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OpenOffice

Unlike most standard applications on Linux, you actually have to “install” OpenOffice before you can use it. OpenOffice thinks it's a Windows application—it expects to run in full-screen mode, and it builds its own little world in your home directory and assumes that you're happy to keep all of your files inside that world. (You can change its default directory, but you have to install the program first.)

There are simpler, lighter weight alternatives to OpenOffice that you might prefer.

Assuming you've tried those alternatives and they don't meet your needs or you just want the whole OpenOffice experience, keep reading!

Installing OpenOffice

At a shell prompt, type

/shared/local/openoffice/setup

A Windows-like installer will start.

Just click through the dialog boxes until you get to the dialog asking you what type of installation you want to perform. You want the workstation installation, which is the default.

The installer will then ask you what directory it should install components in. By default, it will want to use ~/OpenOffice.Org1.0.2 (or something similar, depending on the particular version). I recommend that you change that to something else. I used ~/.openoffice, which is a bit more generic (so I can reuse it without caring what version OpenOffice happens to be at), and, more importantly, hidden. My home directory is my home directory, and it's not okay for programs to clutter it up with visible directories with nothing interesting in them.

If you haven't installed OpenOffice before, the installer will complain that the directory doesn't already exist. Click Yes to create it, then click the Install button in the next dialog.

The installer will do some stuff, and then pop up a Java Setup dialog box. By default it say that Java and JavaScript are not supported, and that no Java environment was found. We have Java installed, but OpenOffice's checks apparently aren't good enough to find it.

You can tell OpenOffice where Java lives by clicking on the Browse button, navigating to /shared/local, then double-clicking on java, then jre, and finally clicking on OK. The installer will be happy with that choice, and you can click on OK to continue.

Be sure to choose /shared/local/java rather than one of the version specific directories, or your installation may break when the system Java installation is updated.

The following screens will scroll around a bit to entertain you, then you'll be presented with one final dialog telling you that everything went well. Click on Complete.

Running OpenOffice or OpenOffice Components

OpenOffice installs a submenu in your GNOME Panel menu (the outlined foot)->Favorites, inside of which are launchers for the various components. The menu is probably the easiest way to launch these programs, but if you want to launch individual components from the command line, you can do one of several things, including

  1. Type the whole path to the program,

    /shared/local/openoffice/program/program

    where program is soffice, scalc, swriter, sdraw, simpress, and so on

  2. Add /shared/local/openoffice/program/ to your PATH by editing your shell startup files

  3. Adding aliases to your shell startup files for the OpenOffice programs you use the most

Reminder about Versioned Directories

Be sure to use /shared/local/openoffice/ in any PATH statements or aliases rather than /shared/local/openoffice-1.0.2/ (or whatever the current numbered version is), as the numbered versions will change when new versions of OpenOffice are released, whereas the former will remain a link to the most recently installed release.

OpenOffice Resources

As OpenOffice becomes more popular, more resources are made available.

OO Extras

OO Extras has templates, clip art, icons, and Impress images, Impress templates, and some documentation and tutorials.

OOoDocs

OOoDocs has documentation for OpenOffice and forums for discussing various aspects of using the suite.

Alternatives to OpenOffice

If all you need is a word processor or a spreadsheet, you might want to try AbiWord (start with abiword or AbiWord) or Gnumeric (start with gnumeric) first. If they meet your needs, you don't have to bother with OpenOffice.