New User Orientation

Open Office

Welcome to, the world-class office suite that’s also free and open source. This is your new-user orientation. You probably already know that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation application, drawing program, and database: you stay productive without touching your wallet. What you may not know are all the resources to help you make the most of your experience. Read on to discover support, tutorials, community insights, templates, clip art, extensions, and blogs. is organized differently than its main competitor. Hoping to entice business users to purchase support and services, Sun Microsystems (recently purchased by Oracle) gives away not just the free of charge, but also its source code (the blueprints) and a significant degree of control. is organized as a community under the leadership of Louis Suarez-Potts, the community manager employed by Sun Microsystems. Sun funds the infrastructure and most of the software engineers. The community provides additional software engineers, quality assurance experts, marketers, translators, template developers, trainers, help desk staff, and other important roles. Anyone may participate in the community.


Your first stop for support is the Support Index, a long list of resources ranging from free forums to consultants and books. If you have a generic question (such as how to get started with Writer,’s word processor) then it may already be covered in the Documentation Wiki. For a well-organized set of Writer tutorials for beginners to advanced users, visit Tutorials for For questions with particular circumstances, post your question for others to answer in public message forums or the Community Forum.

If you are a business considering a large deployment of, read the recent article Opens up for Business. Paid help is available to ensure a smooth transition.


Honestly doesn’t come with any templates or clip art worth mentioning, but the community provides free templates that are easy to install.

Chih-Hao Tsai

Since the last time I rounded up templates more than a year ago, some things have changed. What hasn’t changed is my favorite presentation templates are still those designed by Chih-Hao Tsai: they are classic, simple, and elegant. The Repositories for Extensions and for Templates are new services organizing many useful templates. It may not be intuitive to look for templates under the Extensions Repository, but many templates packs are distributed as extensions. In particular, try the Professional Template Pack I and II. Once you install the template packs, start (any part) and click File – New – Templates to browse the templates.

If you are printing address, mailing, shipping, CD and other types of labels, browse’s Label Templates.

Remember reads Microsoft Office document formats, so you can use most templates designed for Microsoft Office.

Clip art

An easy way to grow your clip art is to install OxygenOffice Extra – Gallery and OxygenOffice Extra – Gallery (free to use). After installation, click Tools – Gallery to browse clip art.

Blue Man

An excellent source of free clip art is the Open Clip Art Library. While I find the online clip art browser difficult, you can integrate the whole clip art collection into in 12 easy steps to put tens of thousand of clip art images at your fingertips.


Extensions enhance with new functionality, and most are available free through the Repository for Extensions. In particular, I recommend these extensions.

Check grammar

To underline potentially-incorrect grammar with a blue squiggly line, install the popular LanguageTool extension. It performs well at catching double words, homophones, and other common mistakes.

Reduce the size of presentations

Presentations can easily balloon to sizes larger than necessary. For example, you may insert a 3 megapixel image from a digital camera, but over two megapixels are wasted as a typical presentation display is only 0.8 megapixels. The extra size wastes disk space, clogs up email boxes, and takes extra time to download. Simply install Sun Presentation Minimizer to tame the size of these bloated files.

Import PDFs

Not only does out of the box export PDFs with advanced options, imports PDFs in an editable format with remarkable results. PDFs aren’t designed for editing, so don’t expect too much, but will save some people the cost of buying Adobe Acrobat.


The best blog is Solveig Haugland’s Training, Tips, and Ideas. She is long-time user, an instructor, author of three books. She frequently updates the blog with helpful, well-written articles.

My own site Ninja chronicles tips, insights, and exclusive previews.

Contributions is a community project. It belongs to all of us, and it takes all kinds of people to contribute. For example, share with your family, friends, and coworkers. After it’s installed, help them get used to it, and periodically check in with them in case they have a question. If you are an advanced user, answer others’ questions on the public message forums. Use your technical skills testing new releases to reduce bugs. Well versed in a non-English language? If so, translate

About the author: Andrew Ziem has worked with since 2001 as an author, trainer, tester, and quasi-developer. He blogs about at