This is part of a book I was asked to write in 2003-2004 about open source software. Unfortunately, the book didn't end up getting published. This particlar section is from a chpater on OpenOffice.org 1.1.0, which is now completely out of date. Nonetheless, there's still some good information here that might be helpful to someone, and I thought this section might be at least of historical interest.
The materials on this page are under a Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons license.
Unlike some other office suites, OpenOffice.org is not designed to lock in users by forcing them into proprietary data formats. Because it has this philosophy, OOo supports a wide variety of formats, including some that may surprise you.
Most users of OOo know that it reads and writes Microsoft Office formats pretty darn well. You can open Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files and templates, and it's a pretty sure thing that OOo will display them much like the original Microsoft apps would. In addition, you can save files using Microsoft's Word, Excel, or PowerPoint formats, and most users of those programs should have no problem opening and using your documents. In fact, they'll probably never know that you used something besides a Microsoft program unless you tell them.
Trying to import \1iles that were originally written in Microsoft Works is a different story altogether. For the gory details, you're best directed to http://www.userful.com/support/ms-works. And remember: friends don't let friends use Microsoft Works!
If you want your files to default to the Microsoft formats instead of the OOo formats when you save them, take a look at the Installation & configuration section earlier in this chapter for the details.
One of the most useful file types that OOo supports is Adobe's PDF. Using OOo 1.1, create a text document and then select the File menu and then Export as PDF …, or, if you prefer to use the toolbar, press the Export Directly as PDF button:
The OpenOffice.org Function toolbar, with the Export Directly as PDF button highlighted in red.
OOo creates excellent PDFs, readable by any Linux, Mac OS X, or Windows user. It really is a fantastic benefit and, as with so many of the really cool things about OOo, it's 100% free and built-in to the program.
In addition to PDF, OOo now supports a format that may surprise some of you—I know it did me: Macromedia's Flash. Yup, that's right. Macromedia Flash, the cause of so many annoying animated advertisements and useless splash pages on the Web, is now available for export by OOo users; specifically, OOo Impress users. If you create a presentation, choose the File menu, and then Export …; on the File Format dropdown menu, select Macromedia Flash (SWF) (.swf), and you're done.
Complaints about Flash aside, the ability to export to this format is actually a pretty useful feature. Flash is widely supported (to the tune of greater than 90% of Web users, according to Macromedia), and it produces small files that are completely cross-platform. An exported presentation can be placed on a company Web site, and users can open it with their Web browsers to view it. If a user clicks on a slide, the next one loads.
Flash export is good, but it's not perfect. Pictures export flawlessly, but sounds, transitions, and other such eye candy don't yet work. Flash support is available purely to create a simple presentation, not for animation or anything more complicated. Still, it's a work in progress and will doubtlessly improve, and for most people, simply being able to export a 445 kb OOo Impress presentation as a 322 kb Flash presentation is going to be useful … and fun.