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This chapter is from the book

Importing and Exporting Information

Having access to information is essential these days. Having the application in which the information was created, however, is not—at least if you are a StarOffice user.

StarOffice has a large number of import and export file-format converters (or filters) that translate foreign data formats, so you can access information stored in a foreign file format or save information in a foreign file format for others who don't have StarOffice yet—but, like everything (and everybody) else in this world, they are not perfect. As in every translation, some information invariably is up for interpretation and gets lost when taken out of its original context. Although the raw data typically is translated with fidelity, some of the information that defines how the data appears in the original document (including fonts) may get lost in the translation.

The retail version of StarOffice comes with converters for a large number of more or less common file formats of various types that fall into five groups: text documents, spreadsheet and database files, vector graphics, raster images, and sound files. Some of these converters are automatically installed, but you can select among many optional text converters when you run StarOffice setup (see "Installing Additional File Format Converters" in this section).

TIP

To get an overview of your currently installed converters (and the file formats you can open), scroll through the File Type drop-down list in the Open dialog box. If the file format description you are looking for is not listed, then the respective conversion filter is either not installed or StarOffice does not support that format.

A Note About Fonts

Fonts are licensed products that are used to enhance the variety and appeal of documents. In most cases, the fonts installed on a system either are part of the operating system installation or come with a software product. Most desktop applications and application suites, such as Microsoft Office, have their own set of licensed fonts, as does the StarOffice suite.

Fonts typically cause problems only when they are not installed, either on the desktop or printer. In these cases, the application or the printer substitutes another font for the missing font; a good substitution is not readily detectable, but a bad one results in visible differences in the appearance of text, as well as changes to the layout, because each character in the substituted font has a different height or width than the same character in the font used in the original document.

Out of the box, StarOffice 6.0 does a good job configuring the font-substitution table to find the best possible match for a missing font. If there are marked differences between the appearance of the original document and the converted document that can be traced to a differences in fonts, however, make a note of the fonts used in the original document and specify a replacement font for each font that causes appearance problems. For more details on working with font replacements, see "Replacing Fonts in Documents" in Chapter 5.

Importing Information

StarOffice identifies foreign file formats by the file name extension of the file in question. If it recognizes the extension and if the corresponding conversion filter is installed, you should have no trouble importing the information. Depending on the file type and what you want to do with the file, you can access information stored in a foreign file format by using the File, Open; Insert, Graphic; or Insert, File command. Use File, Open if you want to import the information as a separate document; use Insert, Graphic and Insert, File to merge the information with your current document. In the case of graphic files, you can also choose to insert the file as a linked object by selecting the Link check box in the Insert Graphics dialog box (refer to "Linking Data for Up-to-date Information Sharing" for details).

NOTE

If StarOffice does not recognize the file you want to import, it opens the Select Filter dialog box, which enables you to select a filter that can convert the information in the source file to a format that StarOffice can read.

NOTE

→ For more details on file formats, see Appendix B.

Installing Additional File-Format Converters

If you choose the standard installation path, StarOffice automatically installs converters for the most common file formats it supports, including converters for documents created in Microsoft Office 97/2000/XP and StarOffice 5.2 and earlier, as well as converters for all graphic file formats it supports. However, you can select from many optional text document converters when you run StarOffice Setup, select Modify, and choose Next. (Windows users find a shortcut to Setup in the StarOffice program group; Linux/Solaris users can run Setup by navigating to the StarOffice installation directory and typing ./setup at the command prompt.) You can find optional text filter components in the StarOffice Program Modules, StarOffice Writer, Optional Text Filters setup item. The Optional Components, Graphic Filters setup item houses the graphics and image converters.

NOTE

Unlike graphic and most text converters, installing individual filters for Microsoft Office 97/2000/XP, StarOffice 5.2 and earlier, and spreadsheet and database files is not an option. They are wedded to the installer and cannot be individually selected or deselected during a custom installation.

NOTE

StarOffice supports a variety of graphic file formats. For a complete list of graphic file formats that StarOffice can import and export, scroll through the File Type drop-down lists in the Open and Export dialog boxes, respectively. You can open the Export dialog box in Draw or Impress by choosing File, Export.

Exporting Information

If you are sharing data with other StarOffice applications, you don't have to export the information—you can use any of the information-sharing methods mentioned earlier in this chapter. However, if you are sharing your information with people who use StarOffice 5.2 or earlier or don't use StarOffice at all, you must export your data to a file format that is supported by the applications they use.

In Writer and Calc, exporting data is as easy as choosing File, Save As and then selecting the file format for the export file from the File Type list of descriptions. In the case of Draw and Impress, however, you have two options:

  • You can export your data as a document. To do so, choose File, Save As and then select the export file format from the File Type drop-down list. Using this option, you can export your document to a StarOffice 5.2 (or earlier) or Microsoft PowerPoint 97/2000/XP (Impress only) file format.

  • You can export your data as a graphic or image file. To do so, choose File, Export and then select the export file format in the File Type list of the Export dialog box. Using this dialog box, you can also export your document as a Web page.

NOTE

→ For details on exporting StarOffice drawing and presentation documents, see "Saving and Exporting Drawing Documents" in "Getting Sketchy with Draw (and Impress)," p. 744, and "Saving and Exporting Presentation Documents" in "Creating and Editing Presentations," p. 820.

CAUTION

As is the case with importing files, saving files in a foreign file format may result in loss of information because of limitations in the export filters or because the receiving application does not support a particular feature or functionality.

If you routinely share files with users of another program, you can set Writer, Calc, Draw, Impress, and Math to save automatically in any supported format you choose. In the Tools, Options, Load/Save, General dialog box, go to the Standard File Format group. In the list box on the left, select the document type for which you want to set a new default save format. Then select the format you want from the Always Save As drop-down list box on the right.

Working with Generic Import and Export File Formats

When a particular converter is not available or doesn't work properly, you can usually transfer textual data from one application to another by using one of several generic, lowest-common-denominator formats.

At the lowest level, you should be able to extract raw text from a document without much trouble. Most applications store text in linear fashion, so you can import the document into Writer as a text file and then use Find & Replace supplemented with AutoCorrect options and manual editing to remove extraneous characters or gibberish.

When it comes to tabular data or lists, nearly every spreadsheet and database program can import or export comma- or tab-delimited files. Writer and Calc can handle these files too. The data they contain is stored in plain text format, with each row of the table occupying a single line of the file, and the columns within a row separated by commas or tab characters. These files contain no formatting, but work well for transferring the essential information from one application to another.

Most word processors can handle the Rich Text Format (RTF). These files contain very sophisticated formatting information, but they are stored as ordinary text, with special bracketed codes representing the font and layout instructions. If the receiving application understands them fully, the document should translate with formatting preserved. If not, it's relatively easy to extract their text.

Last, but hardly least, you can also share information the HTML way. All StarOffice applications (with the exception of Math) enable you to export files in HTML format, and you can use the Web component of Writer to edit the contents of HTML files (for details see Chapter 14, "Creating Web Pages and Other Online Documents").

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