Desktop Publishing with OpenOffice.org
Desktop publishing is easy, and it also can be fun. With OpenOffice.org you have a rich selection of tools to create high-quality documents for personal or business use.
Desktop publishing (DP for short) differs from word processing. In word processing, you type pages of characters and numbers to create documents for others to read. They might include graphics, such as tables and charts, to illustrate points made in the text, but the goal is to create a written document to convey information. In DP, you use graphics, along with text, to create a document with more visual appeal. Look at any printed advertising--the graphics in the document often are more important than the written word.
A while ago, I needed to create a simple one-page document--a Christmas gift card--to give with a set of open-source CDs (OpenOffice.org 1.1.0 for Microsoft Windows and Knoppix 3.3) that I made for colleagues and friends. I also wanted to test the abilities and performance of OO.o 1.1.0. I had used previous versions of OO.o for simple tasks with less than enthusiastic results. I was anxious to see how OO.o 1.1.0 would perform on a real DP test.
I am not a desktop publishing professional or a graphic artist. My DP experience has been limited to writing documents for my employer or for personal use, such as Letters to the Editor, resumes and cover letters. I've used other desktop publishing programs, such as Microsoft Publisher and CorelDraw for Windows, to create simple documents and to make signs and flyers.
The computer I did this work on is a home-built box with a 1.2 GHz AMD Athlon Thunderbird processor running on an ASUS mainboard. It has 512MB of RAM and has two IDE hard disks. I am running SuSE Linux 8.1 Professional with a SuSE-compiled 2.4.21-athlon kernel. The desktop is KDE 3.1.2.
Before you begin planning a project, you need to understand a few basics of DP. Text is letters and numbers and special characters typed on a page. Text is put into a DP document exactly where you want it by placing text boxes on the page. You then type your text in the box (see Figure 1_. Text boxes can be moved, rotated and resized. Clicking on the text box allows you either to type characters or to paste them in from another document. You can format text fonts and sizes and other attributes such as making it boldface, italicized or underlined.
You must make sure your text fits into the box and does not overrun. You can reformat and resize the text (or edit it) to make it fit. You also can resize the text box, as we will see below.
Graphics and images are considered to be objects. These also are inserted into the document and moved to their desired location. With OpenOffice.org, you have a tremendous amount of control. You can precisely place your image and resize it by shrinking or stretching it or by resizing it and keeping the proportions in tact. You can rotate it and choose the axis of rotation, as well.
Graphics can include charts, tables, graphs, raster or vector graphics and images of any format including JPEGs, GIFs, TIFFs and PNGs. For more information on these file formats and on the differences between raster and vector graphics, see Resources.
So, how do you manipulate text boxes and images? Clicking on a text box or image object activates it by making it the active layer. You can see small green boxes at the corners of the object (including text boxes). These boxes are "handles" you can "grab" with your mouse pointer by clicking on them, holding down the left mouse button, and move by dragging the mouse. Figure 1 shows the mouse pointer changed to a double-arrowed line indicating the handle--and the side of the text box--can be moved to the left or right. Releasing the left mouse button sticks the handle in place. When you place your mouse pointer over the active object, you should see arrows indicating that you can move the object. A set of arrows in a cross formation indicates you can move the object in any direction. A diagonal, vertical or horizontal arrow set indicates you can move only that corner or handle to resize the entire object.
Figure 2 illustrates an object--our beloved Tux--being moved to a new location on the page. The shadowed Tux is at the original location and the full-color image with the handles is being moved to its new location.
When you want to rotate an object, you have some interesting choices. You can choose a pre-determined rotation, such as 90 or 180-degrees, or you can custom rotate the object. When you choose to custom rotate, you can choose the axis of rotation and exact rotation of the object. When you drag the corner of the object to rotate it, and you see as in Figure 3 a semi-circle with arrows on it indicating rotation.
For this project we create text boxes, move and rotate them. We need to edit and format the text we put into the boxes to make sure it fits. We'll also be hunting around the Web for an appropriate graphic and insert it into our document, move it around, resize it and rotate it.
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