OOo Off the Wall: Combining Documents with OOo

Before you ask for a Reveal Codes feature like the one in WordPerfect, try learning how to use the tools offered in Writer.

This isn't the only work-flow model that you could follow. Some people prefer to select the whole of the new document once the components have been pasted in, strip out all of the formatting using Ctrl+Alt+Backspace and then apply their own styles with constant references to the original documents. Such a method may be appealing especially to those who want to control every aspect of their work. Although it may be a surer method, this model also is much slower than the steps outlined above.

Some might argue that people used to manual overrides deserve to work the way that they prefer and deserve a Reveal Codes feature. As deserving as this argument is in theory, in practice it seems perverse. It means ignoring the differences between Writer and WordPerfect. Furthermore, in this case, it means preferring to take two or three times the work to get the results you want, because you don't understand the tools at hand. is far from perfect, and I like to think I'm among the first to criticize it when necessary. However, in this case, it has all the tools needed for the task--if only people would bother to take the time to learn how to use them.


Find all of Bruce Byfield's articles here.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist and course designer. His articles appear regularly on the Linux Journal and Newsforge Web sites.


-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)


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Reveal Codes in OOo

Robin's picture

Interesting article. I don't fully agree with your comments because styles are great for use over and over again. When you have to work on a document that has been produced in Word, edited in WP then sent back to Word and finally in OOo, the formatting can be a real mess.

As one comment shows, Word may corrupt a document by leaving lost codes in the document. When these appear in OOo, they can create some really strange situations. Things like a table cell only being 2 characters wide if you type anything in it. In the RFE for a Reveal Codes for OOo, I made a suggestion of a info box that will show the styles and formatting codes that are in OOo, in a way like WP does with reveal codes. This is much better than trying to trace through all the style types when editing a document.

In todays world, as you point out, it is not possible to have everybody to use Styles and in our organization, it is even hard to get everybody to use the same Word Processor. Some are still using WP, others use Word, most Linux users use OOo and then there are those that use TeX.

My opinion is that the addition of a display box that acts like Reveal Codes would make life that much better than trying to find the strange lost codes with a hit and miss approach of using the F11 (Styles) display and having to look all over the screen for the different formatting.

Not needed

Anonymous's picture

I find that I never really miss the 'reveal codes' function: OOo Writer almost always seems to do the right thing. OTOH, I'm comfortable using styles; someone who insists on formatting 'by hand' may run into more problems.
I find when I do run into a case where Writer appears to get stuck, I use the 'Format > Default Formatting' function and start with a known setting.
And when I get morbidly curious about what's happening under the hood, I unpack the XML and read it—it's not that difficult.

when things don't work

Anonymous's picture

What is nice about WordPerfect's reveal codes is the ability to troubleshoot when things aren't working the way you think they should. Sometimes it helps. Being able to unpack the XML would work, but it would be convienent to be able to click in the original document to navigate the xml.

I do not use reveal codes

L. A. G.'s picture

I do not use reveal codes very often; I don't need to.
However, as the first commentator points out, when I do need to obtain some special formatting, reveal codes lets me find and fix the problem instantly. That lets me spend my time on the content of my document rather than its format.

I am not "bashing" OO; I use both WP8.1 and StarOffice 8. Now that SO8/Linux imports WP files, I can use it for formatting text in HTML or other output not supported by WP. (WP8 does not export to PDF, but it does produce a PS file when you print to disk, and that file is easily and rapidly converted to PDF.)

Is MSWord a code-based word

tktim's picture

Is MSWord a code-based word processor?

Is MS Word code-based?

Anonymous's picture

Not really. Older versions of Word 'felt' similar to WP to use, but the .doc format was always style-based, and later versions are fairly rigorously hierarchical, as you would expect with a nominally XML-based 'structured' document format. has much more in common with modern versions of MS Word than with WordPerfect.

Word is object oriented.

Anonymous's picture

Word is object oriented. There is a list of paragraph objects, a list of table objects, a list of graphic objects, etc. There is no concept of the stream of text that is the document. IMHO, a big reason that many Word users want reveal codes is deleting the text doesn't always delete the object. I do a fair amount of Word document conversion and it's very common to see an empty Table or Bold or Ital show up in the middle of a document with no content. In my mind, this also explains why a large
word document that has been edited by multiple people many times will crash; get one corrupt object and you've lost your document.

Importing and Reveal Codes

Anonymous's picture

I use Reveal Codes a LOT when importing different documents To WordPerfect (Word, various versions; Works, etc.). The formatting always leaves a bunch of stray code --

Does OO not have this problem? DO imports come through perfectly so you don't have to tinker endlessly? If so, I'll give it a try. If not, as an editor accepting many formats, I'll stick with WordPerfect Reveal Codes

Stray Code

Anonymous's picture

Where's the answer to the question above????? Users of WP are not interested in code ("looking under the hood") because we are curious! We need to see why something is going wrong and quickly fix it so that we can get back to the real task. Try being a secretary to a lawyer who revises a document ten times before he's satisfied with the final product. Deleting does not always delete the accompanying code. Reveal Codes is an essential tool for that. If OOo would at least try to understand the reason for wanting reveal codes, a solution could be found. I appreciate the fact that it is a different format. But software developers are supposed to be problem solvers. Here's a problem ... solve it and the WP world will switch! There are many features of OOo that I like - better than WP and WORD (which I hate!) - give me some version of reveal codes and I will jump ship to OOo. That way I can spend less time converting documents from people who insist on using WORD!