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!
At a shell prompt, type
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.
You can tell OpenOffice where Java lives by clicking on the Browse
button, navigating to
/shared/local, then double-clicking
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
Type the whole path to the program,
simpress, and so on
PATHby editing your shell startup files
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.
As OpenOffice becomes more popular, more resources are made available.
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 Gnumeric (start
gnumeric) first. If they meet your needs, you don't
have to bother with OpenOffice.