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Keywords: OpenOffice.org, open source, word processor
Title: OpenOffice.org Writer
Author: Jean Hollis Weber
Media: Book, CD
Verdict: A useful resource
Effectively this little book, part of O'Reilly's Community Press series, is an OpenOffice.org Writer 'How-To'. Across ten chapters the book illustrates (with dozens of screen shots), how to get the best out of the word-processor at the heart of the premier open-source office suite. While the book is pitched at the 'intermediate and advanced' user, the fact is that it works just as well for those with only the faintest acquaintance with OOo. The fact that a CD of the full OpenOOffice.org 1.1 release is included with the book means that even the most na´ve user is equipped to just install and go.
Despite the sub-title of 'The Free Alternative to Microsoft Word' what is interesting about the book is that it barely mentions Word apart from the last chapter, which is explicitly designed for those moving to Writer from Word. It's a better approach because it means that the author can concentrate on Writer without having to constantly compare and contrast with the Microsoft offering.
What comes across quite clearly from the book is that Writer is a complex and flexible tool able to give the user a fine level of control over documents. The book explores all of the common functions, including styles, templates, graphic handling, tables of contents and so on. An entire chapter is devoted to the tricky task of working with large documents using master documents. There's also a chapter of miscellany, including handling of hyperlinks, saving to PDF or DocBook and more. The one area that is sadly lacking is automation and programming - the book does not cover macros at all, unfortunately.
The text itself is direct and to the point. This is not a book that is designed to be read cover to cover. Instead the focus of the book is on getting things done, with each task clearly explained step-by-step and illustrated with screen shots and additional hints and tips. As mentioned previously, this is pretty close to a Writer 'how-to' than anything else.
Finally, there's the chapter devoted to helping those switching over from Word. The core of this is a side-by-side comparison of tasks, showing how to perform the same task in each of the two programs.
By the end of the book even the most doubtful reader should be convinced that Writer is a feature-rich and capable bit of software. The core functionality most users require is more than covered.