Interactions Between Programs

Some people insist that should be called an office application instead of an office suite. The distinction that they are trying to make is that the programs in share a common code base, instead of being separate programs that are simply bundled together, the way that Microsoft Office's are.

This distinction means that the complete is much smaller than any version of MS Office (and that you don't save nearly the space you expect by installing only the components you actually use). It also means that many dialogs are identical in different programs, which makes them easier to learn. And, most important of all, it means that the separate programs can easily interact with one another.

Writer and Impress

One of the features of Writer that hardly anyone knows about are those that transform existing content. You can find them in the File -> Send sub-menu. From there, you can create a master document made of multiple files, copy the entire document to the clipboard, create an AutoAbstract and, send the current file either as an email, or as an attachment in Open Document, MS Word, or PDF format.

When you create an outline, either manually or by clicking Create AutoAbstract, you can create the outline of a slide show in Impress with either Outline to Presentation or AutoAbstract to Presentation. These choices, which produce similar results, are ideal when you want to write an article, and immediately produce a slide show based on the article. Fittingly enough, the new slide show opens in Outline view, but the Normal view is only a click of the tab away.

By selecting either of these menu items, you create a new slide show, with a new slide for every Heading 1 style in the Writer document. Any Heading 2 styles become top-level bullet points on the slide, and any other Headings become sub-bullet points. Probably, you'll want to confine yourself to five or six Heading 2 or lower paragraphs in the Writer Outline, so that they will fit on the slide.

These choices depend on your use of at least one Heading style, and are grayed out if none are in the current document -- making them one more example of how encourages the use of styles if you want to take full advantage of its features.

Embedding Files

Calc, Draw, and Impress -- the other main programs -- lack Writer's options for transforming documents, although all have similar options for sending as email.

However, in all four of the main programs, you can embed another file by selecting Insert -> Object -> OLE Object. I am told that you are not using true OLE technology under GNU/Linux, which does not support it, but the results are much the same as though you were.

You can embed a file from one of the four main applications, or a chart. Your options are to create a new embedded file, or embed an existing one, either creating a separate copy of it, or keeping a link to the original

But why would you want to embed one file in another? The most obvious answer is convenience. When you embed a file, you do not need to reformat, the way you would if you copied and pasted. Although the result is not elegant if you embed, for example, a Calc spreadsheet in a Writer document, but for a private document, that may not matter. In compensation for the lack of elegance, you get the same set of controls that you would if the embedded document was opened in its proper program. Also, because so-called OLE objects are embedded, they are stored in the cache when the parent document is open, which means they open quickly.

However, the best reason for embedding is only revealed if you choose to maintain the link to the original. If you do, when the original document is edited, you can open the parent document and automatically update the embedded document. So long as you keep the link between the original and the embedded version of the file, you only need to update once.

Keeping the link to the original can be a tremendous time-saver, especially if you are going to be maintaining the parent document for some time, and parts of it will be continually changing. Instead of having to update two documents, you only need to update one and the other will follow. Nor do you have to worry so much about missing sections that need to be updated, because the updates are done for you.

The best way to embed documents, I find, is to place them in separate sections. That way, you can locate them more easily, and any differences in formatting become less important.

Giving yourself an edge

Most people, I suspect, use without ever taking advantage of such features. And, naturally, they are perfectly free to ignore them. But, like styles, taking advantage of's connectivity between programs requires less duplication of effort and less time than bulling your way through manually.

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with these tools -- especially if you regularly need to repurpose or update documents. You'll only need a few moments, and you'll be glad you made the effort.


Bruce Byfield (nanday)


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Arvi Pingus's picture

Save the music files on your pc in a tmp on your desktop before transporting it. Copy presentation and tmp file to the other desktop and voila (although not embedded)

International Talk-Like-You-Have-A-Headwound Day

Lawrence D’Oliveiro's picture


Not calling it an office suite

Chris Walden's picture

When consumers speak of an office suite, they are talking about a suite of functionality, not a code base. does fit this. Surely this is just a sort of academic argument over a pint and not something that we seriously care about to the point that we will confuse consumers with it!

I tend to agree with you that

bodry's picture

I tend to agree with you that a lot of this distinction is merely semantics. In the end, it offers similar functionality to Microsoft Office, which is generally about as far as most people need to go with it.

With that said, I always view Open Office as a single unit, but that is because I have been working with it for so long.

Anonymous's picture

I 'd love to reach those comments and discussions concerning this title of in various issues.
15.18pm; 17/9/2010.

Sometimes embedded "documents" are crucial.

Ken Jennings's picture

Does OpenOffice support embedding external audio files in Impress, yet? My only pet peeve has been this lack of support.

I made a multi-media book for my daughter in Impress. All the sound samples (me reading the book) were lost when I copied the impress file to her netbook. Eventually I figured out that the samples have to be copied too, to the same relative location as they exist on the system that created the Impress document. Most annoying. Impress should have a means to collect external files and merge them into the document.

This is a problem, too, for people using the "standard" sound samples included with OpenOffice. Different computers with different install locations for OpenOffice (say, two different versions of Linux) may not be able to play sounds.

That said, there's nothing feature-worthy about MS Office. Having used it since its first versions I've seen bug after bug ignored by Microsoft and been treated like an idiot by their customer support. We were embarrassed recently after sending out technical spreadsheets to customers and then later discovered that on identically configured systems excel has a 10% chance of calculating wrong results when data for formulas comes from multiple tabs in the worksheet. That failure is light years beyond the relatively trivial annoyances of OpenOffice.