A New Design Book for LibreOffice

Once upon a time, new software shipped with massive manuals the size of telephone directories. Shelves in computer stores used to sag under the weight of the hefty boxes, and digital manuals were no smaller. For those of us old enough to remember those days, getting to grips with new software without the paper brick can be hard. Of course, the scarcity of manuals has been a good thing for book publishers. And it's allowed development teams to focus on what they do best: writing and testing code.

But buying huge libraries of expensive tech books is beyond the reach of many FOSS users. Economics is one of the factors that attracts users to the FOSS world, especially in developing countries.

Teaching yourself to use an app through experimentation is possible, but it can be time-consuming. Scouring Google and YouTube for tutorials can be frustrating, especially when the tutorials are outdated or incomplete. In fact, a little time spent on community forums shows it's a common problem for users of all ages. Most users tend to gravitate toward the most visible icons and learn to use a small percentage of the available features.

Even when you are blessed with an official manual, those weighty tomes rarely make for light or enjoyable reading. They're better suited to use as a reference work rather than as a practical guide.

What new users (also experienced ones) need is a practical course in a book—a book that teaches you how to get things done using the application, rather than a painful dissection of every feature and menu option.

Designing with LibreOffice is a new book from Bruce Byfield (who also happens to be a longtime LJ contributor). Its premise is simple. It will teach you what you need to know to use LibreOffice as an expressive tool to make your documents and presentations appealing and rich.

As such, it promises to be much more than a dry list of menus and features. Instead, it covers the basic principles of design and demonstrates how to express them through LibreOffice.

It's also applicable to OpenOffice, NeoOffice, Apache OpenOffice and other OpenOffice derivatives. And like the software, it's free. The book has been released under the appropriately liberal Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license. This means you can share it, modify it and even sell it. It's available in PDF format and in ODT. You also can order a physical version of the book from Lulu.com.

The book's emphasis on style and design means that users will gain a deeper understanding of how to create beautiful documents, diagrams, spreadsheets and presentations. Bruce covers the features that make LibreOffice the most powerful suite for rapidly styling these files.

Furthermore, he makes a convincing argument for the "LibreOffice way". Readers will learn why you shouldn't approach LibreOffice with the same attitude as Microsoft's Office apps.

LibreOffice is a great suite of tools, and Designing with LibreOffice is a great hands-on guide to using it professionally. You can download the PDF from here.

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