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Linking Data for Up-to-date Information Sharing

Depending on the method and options you choose to transfer information between two documents, transferred information is placed as a copied, embedded, or linked object. At first glance, you may not see any difference between these types of objects. As soon as you start working with the transferred information, however, you'll notice some key differences:

  • A copied object (or copied information) is part of the target document. It no longer maintains any link to the source document from which it originated, nor to the source application in which it was created. It can be edited with whatever tools the destination application provides.

  • An embedded object is similar to a copied object in that it no longer is linked to its source document; however, it does maintain a connection to the source application in which it was created. Because of the nature of this connection, you can use the tools of the source application to edit the embedded information in the destination document. Unless you save an embedded object as a separate file, however, it has no life of its own. Also, your options for modifying the embedded object with the tools the destination application provides are limited to moving or resizing the object. (For details, see "Sharing Information with OLE" in this chapter.)

  • A linked object is linked to all or part of its source document, depending on the object. (For example, in the case of a linked graphics object, the source document is the actual graphics file; in the case of linked cells, the source document is probably a spreadsheet that holds more data than appears in the linked cells.) This link ensures that any changes to the source are reflected in the destination document. It also limits you as to the changes you can make to the linked object. For example, you cannot alter the structure of a linked table by inserting additional rows. Likewise, if you need to change the information in the linked object, you must edit the source file. Any data changes you make to a linked object are lost when you update the links in your document or the next time you open the document.

Figure 3.5 shows the same Calc data inserted (from top to bottom) as a copied, embedded, and linked objects into a Writer document.

Figure 3.5Figure 3.5 The same data shared in different ways.

Using Linked Objects

If you're working with dynamic data that changes all the time, or with a long document that contains numerous graphics, consider working with linked objects. When you insert a graphic into a document—from a file, as a background image, or by dragging it from the Gallery media organizer—you can select the Link check box in the corresponding dialog box or the drag mode on the Gallery context menu to insert the selected item as a linked object.

NOTE

Linking graphics not only makes it a breeze to update a modified graphic in your document—just replace the existing graphic with a new one that has the same name—it also keeps your file size low.

StarOffice also supports dynamic data exchange (DDE) between documents created in Calc and Writer. Like OLE, DDE uses a client-server model in which the application requesting data is considered the client and the application providing the data is considered the server. A DDE linked object thus maintains a live link to the source document in which it was created. You can use DDE linking when inserting spreadsheet data or a spreadsheet chart into a text document—whenever the spreadsheet data changes, the information in the text document updates accordingly. To insert a Calc or Writer object as a DDE linked object into a Writer or Calc document, select and copy the object you want to transfer; choose Edit, Paste Special; and select the DDE Link item before choosing OK. You can also create DDE links between documents of the same type.

CAUTION

Linked objects require (at least) two documents in two different files: the source document and the destination document. If you want to send a document containing linked objects to someone else, you also have to send the source document for those objects—and make sure that the recipient stores the source document in exactly the same file folder in relation to the source document. If the source document is not where the destination document expects it to be, the link doesn't work. Likewise, if you ever move the source document on your system, you will lose the link as well. If you want to get it back, you have to edit the link in your destination document.

Editing and Updating Links

If your document contains linked objects, you can use the controls in the Edit, Links dialog box to manage those links (see Figure 3.6).

  • Clicking the Update button updates the selected link to match the current contents of the source file. You can use this control if the link is set to manual updating (see the last item in this list).

  • Clicking the Modify button opens the Modify Link dialog box, where you can edit the application, file, and category of the selected link. This option is most useful for rebuilding a broken link after a source file has been moved.

  • Clicking the Break Link button removes the link between the object and the source file. What is left is just a snapshot of the original data as it appeared at the time you broke the link.

  • The Update group at the bottom of the dialog box enables you to choose between two update modes. Select Automatic to keep the data in the document always current with the source file; select Manual if you want to update it on command (by clicking the Update button).

Figure 3.6Figure 3.6 The Edit Links dialog box lists the complete pathname of all links in your document. You can use the Modify command to change a source file's path or substitute a different file.

When updating files, however, you don't have to use the Edit Links dialog box; you can just choose Tools, Update, Links. This updates all links in the current document.

  • When DDE links are updated, any existing data is overwritten by data from the source document. If StarOffice cannot find the source document, it leaves your data as is.

  • When graphics links are updated, StarOffice just checks and confirms that the file is still where its path promises.

  • When linked text sections in Writer are updated, the section is refreshed to reflect any changes you have made to the source document.

CAUTION

If you move a source file from its original location, StarOffice does not give you a warning that the file cannot be found when you choose Update.

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