

Now let's get back to the original subject. You won't hear from me again. Mr. Marongiu, thank you, and if I return and see you've removed both my posts to conserve the space, no problem at all. Best of luck with your teaching.

Marco Marongiu's picture

if I return and see you've removed both my posts to conserve the space, no problem at all.

Absolutely NOT!!!

On the contrary, I am here to thank you for taking the time (and I guess it was a lot) to write another long comment to explain your point of view. I am not joking, nor being ironic. I THANK YOU, really; I MEAN IT.

About this:

What we never want to do, ever, is to show that we are right. I suppose being "right" is about the wrongest thing we might ever attempt to do, as educators. We are lucky to find ourselves in positions of sharing; that's all.

That's what I always try to do. Sometimes (I say, other say "often" instead) with good success; sometimes I go wrong.

This article could be the case; your arguments are now fully explained and they give me the occasion to read my article again and try to learn a lesson for the next one. Thank you again for that.

Keep reading us, keep commenting our work and... well, why not try writing something for us as well?

Ciao!
--bronto

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Is very hard to say "this is the best solution"

I dream with a wordprocessor that separates all the jobs involved in text production.

WYSIWYG is mere a part of the tools, if you want to write a text you may concentrate on content first or not, this depend on many factors and is not a general law. There are hundreds of categories of text from technicals, literate, office memos, lawyers, etc.

A good program must take in mind that there are many job-types multiplied by
many user-types (experts, novice, etc) and many ways to do the job done.

like an musical instrument .... say simplicity and not "predefined ways"

"viva la diferencia"

There are out there a wordproccessor that separates the visuals from the contents and maybe sintax, check spelling and images and other stuff ?

maybe with various wizards that arrange the text

then you press a key and "preview" all together

and make fine tuning.

I hate MS Word it's mouse-centric

A good word proccesor should be "keyboard-centric" but SIMPLE !!!!

Author information

Marco Marongiu's picture

Biography

Born in 1971, Marongiu graduated in applied mathematics in 1997; he's now a full-time system administrator for a well known software company in Oslo, Norway. He's also a Perl programmer and technical author and lecturer by passion.
Marongiu has been a Debian User since version 1.1.10 and he helped found the GULCh Linux Users Group (Gruppo Utenti Linux Cagliari), the first one in Sardinia.