January 7, 2008

Nifty OpenOffice.org extensions

Author: Dmitri Popov

Apparently, the only thing that stopped developers from creating useful OpenOffice.org extensions was the lack of a place to publish them. With the launch of the OpenOffice.org Extension Repository, the number of extensions listed there has shot up, and there are no signs of a slowdown. Although quantity doesn't always mean quality, the repository already offers a few nifty extensions that can expand the functionality of OpenOffice.org and make your work more efficient.

Bookmarks Menu

On the face of it, the Bookmarks Menu just adds bookmarks to documents, but dig deeper and you'll discover that this extension can do much more. Once you've installed the Bookmarks Menu, it appears only in the Tools -> Add-Ons menu. To add the Bookmarks menu to the main toolbar, choose the Bookmark Menu item and press OK. By default, the menu contains two items: Bookmark This Document and Edit Bookmarks. The former allows you to quickly bookmark the currently opened document, so you don't have to navigate to the desired document every time you want to open it. Of course, you can use the Recent Documents feature to do that, but it has some limitations: it can hold only up to 10 entries and you can't sort the entries. More importantly, the Bookmarks Menu can bookmark not only documents but also macros and shell commands, and you can do this in just a few clicks.

To bookmark, for example, an often-used macro, choose Edit Bookmarks and press the New button. Give the bookmark a name, select Macro from the Type drop-down list, press the Open button, and select the macro you want. Press OK to save the new bookmark, and you are done. In fact, it takes longer to explain how this works than actually bookmarking a macro.

The extension's ability to bookmark shell commands can come in even more handy, since it allows you to create bookmarks that send commands to external applications. For example, you can create a bookmark that opens your favorite Web site in the default browser. To do this, choose Edit Bookmarks, press New, and give the new entry a name. Select the ShellCommand item from the Type drop-down menu, and type the Web address into the Arguments list. Then type firefox (or another browser) into the Url field, press OK to save the bookmark, and you are done.

By using the Menu button in the Edit Bookmarks window you can also export your shell commands and settings, which can be useful if you are using the extension on several machines.

OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs

No prizes for guessing what OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs does. Once installed, the extension adds a menu in the main toolbar that allows you to easily exchange documents between OpenOffice.org and Google Docs. The upload part of the extension supports not only ODT documents, but also SXW, DOC, and spreadsheets in ODS, XLS, and CVS formats, as well as PPT presentations. The download part of the OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs extension is still under heavy development, and right now it can only import Google Docs documents as plain text files.

Code Formatter

If your Writer documents contain a lot of code, and you want to make it look pretty by adding syntax color, the Code Formatter extension can help you. The current version supports C++, Java, and OpenOffice.org Basic syntax only, but the extension comes with a detailed description of how it works, so you can add other languages yourself.

To apply syntax color to a code block, you have to apply the _OOoComputerCode paragraph to it and then run an appropriate macro (e.g. MacroFormatterADP -> Basic -> FMT_ColorCodeCurrentBasic for OpenOffice.org Basic code). Unfortunately, the extension doesn't add a dedicated menu, so you have to manually select the coloring macro. Alternatively, you can use the Bookmarks Menu to create bookmarks for the Code Formatter macros.

OOoSVN

The idea of using Subversion for document versioning is nothing new, but OOoSVN allows you to use the system right from within OpenOffice.org, hiding Subversion's complexity behind a few easy-to-use commands. Before you can make use of OOoSVN, you have to install Subversion on your machine, but most mainstream Linux distributions have Subversion in their repositories. During the first run, OOoSVN sets up a repository for your documents and moves the currently opened document into it. Using commands available under the SVN menu in OpenOffice.org, you can commit changes, revert the document to a previous version, and graphically browse the document's versions. OOoSVN even allows you to compare two versions of the document using OpenOffice.org's Compare feature.

mOOo Impress Controller

If you've got a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone, why not use it for something fancy and useful like controlling Impress presentations? mOOo Impress controller allows you to do just that. It consists of an OpenOffice.org extension for the desktop and a Java-based client that must be installed on the mobile phone. The client's functionality is rather limited: using it, you can launch the presentation and move between slides. On the other hand, its simplicity has one major advantage: with only three functions, you are less likely to do something wrong during the presentation.

Once you've installed the Java client on your mobile phone and extension in OpenOffice.org, open a presentation and launch the mobile client. In OpenOffice.org, choose mOOo Menu -> Select Device and press the Search button. Select your mobile phone from the list of found devices, and press OK. Choose mOOo Menu-> On, and you are ready to control your presentation from the mobile phone. To close the connection, choose again mOOo -> On.

Speaking of presentations, there is another nifty extension you might want to give a try. Sun Presentation Minimizer can shrink an Impress file to a fraction of its original size, which can come in handy if you need to email a presentation to colleagues. Interestingly, the tool can handle not only the native ODP files but also Microsoft Office PPT presentations.

Every Monday we highlight a different extension, plugin, or add-on. Write an article of less than 1,000 words telling us about one that you use and how it makes your work easier, along with tips for getting the most out of it. If we publish it, we'll pay you $100. (Send us a query first to be sure we haven't already published a story on your chosen topic recently or have one in hand.)

Category:

  • Office Software
Click Here!