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Sharing Information Using OLE

Object linking and embedding (OLE) is a Microsoft technology that isn't really making headlines anymore. Yet it is still very much alive on the Windows platform and has its applications in StarOffice.

Generally speaking, OLE permits a document to be used as a kind of container for distinct morsels of information created in another application. Within this relationship, the application that created the embedded object is referred to as the OLE server, and the application that receives the information is identified as the OLE client.

You can open the embedded document for editing by double-clicking it. When you do, you will see the toolbars and menus of the source applications even though you have not left the container document. (As you can see in Figure 3.3, you can still see the rest of the document, and the title bar flashes the destination application's name.)

Figure 3.3Figure 3.3 An OLE object from Calc in a Writer document.

Within a larger Windows environment, StarOffice can act as an OLE client, accessing data or graphics from other Windows applications. Using OLE is not without risks, however. Although it enables you to mix and match information from different applications, you must have continuous access to the OLE server application or you can no longer edit the information. Furthermore, using OLE can quickly drain your memory resources, especially if you are using multiple OLE servers simultaneously. Also, the file created by the OLE client application is much bigger in size than it would be if you were using standard links (such as DDE links) for information sharing. As a rule, use OLE if the target application does not provide the tools to modify the attributes of the inserted object and you want to insert the object with all formatting attributes intact. Otherwise, use DDE links.

Inserting OLE Objects of Any Type

As mentioned earlier, some methods of information sharing automatically insert cut or copied information as embedded OLE objects (see "Sharing Information the Old-Fashioned Way"). However, you can also place OLE objects into your document by choosing the Insert, Object, OLE Object command. This opens the Insert OLE Object dialog box (see Figure 3.4), which provides two basic options for inserting OLE objects: Create New and Create From File.

If the Create New option is selected, you will see a list of all StarOffice object types plus a Further Objects entry. If you select Further Objects and choose OK, the program opens the Windows system Insert Object dialog box, which lists all object types registered on your system. (Note that this dialog box also has the Create New and Create From File options.) Selecting an object type and choosing OK starts the corresponding (OLE server) application, which enables you to create a new OLE object.

Figure 3.4Figure 3.4 The Insert OLE Object dialog box gives you many options.

The workspace of the OLE server application is marked by a thick gray border, which delineates the size of the object you want to create. If you want, you can resize the workspace by clicking and dragging any of the black sizing handles that dot the workspace perimeter.

Add and format the information you want. When finished, click anywhere outside the OLE workspace; StarOffice automatically closes the OLE server application and returns you to your document. The OLE object itself now appears surrounded by the eight green sizing handles that delineate the perimeter of every inserted object. To deselect the object completely, click anywhere outside the object.

NOTE

→ For more information on framed objects in Writer, see "Working with Framed Objects in Writer," p. 396.

If you select the Create From File option in the Insert OLE Object dialog box, The dialog box metamorphoses into a smaller box with a text box and a Search button. Choosing Search displays the Open dialog box, which enables you to locate the file that has the information you want. Select it and click Open to place the complete path of the file into the text box of the Insert OLE Object dialog box. If you choose OK, StarOffice inserts the file in its entirety at the current cursor position in your document; naturally, you don't want to do this with a worksheet that spans many tens or hundreds or rows.

TIP

If you want to insert only a portion of a file as an OLE object, select and copy the information you want in the source file, and then insert it in the destination document by using the Edit, Paste Special command. To insert it as an OLE object, select the item that matches the name of the source application from the Selection list (typically the first item in the list).

Working with OLE Objects in Documents

After you've inserted an OLE object into a document, editing its contents is as easy as double-clicking the object. You can also select the object and choose Edit from the object's context menu or Edit, Object, Edit (this is the route to go if the object you want to edit is a multimedia object that starts playing if you double-click it). When you edit an embedded object, the title bar of your document window does not change; however, the menus and toolbars of your OLE client application are replaced with the menus and toolbars of the OLE server application.

NOTE

StarOffice does not have the same capabilities to deal with OLE objects as Microsoft Office. Generally, it is not possible to edit the content of an OLE-enabled non-StarOffice application that is integrated into a document from within that document. Instead, you edit the content in a separate application window. For example, if you want to edit a Microsoft Visio graphic that has been inserted as an OLE object into a StarOffice Impress document, double-click the graphic. This opens the graphic in a separate Microsoft Visio window where you can make the desired changes. When finished, choose File, Exit and Return from the Visio menu bar to return to StarOffice Impress. Important exceptions to this behavior are embedded Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, which can be edited in place.

In addition to editing the contents of an OLE object, you can also use the tools of the client application to perform the following editing and formatting changes:

  • Resize and scale the selected object by clicking and dragging its green sizing handles. Pressing Shift while dragging any of the sizing handles resizes the object proportionally.

  • Change the arrangement, alignment, anchor, and text-wrap around the object (Writer only).

  • Copy and paste the object.

  • Define a border style, color, and even area fill (Writer only) for the otherwise invisible bounding frame that surrounds the embedded object. If you inserted the OLE object into a Writer document, you can also define a frame style for the object.

  • Add a caption to the object (Writer only).

  • Save a copy of the inserted object by selecting Save Copy As from the object's context menu or choosing Edit, Object, Save Copy As.

NOTE

→ For more details on working with objects, see "Working with Framed Objects in Writer," in Chapter 12; "Working with Inserted Objects in Calc," in Chapter 21; and the respective sections on resizing and arranging and grouping objects in Draw and Impress in Chapter 22.

→ For more information on working with styles in Writer, see "Formatting Documents with Styles and Templates," p. 255.

→ For more information on working with captions, see "Inserting Captions and Automatic Numbering" in "Working with Long and Complex Documents," p. 337.

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