OOo Off the Wall: Fielding Questions, Part 3
The Functions tab of the Fields window (Insert > Fields > Other > Functions) contains tools for working with content. Some of the fields on the tab are useful for writing drafts and editing. Others are useful for maintaining different versions of a document in a single file. To maintain multiple versions, you can choose from several fields, each with a different strategy--varying content according to condition, selecting from a list or hiding and revealing content as needed.
Many of the fields on the Functions tab can take time to set up. For a document that is printed once, they probably are not worth bothering about. It is when you are building templates that many of these fields come into their own. With a bit of planning, you can have your templates serve multiple purposes, making them even more useful than they already are.
Several of these strategies for controlling content by way of fields require the setting up of a condition. This requirement confuses many users without a background in mathematics. The concept isn't well-documented in the OOo on-line help, and some users may confuse it with Conditional Styles, an altogether different concept.
The concept of a condition, however, is less complicated than many users fear. All that a condition does is set when or whether a piece of content defined in a field appears in a document.
In versions of OpenOffice.org released prior to the 2.0 beta, a condition could be almost any mathematical or logical expression. A condition also could be set with the user data entered. For example, the condition user_initial="BB" used with a hidden paragraph would prevent anyone with any other initials from seeing let alone printing the paragraph. However, although such conditions provided another level of security, they were needlessly complex, and few people probably used them.
As of the 2.0 beta version, conditions have been simplified. The only settings apparently valid for conditions are 0 or False and 1 or True. By opening the Fields window and changing the condition, you can choose whether content defined as part of the field appears in the document. This concept should become clearer as we discuss the different types of fields.
Placeholders are fields that mark where missing content should go. Placeholders are a simple tool, but they are useful in a number of situations:
When you are writing, starting with the first paragraph and writing each paragraph in order often is the hardest way to write. You may know the points you want to write but not how to introduce them.
Often, you are more prepared to write one part of a document than another.
You may be missing information needed for one part of a document.
Somebody else may be writing part of a document.
In these or similar circumstances, a placeholder can mark the missing the contents, freeing you to write the parts you know and return to the missing parts later.
To add a placeholder, click Insert > Fields > Other > Functions > Type > Placeholder. From the Format field, choose the type of content that eventually will replace the placeholder--Text, Table, Frame, Graphics or Object. You also may want to add temporary text in the Placeholder field and mouseover text in the Reference field. For example, if you were working with a group of writers, you might use the mouseover text to identify who should add the content.
When you are ready to add content, click the placeholder. If you specified Text as the format, what you type replaces the placeholder. If you specified any other format, the dialog box for importing that type of content appears.
An input field is an editing tool one step up from a placeholder. With an input field, you have content already but want to mark it for possible editing.
To add an input field, click Insert > Fields > Other > Functions > Type > Input field. Although the Reference field is available for a mouseover, you can ignore it because it has no effect. Instead, click the Insert button directly. When the Input window opens, type the text for the input field into the large text box, not the Edit field.
To change the input field, click the field and change the text in the large text box.
-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)
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