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Creating PDF’s for Free with Open Office

I’m very excited about a software program that I came across. It has pretty much the same functionality that Microsoft Office products have. The software package contains a word processor, database software, spreadsheet program, presentation software and image editing program. It has just about everything anyone would need in a software package except an email program.

The software is produced by an organization called OpenOffice.org. One of the best features about this particular software package is that it is free. Let me repeat that. It is free.

Looks Like Microsoft

The user interface looks like any other Microsoft Office product. Anyone currently using Word or Excel should be able to transition from Microsoft to Open Office easily. There are some menu option differences that require some getting used to, but it’s not a major inconvenience.Open Office Spreadsheet

My biggest and most obvious concern about using this product was opening existing Microsoft documents with Open Office. Open Office passed the test with flying colors. As a matter of fact, it could open just about any file type, no matter what the program. For example, opening a Word document while using Open Office’s spreadsheet program was as simple as going to the menu and opening a new file.

I didn’t have to open the word processing software first in order to access the right file type. Open Office opens the appropriate software program automatically.

One Major Bell (or Whistle)

What impressed me most with the software (aside from the fact it’s free) is the ability to create PDF files. There is the option to export any file to PDF. The most impressive aspect about the PDF creation is that the exported file will make any embedded hypertext links clickable. That’s a wonderful feature in my eyes.

I had purchased a software called PDF Create. The software enabled me to create PDF files of any of my documents, whether it was word, excel or even images. The only problem was that when creating a PDF using PDF Create, the resulting document would not maintain clickable hypertext links.

The document would display the traditional blue underlined text to give the reader the impression the link was clickable, but upon placing the mouse over the text, the document would display the URL as a pop up. The reader could not click on the link and be directed to the URL.

I thought I was doing something wrong, so I searched the internet for a solution only to find that the software did not have the ability to create clickable links. What a disappointment.

Putting Open Office to the test

I attempted to export a large Excel workbook to PDF. It did take quite some time because of the enormity of my spreadsheet, but it worked. I Word Processing Programended up with a 3,039 page PDF document that retained all of the hypertext links and document cross references. I was impressed.

I believe that if I had made such a request from Microsoft Excel I would not only crash my computer, but I would have to remove the battery from the laptop and wait for it to recover from such an arduous task (after all, I am still using Windows Vista).

The Pièce de Résistance

The icing on the cake with the software is that there is a built in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) functionality which allows users to modify existing PDF files. Modifying PDF’s can be a bit tricky, but it’s great to know that a free software provides the ability to do it.

Downside to Open Office

  • So far, I’ve found that saving large files takes longer using Open Office than with using Microsoft products. The wait is measured in seconds and not minutes so it’s not too bad.
  • It doesn’t seem to be compatible with Framemaker files.

I’ve only been using it for a couple of days so I haven’t had a chance to really see what it can or cannot do, but my initial evaluation is positive. If for nothing else than creating PDF’s it’s worth a look see.  By the way, here’s a PDF of this post created using Open Office software.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Lissie September 1, 2009, 10:47 am

    Wow framemaker I haven’t heard of that for a while – no I don’t think OpenOffice is compatible. I have been using openoffice for years – in fact I have never owned a copy of Miicrosoft Office so basically have used it consistently for over 5 years. Its got better and better – in fact I have even used OpenOffice to open a corrupt excel file which microsoft didn’t want to touch!

    I use the pdf format for invoices flawlessly. The only thing it cant do is open the latest version of office 2007 the docx and similar filesd – you have to ask the sender to save the file as an earlier version of excel. None of my clients have ever questioned anything that I have give then in “word” format LOL.

    I think MS Office is the biggest con ever. I just bought a new laptop – I got the guy to not install the office 2007 demo – instead he put openoffice 3.0 on instead. There is no reason that anyone who is not using very advanced excel or access needs Office – 99.9% of all businesses and 100% of home users could run on OpenOffice right now – and as you say get free pdf creation as a bonus.

    The only thing OpenOffice lacks is a marketing budget

    • Felicia September 1, 2009, 11:16 am

      Well, Lissie, I guess it’s up to us to spread the word! 😀

      OpenOffice gets two thumbs up from me.

  • Deanna September 1, 2009, 1:53 pm

    Great information. I have heard of Open Office before but have never tried it myself. It helps to hear about other people’s experiences with it before trying. Thanks for sharing.
    .-= Deanna´s last blog ..Rewriting Another Article Does Not Make You a Writer =-.

  • steve September 1, 2009, 6:50 pm

    Neo Office is another free program that works just like Word/Excel. I have a Mac and a PC and that is what I use. I can send and open files between the 2 easily. But I don’t think it has the PDF capability…this sounds good.

    • Felicia September 1, 2009, 8:06 pm

      I’ll have to check Neo Office out. I’m so glad there are so many alternatives to Microsoft.

      I can’t believe it took me so long to see the light. 😀

  • Paul September 2, 2009, 3:59 am

    Felicia, I’ve been checking your site for a while (making a bit of coin on Textbroker because of it), and this prompted me to post.

    I LOVE OpenOffice.Org. I even have Microsoft Office 2003, and still prefer to use the latest version of OpenOffice. I’ve worked in technology for over 20 years, and most of that time was spent with the Microsoft Tools (mostly their programming languages).

    Since I just started my writing/technology practice, a free new office suite was a no-brainer. I used Base to setup a little accounting program for my company, used Writer to create Backgrounder and Rate Sheet PDFs. Anyone starting a new business should take a look at it.

    Open Source is a great thing. (I’ve also been dabbling in Ruby on Rails which is an open source revelation for developing web applications.)

    There is a strong community that support Open Office as well. I was able to download a whole host of templates and useful things.

    Thumbs up here!

  • Alina Bradford September 2, 2009, 7:09 pm

    I love, love, love Open Office. Why?’Cause it’s free, lol. I find that if one of my clients have a file that needs to be opened in a program I don’t have, Open Office does the job.
    .-= Alina Bradford´s last blog ..Homemade Camera Filter Made From Welding Glass =-.

  • Tracy Newmann September 21, 2009, 6:23 am

    You should also try SSuite Office for a free office suite. They have a whole range of office suites that are free for download.

    Their software also don’t need to run on Java or .NET, like so many open source office suites, so it makes their software very small and efficient.

    You may try these links:


    • Felicia September 21, 2009, 6:54 am

      Thanks for the heads up, Tracy.

      I’ll check them out.

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