Some have called OpenOffice a significant threat to Microsoft's dominance of the desktop market. If a need to work with documents in Microsoft Word format has kept you from using Linux as your desktop computer, OpenOffice is a big step toward removing that obstacle.
If you are willing to pay a few dollars, CrossOver Office from Codeweavers.com lets you install and run older versions of Microsoft Office (97, 2000, XP, and so on) from your Linux desktop. See Chapter 5 for further information or check out www.codeweavers.com/products/office.
Red Hat Linux includes the entire OpenOffice suite of desktop applications. Based on source code from Sun Microsystem's StarOffice, OpenOffice consists of the following office-productivity applications:
OpenOffice Writer — A word-processing application that can work with documents in file formats from Microsoft Word, StarOffice, and several others. Writer also has a full set of features for using templates, working with fonts, navigating your documents, including images and effects, and doing tables of contents.
OpenOffice Calc — A spreadsheet application that lets you incorporate data from Microsoft Excel, StarOffice, Dbase, and several other spreadsheet formats. Some nice features in Calc let you create charts, set up database ranges (to easily sort data in an area of a spreadsheet), and use data pilot to arrange data in different points of view.
OpenOffice Draw — A drawing application that lets you add, edit, and align objects; incorporate textures; include textures and colors; and work with layers of objects. It lets you incorporate images, vector graphics, AutoCAD, and a variety of other file formats into your drawings. Then, you can save your drawing in OpenOffice Drawing or StarDraw formats.
OpenOffice Math — A calculation program that lets you create mathematical formulas.
OpenOffice Impress — A presentation application that includes several types of slide effects. Using Impress, you can create and save presentations in Microsoft PowerPoint, StarDraw, and StarImpress formats.
Unlike other applications that were created to work with Microsoft document and data formats, OpenOffice (although not perfect) does a very good job of opening and saving those files with fewer problems. Basic styles and formatting that open in OpenOffice often don't look noticeably different from the way they appear in Microsoft Office.
Icons for launching Writer, Impress, and Calc are right on the Red Hat desktop panel (just click to start one). Alternatively, to open those and other OpenOffice applications, click Office from the main menu. Then select the OpenOffice application you want to open. Figure 6-1 shows an example of OpenOffice Writer displaying and working with a document file that was originally created by Microsoft Word.
The controls in OpenOffice are the same ones you would find in Microsoft Word. Toolbars include boxes for identifying filenames, changing styles, font types, and font sizes. Buttons let you save and print the file, change justification, and cut, copy, and paste text. In other words, Writer includes almost everything you expect in an advanced word processor.