Write Now!

At this point, Writer is open, the Stylist is gone, and you are looking at a blank screen. Let's write something. As any writer will tell you, nothing is more intimidating than a blank page. Because I opened this chapter with a reference to the famous phrase, It was a dark and stormy night, why don't we continue along that theme? That phrase is often pointed to as an example of bad writing, but the phrase in itself is only so bad. The paragraph that follows is even worse. Type this into your blank Writer page, as shown in Figure 13-2.

Figure 13-2. Your first document.


Paul Clifford, by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents?except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. Through one of the obscurest quarters of London, and among haunts little loved by the gentlemen of the police, a man, evidently of the lowest orders, was wending his solitary way. He stopped twice or thrice at different shops and houses of a description correspondent with the appearance of the quartier in which they were situated?and tended inquiry for some article or another which did not seem easily to be met with. All the answers he received were couched in the negative; and as he turned from each door he muttered to himself, in no very elegant phraseology, his disappointment and discontent.

Okay, you can stop there. Isn't that wonderful stuff? If you feel the need to read more, I've got links to the story and the famous Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest at the end of this chapter.

The Hunt for Typos

For years, I've been including the tag line This massagee wos nat speel or gramer-checkered in the signature section of my emails. Given that I continue to use this line, I am obviously amused by it, but never running a spell check is far from good practice when your intention is to turn in a professional document.

OpenOffice.org Writer can do a spell check as you go without actually correcting errors. Click Tools on the menu bar, then Spellcheck, and select AutoSpellcheck. Words that don't appear in the dictionary will show up with a squiggly red line underneath them, which you can then correct. Many people find this a useful feature, but some, like myself, prefer to just check the whole document at the end of our writing.

To start a full document spell check, click Tools on the menu bar, then Spellcheck, and click on Check. You can also just press <F7> at any time to start a spell check.

What Language Is That?

OpenOffice.org supports many different languages, and depending on where you picked up your copy, it may be set for a different language than your own. To change the default language, click Tools on the menu bar, then Options, Language Settings, and Writing Aids.

The dialog box that appears (Figure 13-3) should have OpenOffice.org MySpell SpellChecker checked on. You can then click the Edit button next to it and select your language of choice under the Default languages for documents drop-down box. When you have made your choice, click OK to exit the various dialogs.

Figure 13-3. Configuring writing tools.


Saving Your Work

Now that you have created a document (Figure 13-2), it is time to save it. Click File on the menu bar and select Save (or Save As). When the Save As window appears (Figure 13-4), select a folder, type in a file name, and click Save. When you save, you can also specify the File type to be OpenOffice.org's default format (.sxw), RTF, straight text, or Microsoft Word format.

Figure 13-4. It is always good to save your work.


If you want to create a new directory under your home directory, you can do it here as well. Click the icon that looks like a folder with a star beside it (near the right-hand corner), then enter your new directory name in the Create new folder pop-up window.

Should you decide to close OpenOffice.org Writer at this point, you can always return to your document at a later time by clicking File on the menu bar and selecting Open. The Open File dialog will appear, and you can browse your directories to select the file you want. You can specify a file type via a fairly substantial drop-down list of available formats. This gives you a chance to narrow the search to include only text documents, spreadsheets, or presentations. You can also specify a particular document extension (i.e., only *.doc files) or a particular pattern.

Printing Your Document

Invariably, the whole point of typing something in a word processor might be to produce a printed document. When you are through with your document, click File on the menu bar and select Print.

The Print dialog (Figure 13-5) has several options. The easiest thing to do after selecting your printer is just to click OK. The print job will be directed to your printer of choice and, in a few seconds, you'll have a nice, crisp version of your document. You can select a page range, increase the number of copies (one to all your friends), or modify the printer properties (paper size, landscape print, etc.).

Figure 13-5. Printing your Writer document.


You can also print to a file. This is particularly interesting in that you can filter that print job so that the result is a PDF file (readable with Adobe Acrobat Reader or Linux's own xpdf).

To print a PDF file, select the PDF Converter from the printer selection list. Click the Print to file check box, and the Save As dialog will appear (as in Figure 13-4). Choose a file name (make sure you add the .pdf extension), select PDF from the file type drop-down menu, and click Save. When the Print dialog returns, click OK, and your PDF document will be created.