OpenOffice.org Address Books and Form Letters

A quick tutorial for importing data sources to be used for address books and form letters.

OpenOffice 1.0 is a multi-platform office suite based on the StarOffice code base. It includes standard applications such as a word processor, a spreadsheet program, a presentation manager and a drawing program. This article will introduce the form letter ability of OpenOffice.org's word processor and illustrate several ways to import data into the application.

Introducing Address Books

Form letters are documents that contain fields that are populated when the document is printed. The information used to populate these fields is pulled from a database called an address book.

Address books can be imported from existing sources such as Netscape's address book or an LDAP server. They can also be created from a dBase file, spreadsheets or plain-text files. OpenOffice.org's wizard, called AutoPilot (see Figure 1), can ease the task of importing address information. Examples of using AutoPilot are presented below.

Auto Pilot

After an address book has been created, the information it contains can be accessed by clicking View -> Data Sources (see Figure 2). This opens up a new window along the top edge of the document that lists all of the available data sources.

Viewing Data Sources

Importing Netscape Address Books

To import the address book from either Mozilla 1.0 or Netscape 6, click File -> AutoPilot -> Address Data Source. Select Mozilla / Netscape 6.x and click the Next button. Select whether to use the Personal or Collected addresses, and click the Next button. Finally, supply a name for this data source, and click the Create button.

Importing Spreadsheets

An OpenOffice.org spreadsheet can be used as an address data source fairly easily. When you create a spreadsheet to use as an address book, the first line should contain column headings such as First Name, Last Name, Phone and Email Address. These column headings will be used when the spreadsheet is imported.

In the AutoPilot's Address Data Source wizard, select Other External Data Source and click Next. Click on the Settings button, which brings up the Create Address Data Source window (see Figure 3).

Create the Address Data Source

Select Spreadsheet in the database type dropdown box, and enter the spreadsheet filename in the Data Source URL field. Click OK to close the Create Address Data Source window.

Next, map the spreadsheet columns to OpenOffice.org's address fields. This is accomplished by clicking on the Field Assignment button, selecting the appropriate spreadsheet column header for each address field and then clicking OK (see Figure 4).

Mapping Columns to Address Fields

Importing Text Files

Plain-text files also can be imported and used as address data sources. The first line of the file should contain field headings separated by tabs.

Again, select Other External Data Source from the Auto Pilot and click on the Settings button. In the Create Address Data Source window, select Text as the database type and specify the directory containing the text file as the Data Source URL.

Click on the Text tab and put a check next to Text Contains Headers. Select the appropriate data field separator (tabs in this case) and the extension that you used for the text file. Click on the Tables tab and put a check mark next to the text file containing your address data, then click OK. Match OpenOffice.org's address fields with the headings in the first line of your text file, the same way as you would with spreadsheets, and click OK.

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