OpenOffice.org is a fantastic office suite, finally undermining Microsoft’s monopoly on Office-like software (word processing, presentations, etc.). Out of all of the OpenOffice.org programs, Writer is by far the most used: writing a document, a letter, or anything else is definitely more common than writing a presentation. This book is all about OpenOffice.org’s Writer.
The book’s cover
I have worked with Dmitri Popov before, back when I was editing Tux Magazine, and won’t hide that I am one of his fans. Dmitri’s writing skills are unmistakeably good: the text flows easily, and everything seems amazingly simple to achieve. The book is suitable for absolute beginners, and for more experienced users. The book is self-published, and available at lulu.com.
The book is only 154 pages (although size can be deceptive: the book is packed with information!).
It’s divided in three main sections: the first one focuses on the end user, and provides an amazing wealth of information about Writer. While reading the book, I realised that I would have saved hours of my time if I had read this book earlier (yes, it’s one of those books!). Since the target is on those writing books, virtually every piece of advice is well-focused. You won’t find out how to do mail-merge with OpenOffice.org, or how to print on an envelope. Instead, you will find out about chapter numbering, grid text, better free fonts, bibliography management, and so on.
The second section covers OOo Basic. If you are a technical writer and a programmer, you will discover how to really exploit OpenOffice.org’s Writer’s power. Unfortunately, this section is missing a “ready to use snipsets" section, so that non-programmers could benefit from Writer’s programmability.
The last section, “Must-have tools", covers tools which are not strictly related to Writer, but that will make a writer’s life easier: Wordnet (a lexical reference), TiddlyWiki (a Wiki) and Jarnal (a productivity enhancer).
Who’s this book for?
If you are a book writer and you don’t want to use LaTex, Writer can be the perfect tool for you. This book is aimed at writers who decide to write a book (or a long document) using OpenOffice.org, and don’t want to waste time finding out the hard way how to get things done quickly.
This book is also ideal for all those people who want to know about more advanced features of OpenOffice.org’s Writer (programming it, etc.).
Relevance to free software
Along with GNU/Linux, GNOME/KDE, Mozilla/Firefox, OpenOffice.org is one of the of most important pieces of software that made the free software revolution possible. Knowing how to actually use OpenOffice.org is absolutely crucial, and books like this one will only help GNU/Linux gain momentum and credibility.
Along with GNU/Linux, GNOME/KDE, Mozilla/Firefox, OpenOffice.org is one of the of most important pieces of software that made the free software revolution possible.
Dmitri’s writing style is compelling. The section “Getting the most out of Writer" is simply invaluable in its own right: it’s packed with crucial information any writer will need at some point while using Writer. The text gets straight to the point: the book is only 154 pages, and yet it says a lot more than other thicker books.
A rather large section of the book focuses on the programming side of OpenOffice.org’s Writer. While this is great if you are a programmer, OOo Basic is likely to scare normal users away from the book. I would have separated the OOo Basic section of the book in two: one with a list of ready-to-use snippets that anybody could use, and one to explain how to program Writer properly. While WordNet, TiddlyWiki and Jarnal are great tools, I am not sure they belong in a book about Writer: maybe they should have been placed in appendices.
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