Desktop Publishing with

Dazzle your clients, boss or friends with this freely available tool you probably installed with your latest Linux distribution.
Inserting Text Boxes

Click the Text tool on the Main Toolbar and hold the mouse button down for a moment to allow the text tear-off to appear. Move the tear-off to a convenient place, as we are going to use it later.

If you are creating a complex document with different text formatting, using Styles greatly increases your productivity. Using Styles is beyond this article, but information is available in the OO.o help and on-line (see Resource).

Click the large T in the tear-off and the pointer turns to a cross. Place the cross--the insertion point--at a point on the document were one corner of the text box should be. Then, hold down the left-mouse button and drag to the diagonal opposite point of the text box. Releasing the mouse button results in a blinking cursor on the box, object handles and a hatched-border of the box. The text box is shown back in Figure 1.

The Object Toolbar changes when you release the mouse button. Text formatting options are now displayed. You can change font, size, color and other attributes.

I've typed some example text in Figure 1, not what I actually used in my document. When done, the border disappears but the handles remain. The pointer has turned to a cross with arrows on the ends, indicating that we can move the text box around. Hold down the left mouse button and try it.

So, how do we change the font, size and color? In this mode we can't. You need to click on the T in the text tear-off again to return to text editing mode. The hatched border re-appears with the blinking cursor. Now you can highlight the text and change formatting. In Figure 7, I've changed the word quick to a blue color and italicized it and the word brown to a brown color and boldfaced it.

Saving Changes

With complex or important projects it is important to save changes to your work or be able to return to a defined edit point. Opening the Tools -> Options -> Load/Save dialog box lets you set various options for how often to save. Expanding the choice and selecting View allows you to set the level of undo steps and the amount of memory allocated to saved objects. But you really need to save changes at critical points yourself. Remember, you are smarter than the computer.

Figure 7. Some formatted text, showing color and other formating attributes.

Inserting Graphics

Now, let's find and insert a graphic. I wanted a holiday Tux for my gift card. The first place I looked was the penguin gallery on the Linux Weekly News Web site. I looked through several pages and tried a few, but nothing really looked right. The one I finally liked (Figure 8) was from The World Famous Tux Gallery.

Figure 8. Holiday Tux, the final choice for my project, from the World Famous Tux Gallery.

Once you've found the graphic you want to use, you need to insert it into your document. Either click Insert -> Graphics -> From File or open the Insert Tear-Off on the Main Toolbar and select Insert Graphic. Then navigate to the file and click Open. You should see the graphic placed in the center of your document.

Now, you need to place the graphic where you want it and resize it. Click on the graphic make it the active layer. Handles and a cross should appear, indicating you can resize and move the graphic. Hold down the left-mouse button and move the graphic into the planned position as we saw in Figure 2. Don't worry if it isn't precise, we can make fine adjustments later. Now, grab onto a handle and resize the graphic. Remember, if it is a bitmap image, such as a .jpg, you might lose some image quality if you make it too large. Vector graphics, including .gifs and .pngs, don't suffer from this problem.

Rotating the Graphic

Now comes the fun part. We need to rotate the graphic into its proper orientation. This graphic will be rotated 180-degrees from its original position. OO.o gives you many ways to do this. First, click on the graphic to make sure it is active (the handles are visible). Then right-click on the graphic, select Flip -> Vertically. Then, flip it back.

Let's have some real fun. Open the Effects Tear-Off on the Main Toolbar. You should see a semi-circle icon with an arrow. A pop-up appears with the Rotate label. Click the Rotate icon, and if the resize (green) handles still are active, you should see them change to red dots (see Figure 3). Place the pointer on a corner dot, and it changes to a semi-circle with an arrow. Placing the pointer on a middle dot changes it to a "you can't do that" symbol. You also should see a small circle in the center of the image indicating a center point. Here's a hint: place the pointer over this center point icon. It changes to a hand pointer, as shown in Figure 9. You can change the Pivot Point by holding the left-mouse button and dragging this icon to the spot you want to set as the pivot point. Now, rotate the graphic and see what happens. Pretty cool, huh? You can return to the previous position by pressing CTL-Z, as before.

Figure 9. Tux shown with the pivot point. This is visible in custom rotation mode. When the pointer is placed over the pivot point, it turns to a "hand" pointer, indicating you can move the pivot point.

The defaults for the base point and the pivot point can be set by having the graphic set active (the green reposition handles appear) and choosing Format -> Position and Size. The dialog box has three tabs that allow you to set several attributes.

Let's put a text box above the graphic and then insert the text. We need to rotate the text box. With the text box active, showing the green position and size handles, select Rotate from the Effects Tear-Off (or, select Modify -> Rotate from the pull-down menu). The green handles change to red, and the Pivot Point icon appears. Grab one of the corner handles with your mouse and rotate the text box into position.

My only real gripe is why there isn't a Flip option for text boxes. That would be helpful here. Maybe there will be one in a future release.

Now, make fine adjustments. Save your work and print it out. Review for changes, and make them. Show your work off and have it reviewed if necessary. Congratulations! You are now a desktop publishing expert.

Figure 10. The Finished Product.



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typo? knsapshot or ksnapshot

Anonymous's picture

In the list of resources used to make the article you list "knsapshot." Did you instead mean "ksnapshot"?

Do you know something about D

Anonymous's picture

Do you know something about DTP?

Important note for OO.o DTP and printers

Anonymous's picture

While it's all well and good to use apps like OO.o for DTP, they're not really made for it. You will quickly find this out when you try to send (say) an advertisement to a newspaper, or a job to a printing house. It's all well and good if you're printing your own work, but if you need to go through a print agency or if you're producing something to be part of a larger publication, you're likely to run into problems.

Expect comments like "Your colours are all RGB, the fonts aren't embedded, and you've produced a PDF 1.4 document - we require PDF 1.3. Please correct that and get back to us." "Your PDF failed preflight" is also not uncommon.

What I'm saying is that you need to confirm with the intended recipient what their requirements are, before going ahead and doing your document in OO.o. It could save you a lot of trouble.

Thankfully, OO.o has built-in PDF export, making it much less of a nightmare for users and publishers than Microsoft Word. Daily I have to tell people that their ad, done in Word, may not look the same on our screen (or print the same) as what they see, we don't have their WeirdFont.TTF and unless they send it to us we can't use it, etc. Word is a publisher's nightmare. Many users have it set to US Letter, even though their printer is A4, so when you open a document they create on a correctly configured machine, the layout is wrong. Font substitutions aren't highlighted and are hard to detect. The list goes on.

If you must do your document in OO.o, at least make sure to provide a PDF as the end product. Most printers will appreciate it if you also supply them with the original document (and all fonts + images used in it), but the PDF will probably get used anyway.

If you need more serious desktop publishing, look in to Scribus. It's getting to be quite a nice, easy to use and very powerful app, though definitely still being polished up. It supports PDF/X-3, so you can produce colour-managed high-quality PDFs that any PDF/X-3 compliant RIP (ask your printer if theirs is - it should be) will print without fuss.

Alternately, you might be able to beg access to a machine with QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign. Quark, in particular, isn't too hard to get the hang of for basic work. Getting access to these wallet-busting beamoths, on the other hand, isn't easy unless you have a friend in a print house, advertising agency, publisher, newspaper, or (maybe) the marketing dep't at work.

A final option is to use GhostScript or Adobe Acrobat Distiller to convert output "printed" from any app into a PDF. This approach may also be problematic if you need to send your job to a print house, as most programs don't give you control over the choice of CMYK or RGB colour spaces. On the other hand, it's probably better than sending a Word, or (worse) Microsoft Publisher document. There are tools that let you use GhostScript as a "PDF Printer" on Windows, and the function is built into many Linux distros already.

In the end, you just need to make sure that if you're sending the document for use elsewhere, that it confirms to the requirements the recipient sets. Checking this will save you time and frustration.

Also, as others have noted, the usual acronym for desktop publishing is DTP. Expect confused looks if you say "DP" instead.

Craig Ringer
IT Manager
POST Newspapers

OOo needs handy layer management

Anonymous's picture

I'd like to see a handy layer management in OOo (something like in Photoshop maybe: separate floating layer menu with opacity [slider], layer locking and visibility indicator).
For a start that would be really nice.

Re: OOo needs handy layer management

Bruce_Byfield's picture

OOo handles layers by giving each one a separate tab at the bottom of the screen. I don't think that there's an opacity control, but you can set locking and visibility. If either one is set, the name of the tab appears in blue.

Good article. (give the author a break!)

Anonymous's picture

Hi there,
The article is a good one. Failry well written and informative. Why must people tear the author apart for nit picky things?

If you all could do better, write a whole damn article yourself in your repy, instead of a short negative criticism.

Re: Good article. (give the author a break!)

Anonymous's picture

Bravo !

Re: Good article. (give the author a break!)

Anonymous's picture

I agree with you. I think it was a good article for us newbee's using OOo. Some people just think they are better and smarter if they tear the author apart for nit picky things.
I use OOo on my linux box and am very pleased with the results. The learning curve is relatively easy and intuative.

Re: Good article. (give the author a break!)

Karl's picture

Thanks, appreciate ALL of the comments and feedback.

--Karl Agee

The value of PDF not to be understated ..

Anonymous's picture

A few years ago, I had a project preparing a show flyer (maybe 12 pages) for an organization and got into an incredible catch-22 with MS Publisher.

I went out and purchased a new copy of Publisher2002, created this big file on a CD and went to the local CopyMax figuring this was surely the lowest common denominator.

They only had Publisher2001, totally incompatible with P2002. No other copy shop in 75 miles had anything but Pub2001. However, you could not BUY 2001 anywhere, only 2002. The Pub2002 exporter to the old format seemed to work, but produced only garbage when read by Pub2001.

I finally got it (Pub2002) on to a machine at my office with Acrobat Distiller and produced a PDF burned to the CD and taken to the copy shop that they read with no problem - and printed up the 500 program copies.

Working with PDF as the target format from the beginning would have saved me a LOT of work.

Install a PS Printer and Print to File

MadStork's picture

Here's another work-around that is a more "general" solution to the problem of MS producing incompatible, proprietary formats.....

In a pinch anyone can install a PostScript printer, then "print to file" . Most copy shops can handle a PS file natively, though if you are talking to a lacky at the front desk they might not realize they can.

There are also a lot of Postscript to PDF applications and web services that can do the conversion easily.

Google (as always is your friend)

Re: The value of PDF not to be understated ..

Anonymous's picture

Absolutely. MS Publisher is a particularly nasty case, because few printing houses really want to deal with it. They'll often have a copy, but rarely mention it if you ask what formats they prefer. In my experience it's actually been harder to support printing Publisher documents than MS Word documents (!!), despite Publisher allegedly being a DTP package.

Re: Good article. (give the author a break!)

Anonymous's picture

I just think that there are so many people picky about these issues because they appear right from the start of the article: OpenOffice is NOT a DTP application. To stay as compatible as possible with Microsoft Word, Star/OpenOffice chose to go for wordflowbased textprocessing instead of truely framebased textprocessing. While the result might appear tiny on the first glimpse sooner or later you'll run into troubles if you want to do "more" or even real DTP.
If you want to do real DTP you might want to consider scribus:

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Anonymous's picture

Industry Standard abbreviation of Desktop Publishing is DTP.
If author of this article does not know this, my guess is he knows only a little about DTP. And he admits it.

This is not DTP, it's just advanced printing with some simple graphics, IMHO.

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Anonymous's picture

It may well be the "industry standard" (which I doubt) but it is good writting practice to spell things out when you are writting for a novice public - and that is exactly what this article is about. And I find little humility in your opinion!

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Anonymous's picture

This is one area where StarDivsion/Sun/OOo screwed up in that *Writer is too much like M$-Weird. StarOffice/OOo does have a lot going for it as far as being cross platform and having a well documented file format (good for very long term document retention).
I've used various versions of Word for DOS and Windblows as well as StarOffice/OOo, but none of them are as good for even rudimentary DTP work as Island Write Draw & Paint. With Island Write, laying out the page was a matter of placing containers where I wanted them - and the containers could be irregularly shaped to boot. Text boxes could be placed anywhere and the text could be edited at any time (the text boxes on StarOffice/OOo are just plain irritating by comparison). Unfortunately, the last upgrade for IWD&P was in 1996. :-(
From what I hear of KOffice, it would be a better choice for simple DTP - things could be really interesting if the KOffice crew can achieve file format compatibiity with OOo.

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Anonymous's picture

The people at KOffice is really into adopting th OASIS standard. Actually the head developers of KOffice are on the OASIS ( board. Koffice (

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Anonymous's picture

"DP" is actually the abbreviation for "Data Processing", although that is now somewhat archaic. Anyone who doesn't know that DTP is the standard abbreviation probably has never read anything on Desktop Publishing before - which just goes to show that it's wise to have at least a cursory look at the existing literature in a field before opening your own mouth and putting your foot in it.

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Anonymous's picture

A comparison with Scribus would have been really really useful

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Karl's picture

For an article on Scribus, please see the November 2003 of the print edition of Linux Journal, on page 88.

--Karl Agee