It’s quick and easy to customise and personalise your correspondence and templates using Openoffice we show you how
Open Office Writer is a great word processor and we often recommend it as an alternative to Microsoft Word if all you need to do is create simple documents. This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s lacking advanced features.
In this article we’ll explain how to use two of the most useful advanced tools built into Writer: templates and mail merge.
Open Office is available for Mac and Linux computers as well as Windows, and our instructions should work for any of these versions. Bear in mind, though, that the locations of individual files may be different.
The advice here is for Open Office 3, the latest version of the suite. If Open Office is not yet installed on the computer then follow the instructions below. If you’re using an older version of Openoffice we recommend upgrading – it is, after all, free.
Open Office is supplied with some computers, but if it’s not installed on yours then don’t worry: it is simple to download and install and won’t cost you a penny. Start your internet browser and click in the Address bar at the top.
Click on this link to get Open Office, when the page loads click on the Download now button.
When the file has downloaded double-click it to start the installation wizard. You may need to click on Run or Continue if a security warning pops up.
Click on Next and then Unpack. Click on Next, enter your name and click on Next again. Leave the Complete option selected, click on Next and then on Install.
Click on Finish after the files have been copied and the wizard will close leaving an icon on the desktop for Openoffice.
Getting a template
A template is a document that has been set up ready for a particular task. You might set up a template for a business letter, an essay or a newsletter that you need to send out every week or month. It is possible to keep a blank document ready for these tasks but templates have a very useful advantage. Because Openoffice recognises them as a template, you can’t accidentally overwrite the contents with your latest version.
There are no templates included with Openoffice, but there are some available to download. Click on the File menu, then New and then Templates and Documents. A window will appear showing the templates available on the computer. Click on the ‘Get more templates online’ link at the bottom left. This will start your internet browser and send it to the Openoffice Template website.
Once you have found a template you like, click on the green ‘Use it’ button at the bottom of the template description. It will be downloaded in the normal way, so make a note of where it is being saved. Note that the file extension is OTT, not ODT. This shows that it is a template, not a document.
Double-click on the downloaded file to open it in Openoffice Writer. Notice that the document is called Untitled, rather than the name of the template, so there is no chance of saving the changes to the template file. If you click Save you’ll be asked what you want to name the new file.
Installing the template
It is possible to store templates in a folder and double-click on them to start a new document, but it is much easier to use the Template manager built into Openoffice. Click on the File menu, then New and then Templates and Documents. Click on the Organize button at the bottom left.
The templates are organised into three folders: My Templates, Presentation Backgrounds and Presentations. The last two are dedicated to Impress, the Openoffice alternative to Powerpoint.
If you are only expecting to use a handful of templates there is no reason you can’t keep all the templates in the My Templates folder. Left-click on the My Templates text in the left-hand column, then on the Commands button and then on Import Template.
Find the template you just downloaded, left-click on it once and then select Open. It is now shown in the My Templates folder. Repeat this process to add any other templates you have downloaded then click on Close when you have finished.
Double-click on My Templates in the middle section of the window to see the template. Left-click on it once to see the template details. Click on the right-hand icon above the right-hand column to see a preview of the template. Click on Open to create a new document based on the template.
Make your own template
Making a template is simple. Create a new blank document and enter the text and images you would like for the template. For example, you might want to enter your address at the top of the page to create a letterhead.
Click on the File menu and then on Save (Save As if you have already saved the document during editing). Click on the arrow in the menu labelled Save as Type and left-click on ODF Text Document Template (.ott). Give the template a name in the box above and click on Save. The template is not automatically added to My Templates, so follow the instructions above to do this.
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