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Marcel's Linux Walkabout: Extra! Extra!

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OpenOffice is a fantastic office suite; an excellent replacement for Microsoft Office that will cost you no more than the time it takes to download and install it. OpenOffice and its commercial cousin, StarOffice, are cut from the same cloth, but paying for StarOffice does provide you (among other things) with a number of extras including templates and a large collection of clip art. In today's Walkabout, Marcel Gagne shows you how to even the score somewhat with a great collection of free templates.
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As time goes on, there seems to be more transitional software in the Linux world. Transition software is a personal description alluding to packages that are available for Linux as well as Windows. They are transitional in the sense that Windows users can take advantage of the benefits of that software while continuing to run Windows. When these users finally decide that the time has come to move to Linux, they will feel right at home with the package in question. For example, there's GAIM for instant messaging and Mozilla for Web surfing and email. The list doesn't stop there, but the most important office application of them all continues to be the office suite, an uber-package comprised of a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation graphics package. That's where OpenOffice.org enters the picture.

OpenOffice.org is a fantastic office suite and a superb replacement for Microsoft Office. For the price of a download, you or your company can have a professional, full-featured office suite that is virtually 100 percent-compatible with Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) for hundreds of dollars less. How much less, you ask? Did I mention that OpenOffice is free?

If you don't already have your copy, you can pick one up at the OpenOffice.org website. Users running Linux on the desktop more than likely have OpenOffice.org already installed.

If you are using OpenOffice.org, however, you might have noticed that it doesn't come with a huge number of document templates. That's one of the differences between OpenOffice.org and its commercial sibling, StarOffice, which contains many templates and icons, and has a large selection of clip art among its value-adds. Despite all that, you don't have to feel like the poor cousin. There is a way to enrich your collection of templates without spending any extra money.

OpenOffice Extras

Head over to Travis Bauer's OO Extras website and you'll find a number of templates free for the download. This is one site that you should bookmark. Travis has provided a wonderful resource for OpenOffice.org users—you'll find some great templates there for Writer, Calc, and Impress. At last count, there were more than one hundred templates available on the site!

The sorts of things you'll find here include Calc templates for invoices, payment rosters, and budget and mortgage calculators. Templates for Writer include greeting cards, newsletters, reports of various forms, and CD covers. Labels tend to be particularly useful, and OO Extras contains some nice mailing labels, as well as CD and DVD labels. There is even some artwork and a few interesting little tidbits there that don't fit quite so comfortably into other categories. For instance, there's a template for creating your own OOzilla monster (see Figure 1). I'll leave the business justification of that project as an exercise for the reader.

Figure 1Figure 1 The OOZilla monster: One of the many templates available from OO Extras.

Each one of these templates (or extras) can be downloaded individually. Browse the site and you'll discover that each item has a description and a preview. Click to download. Another alternative is to grab the complete bundle. There's a Download all button on his page, or you can head straight to the Sourceforge file distribution:

   http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=53194

Once there, select the latest bundle in .tgz format and download it to your system. (At the time of this writing, the newest package was ooextras20031206.tgz.) After you save it in your directory of choice, extract the tarred and gzipped bundle like this:

   tar -xzvf ~/ooextras20031206.tgz

This will extract into a directory called downloads. Inside that directory are a number of subdirectories. To get all the templates into your personal templates folder, do the following.

   mv downloads/* ~/.openoffice/user/template/

The example above adds the templates to your personal OpenOffice configuration directory. If you want to make these global so that all users on your system can access them, then you need to use a slightly different command. Where the templates go in this scenario depends a little on where OpenOffice is installed. On my Mandrake notebook, the system directory for OpenOffice is /usr/lib/openoffice. On another of my systems (running RedHat), I installed OpenOffice from the main site's install distribution. The system directory in that case is /usr/local/OpenOffice.org.

Whatever the installation directory, you'll find a subdirectory called "share" and below it one called "template" where the default templates are loaded. To copy the OO Extra templates into place, you will have to perform the operation as root.

   su -c "mv downloads/* /usr/lib/openoffice/share/template/"

The above command implies, of course, that /usr/lib/openoffice is my OpenOffice.org system directory. Whichever approach you choose, whether personal or system-wide, this is all you need to do.

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