General Differences in Use between and Microsoft Office

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The Help facilities in (OOo) are very similar to the equivalent in Microsoft Office (MSO).

If you pause the mouse pointer over a button, you will see a tooltip describing the button. To turn this feature on or off, use Tools > Options > > General.

Pressing Shift + F1, or selecting Help > What’s This? changes the pointer to a question mark. When the question mark pointer is over a button or control on a dialog, a more detailed description is displayed until the next mouse click.

Documentation note.png Pressing Shift + F1 is equivalent to turning on extended tips, Tools > Options > > General, except that it only stays on until you click again.

Based on whatever is currently selected, pressing F1 displays contextual help.

Doc mig helpagent.png
The equivalent to the MSO “Office Assistant” is called the Help Agent. It “lights up”, alerting the user that help is available for an event that has just happened. Examples are when a user first saves a file, or when a word gets automatically corrected.

The Help Agent can be turned off and on by using Tools > Options > > General.

Zoom - the view percentage

To change the size at which the document is displayed on the monitor, select View > Zoom, or right-click or double-click the number with a percentage sign next to it on the status bar.

In Writer the Optimal option zooms the display so that the document is displayed between left and right margins. The zoom factor is automatically adjusted when side panels are displayed.

AutoCorrect and AutoFormat

AutoCorrect and AutoFormat work much the same in OOo as in MSO.

In addition, Writer includes a word completion feature. If it is enabled, Writer tries to guess which word you are typing and offers to complete this word for you. To accept the suggestion, press Enter. Otherwise continue typing.

Settings for this feature, including turning it off or changing the key that accepts the suggestion, are in the Tools > AutoCorrect > Word Completion tab.

Figure 1: Settings for automatic word completion


OOo’s menus are similar to MSO’s, but some commands are in different locations. For example, OOo considers page layout a format issue, so it is found in the Format menu (Format > Page) instead of in the File menu. In addition, OOo includes some features that MSO does not (for example, built-in Export to PDF).

For information on how to customize menus (including adding and removing items), see Customizing in this guide.

Personalized menus

OOo does not have personalized menus. This feature in MSO reorganizes the menus so that your most frequently used options are displayed first and little-used options are removed from the list.

In OOo some menu items may be relevant to the current cursor location but are inactive and grayed-out. For example, the sort command (Tools > Sort) is not available when nothing is selected. By default these menu items are not displayed. To make them visible, use Tools > Options > > View > Show inactive menu items.


The default location of some icons may be different from the default location in MSO. The icons are also not identical. Many icons can be expanded into submenus or tear-off toolbars.

Most toolbars in OOo can be made floating or can be docked in various positions. To move a toolbar, place the mouse pointer over the toolbar handle (or the title bar of a floating toolbar), hold down the left mouse button and drag the toolbar to the new location.

Tear-off toolbars area always floating. See Menus and Toolbars in the Getting Started Guide for more information on moving, docking and customizing toolbars.

For information on how to customize toolbars (including adding and removing icons), see Customizing in this guide.

Drag and drop

While drag and drop does work in OOo, there is less feedback with pointer changing in OOo than in MSO. For example, when moving the pointer onto a selected piece of text, the pointer remains the usual I bar rather than changing to an arrow. However, the text can be dragged as required.

There is no equivalent to Shift+Click+drag.

Side panes - docked or floating windows

MSO XP introduced the concept of side panes. These are the closest equivalent to OOo’s docked or floating windows. In OOo these windows include:

  • Navigator to help move around the document (the closest equivalent in MSO would be the Outline view in Word).
  • Styles and Formatting for managing styles.
  • Gallery, a clip art viewer.
  • Function Wizard, which helps you interactively create formulas; available only in Calc.
  • Data Source Explorer, from which you can drag and drop fields from registered databases into your documents; available in Calc and Writer.

There is no equivalent of the MSO Clipboard for handling multiple copies.

Docking and undocking

Figure 2: Docking a window

Some windows in, such as the Navigator and the Styles and Formatting window, are dockable. You can move, re-size or dock them to an edge.

To dock a window, do one of the following:

  • Click on the title bar of the floating window and drag it to the side until you see the outline of a box appear in the main window, then release the window. This method depends on your system’s window manager settings, so it may not work for you.
  • Hold down the Control key and double-click on a vacant part of the floating window to dock it in its last position. If that does not work, try double-clicking without using the Control key.

To undock a window, hold down the Control key and double-click on a vacant part of the docked window.

Documentation note.png The Styles and Formatting window can also be docked or undocked by using Control+ double-click on the gray area next to the icons at the top of the window.

It is possible to have two windows in the same area. For example, the Styles and Formatting window and the Navigator can be at the right edge with one above the other rather than side by side. Then the show/hide and stick/floating buttons work for both docked windows.


Docked windows can be resized by moving the border. When the mouse pointer changes to a double-ended arrow, click and drag the window to the desired size.


The Navigator is activated and deactivated by F5, the Navigator button, Doc mig icon nav.png, in the Standard toolbar, or Edit > Navigator. This window shows the different objects in the current document and enables you to move quickly among them. Details vary from one application to another. For example in Writer it shows the list of headings and has controls similar to Outline view in Word. The drop-down list at the bottom of the Navigator is for selecting which of the currently open documents has information displayed in the Navigator.

For more information, see “Using the Navigator” in Menus and Toolbars in the Getting Started Guide, and descriptions of the Navigator in the guides for each of the applications.

Figure 3: The Navigator in Writer

Styles and Formatting

The Styles and Formatting window can be activated and deactivated by F11, the Styles and Formatting icon Doc mig icon styles.png , or Format > Styles and Formatting.

Figure 4: Styles and Formatting window in Writer

To change the category of styles displayed, use the buttons across the top of the window. For example, in Writer the buttons are Paragraph, Character, Frame, Page, and List. The drop-down list at the bottom of the Styles and Formatting window determines which of the style types get displayed in the window. For example, in Writer for character styles the options are Hierarchical, All, Applied, and Custom.

The style of the current selection is highlighted in the list of styles.

See Introduction to Styles and Working with Styles in the Writer Guide for more information about style types and how the other icons in the window work.


The Gallery is activated and deactivated by clicking the Gallery button Doc mig icon gallery.png, in the Standard toolbar or by selecting Tools > Gallery.

Documentation note.png There is no default shortcut key to activate the Gallery.

Figure 5: The Gallery in Writer

The Gallery is OOo’s equivalent to MSO’s Media Gallery, except that it does not have ties to the Web and there is no search facility. In order to keep the OOo download as small as possible, very little clip-art comes with OOo. To download some public domain clip-art, see

Media in the Gallery is organized by themes. Themes are displayed down the left side of the Gallery window.

For information on how to use the Gallery, see Working with the Gallery in the Getting Started Guide.

Data Source Explorer

The Data Source Explorer is activated and deactivated by pressing F4 or by clicking the Data Sources button Doc mig icon data.png in the Standard Toolbar or by selecting View > Data Sources.

Figure 6: The Data Source Explorer in Writer

A common use for this window is in setting up a template for a mail merge letter. You can drag and drop fields from data sources in the Explorer to create fields in the current document.

The Data Source Explorer can only be docked at the top of the main window.

For more information on how to use data sources, see Getting Started with Base in the Getting Started Guide.

Page preview

File > Page Preview in OOo is the equivalent of MSO’s Print Preview. You can chose to view and print single pages, two pages, multiple pages, or facing pages (called “Book Preview”).

The Zoom button in OOo only zooms the view. It does not provide a pointer for you to select an area to zoom in on.

Keyboard shortcuts

These standard keyboard shortcuts are the same as in MSO:

  • Cut (Control+X)
  • Copy (Control+C)
  • Paste (Control+V)
  • Undo (Control+Z)
  • Redo (Control+Y)
  • Save (Control+S)
  • Open (Control+O)
  • New (Control+N)

Smart tags

Smart tags are not available in OOo.

Special characters or symbols

The equivalent of insert symbols is Insert > Special Character.

You can not enter special characters in OOo using standard hex codes as you can in MSO.

Documentation note.png There is no second tab for common special characters such as the em-dash. Workarounds are to use AutoFormat/AutoCorrect, AutoText or you can record a macro.

File management

Default locations

Use Tools > Options > > Paths to set the default locations for file storage. The two path settings of interest (at this stage) are My Documents and Templates.

My Documents only allows one location. It is not possible to have a separate folder for each of the applications. This folder is the default location for File > Save As and is the folder that gets displayed in the OOo Open and Save As dialogs.

For templates it is possible to have more than one folder specified. These are the folders that are shown down the left side of the dialog that gets displayed for File > New > Templates and Documents (see #Creating new files).

For more about defining default locations, see Setting Up in the Getting Started Guide.

Creating new files

In OOo, as with MSO, there are a number of different ways of creating new files. What is different is that you can initiate the creation of any OOo file type from any OOo application. For example, you can start creating a spreadsheet while working in Writer.

Different ways of creating a new document:

  • Select File > New.
  • Use the New icon on the Function Bar. This icon has a drop-down list on the right to select the type of document to be created.
  • From a “Quick start” program. Only the Windows version of OOo has a Quickstart icon in the system tray.
  • Press Control+N.
  • Using Wizards: select File > Wizards.

Template folder management

To make it easier to manage your templates, such as creating and deleting folders (categories), and importing templates into the folders, use:

File > Templates > Organize > Double-click the desired folder > Commands

Default templates

Each component of OOo has a unique default template. To change the default template for a component:

  1. Save the current template using File > Templates > Save.
  2. Select File > Templates > Organize,
  3. Double-click the folder in which you saved the template in step 1.
  4. Click on the template you want to make the default.
  5. Either right-click or select Commands > Set As Default Template.

Documentation note.png The default template in MSO is always a file called In OOo there is no special name for the default template files. They can be called anything. If no template has been specified, the properties of the default template are those that are coded directly into OOo.

Open and Save As dialogs

Under Microsoft Windows there is the option to use either the OOo Open and Save As dialogs or the ones provided by Windows. To view or change which type of dialog OOo is using, select Tools > Options > > General > Use dialogs.

Documentation note.png The dialogs provided by Windows are not the dialogs used by MSO!

This section discusses the Open and Save As dialogs. See Figure 6 for an examples of the Open dialog; the Save As dialog is similar.

The three buttons in the top right are, from left to right:

  • Go Up one level in the folder (directory) hierarchy. This is a long-click button if you want to go up higher than just one level
  • Create New Directory (folder).
  • Go to the Default Directory as specified in Tools > Options > > Paths.

For OOo documents that have been saved as more than one version, you can use the version drop-down to select the version you want to open in read-only mode.

Documentation note.png For Microsoft Office documents, only the current version can be opened.

Figure 7: The OOo Open dialog.

The File type field has the same concept in OOo as in MSO; use it to specify the type of file to be opened or the format of the file to be saved.

The Read-only checkbox opens the file for reading and printing only. Consequently most of the toolbars disappear and most menu options are disabled. An Edit File button is displayed on the Function Toolbar to open the file for editing. The opened file cannot be saved over the previous filename.

It is possible to open files from the web using URLs.

File management within an Open or Save As dialog

To rename a file:

  1. Right-click on a file name to display a context menu.
  2. Click Rename and the file name will be selected.
  3. Typing replaces all or part of the selected name.

To delete a file:

  1. Right-click on a file name to display a context menu.
  2. Click Delete and you will get a confirmation dialog.
Documentation note.png Instead of Right-click > Delete, you can select the filename and press the Del key.

It is not possible to move files around by copying and pasting them within the dialogs.

Password protection

To protect an entire document from being viewed, there is a checkbox in the Save As dialog to Save with password. This option is only available for files saved in OOo formats.

Privacy options

To include or remove personal information (for example, the author’s name) in the Properties dialog with the document, go to File > Properties > General. The Delete button removes information. The Apply user data checkbox includes or removes information such as “Author”.

Digital signatures

OOo provides digital signatures to ensure the integrity of the file, as do recent versions of MSO.

Portable Document Format (PDF) file creation

All of the applications in OOo have the built-in ability to export documents as PDF files. Click on the Export Directly as PDF icon on the Standard toolbar, Doc mig icon pdf.png, or use File > Export as PDF. The second method provides access to choices that include the print quality and the range of pages to be printed to the file.

Creating web pages (HTML files) overview

All of the OOo applications can be used to create web pages. This section introduces their HTML capabilities. For more details, see Creating Web Pages in the Getting Started Guide.


Writer’s HTML capabilities include saving existing documents in HTML format, creating new documents as HTML and creating several different types of web pages using a wizard .


Calc can save its files as HTML documents. If the file contains more than one sheet the additional sheets will follow one another in the HTML file. Links to each sheet will be placed at the top of the document. Calc also allows the insertion of links directly into the spreadsheet by using the Hyperlink dialog.


It is possible to export drawings as Macromedia Flash files: File >Export and choose Macromedia Flash for the file type.

The drawing program also allows you to turn your drawings into a series of HTML web pages.


Exporting presentations from OOo’s Impress application is similar to exporting a drawing from Draw. Use File > Export and select HTML document as the file type. The only difference is that there is an option to display each slide’s notes along with the slide.

Document properties

Some differences in document properties are:

  • Summary (MSO) or Description (OOo): OOo does not include fields for manager or category.
  • Statistics: Writer includes the word count (also available in Tools > Word Count).
  • Custom (MSO) or User defined (OOo): OOo provides only four fields. To name the fields as you like, click the Info fields button.
  • Use the Internet tab to set the refresh and redirect options for an HTML page.

Searching for files

There is no Find Files command built-in to OOo for finding files that contain specific text. However a component has been written that can be installed to provide this functionality. See

Object linking between files

For information on Object Linking and Embedding (OLE), and what happens with imported files containing DDE links, see Sharing Files with MS Office Users in this guide.

In the Windows version of OOo you can copy and paste-special cells from a Calc spreadsheet into a Writer document as a Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) link. In the Windows version you can create a DDE field. Neither of these options is available in the Linux version. Opening a file from the Windows version in a Linux version works, although some modification of the file location may be necessary. If you would like to know more, see

Regardless of operating system, it is not possible to have a link to a chart.

AutoRecovery saves

To turn on/off AutoRecovery saving and set the time period between saves, use:

Tools > Options > Load/Save > General > Save AutoRecovery information every

Documentation caution.png AutoRecovery saves will not allow you to return to the original version of a document. AutoRecovery saves save the current document at that instant. If you want to save a backup copy that you can return to in case you make a mistake, check the Always create backup copy checkbox in the Load/Save options. This will created a backup copy every time you click Save. However, it only saves one backup per filename.

Version control

With version control you can save more than one version of a file under one file name. In MSO each version contains all of the changes that have been made to the document (like fast saves). In OOo each version is complete. Use File > Versions.

To save a version of a file, see “Open and Save As dialogs” on page .

Working with multiple open files uses a Single Document Interface (SDI). This means that each open document has its own window. The Window menu displays all of the currently open documents in OOo.

Two of OOo’s strong points are the accessibility of information about the active document and the ease of navigating among open documents. Each window provides menus, toolbars and other features directly relating to the document in that window.

When more than one document is open, you can switch between the active document and other open documents in several ways:

  • From the Window menu, select the document you want to become active.
  • Use the Minimize button on the titlebar to minimize the active document and reveal other open documents.
  • Select a document from your desktop’s Panel or Taskbar to activate it.
  • Close the current document to access other open documents.
  • Use the Alt+Tab shortcut keys to cycle through the open documents.

In MSO Control+F6 switches between documents. In OOo F6 is used to move to the menu and each of the toolbars. Control+F6 makes the current document active.

Find and Replace

Find and replace are combined in OOo, unlike MSO. There is no separate menu entry or key shortcut for replace. Use Edit > Find & Replace, or Control+F , or click the Find & Replace icon Doc mig icon find.png on the Standard toolbar.

Figure 8: The Find & Replace dialog

There is no “word forms” search.

Having performed a search, and having closed the dialog box, the keyboard shortcut to repeat the search is Control+Shift+F.

Searches are paragraph-based. There is no way to search for text either side of a paragraph marker. For example, OOo cannot search for two blank paragraphs. To get around this problem, and some other issues, a macro has been developed. See IannzFindReplace (last updated 20 March 2006), available from

Documentation note.png Manual page breaks are handled internally by changing the paragraph format of the first paragraph on the new page. When searching for formats this option is grayed out because there is no way to search for “manual” page breaks.

Tips for find and replace

It is common to do several find and replace operations on the same selection, however OOo does not “remember” the original selection. Before doing the find and replace you can bookmark the selection in Writer, or define a range name for the selection in Calc, so that, by using the Navigator, the same range can be quickly reselected.

Doing a “find all” selects all the pieces of text that match the criteria. It is possible to perform, on all the selections, most operations that are possible on a single selection.


The Attributes button is only available in Writer’s Find & Replace dialog. This button displays a dialog with a series of checkboxes to find where a particular attribute has been changed from the default for the underlying style. For example, selecting the attribute “Font weight” will find text that has been made bold where the underlying font is not bold (and vice versa).

Documentation note.png The attributes settings remain between uses of the Find & Replace dialog. This can be frustrating, so always turn off all of the attribute settings after each use.


This is the same search concept as in MSO. Note that when formats are used, there is an option to include searching within styles. For example, searching for bold text would not find bold text where the style is bold unless this option is checked.

Regular expressions

“Regular expressions” are significantly different in OOo from MSO’s “Use wildcards”. See Help > help > Index tab > and type in “regular expressions” then move to “Searching” and press Display. Some common examples are in the table below. To use regular expressions, click the More Options button of the Find & Replace dialog and make sure the Regular expressions checkbox is checked. On reopening the Find & Replace dialog, the Regular Expressions checkbox is always unchecked.

Sample regular expressions
Problem Search Replace
Replace multiple tabs with just one tab \t* \t
Replace multiple spaces with just one space. “[:space:]” finds both non-breaking spaces and normal spaces but not tabs. Type a normal space in the Replace field. [:space:]*
Remove leading white space (space or tabs in any combination) at the start of a paragraph. ^([:space:]|\t)*
Remove trailing white space (space or tabs in any combination at end of paragraph). ([:space:]|\t)*$
Find paragraphs beginning with the character “a” (the rest of the paragraph can vary) and replace the whole paragraph with a blank line. ^a.*
Remove a paragraph mark from the end of lines. for example, when having pasted text from an e-mail message. $
Replace paragraph marks with a comma so that there is one long line rather than many lines. $ ,
Replace commas with a paragraph mark. , \n
Replace line breaks (Shift+Enter) with paragraph markers. (Note that \n is used for both the Search and Replace fields. In search it is interpreted as a newline and in replace as a paragraph mark. There is no ability to have a line break in the replace field.) \n \n
Find the word “the” only (do not find “then” or “bathe”). \<the\>
Find “ing” at the end of a word, for example reading or writing but not singer. ing\>
Find whole words that end with “ing”. Note that there is a space between the caret and the close-square-bracket character. [^ ]*ing\>
Select all numbers at the start of a line where the numbers could include a period, for example 1.1., 1.13.2 and ^[0-9.]*
Documentation note.png The asterisk “*” means any number of the preceding character. Where in MSO you might have just “*” the equivalent in OOo is “.*” because “.” stands for any single character (like MSO’s “?”).

A macro that makes it easier to use regular expressions in Writer, and allows searching for “page breaks” and for things such as multiple blank paragraphs, is available in a document called IannzFindReplace.sxw available from

Similarity search

The Similarity search option broadens the search so that what is found does not have to be exactly the same as what was specified in the Search for field. To specify how different it can be, select the Similarity search checkbox in the Find & Replace dialog.

Search for styles

Writer and Calc have an option in the Find & Replace dialog: Search for Styles (which changes to Within Styles if Format or Attribute search is used). Check this first if you are searching for a particular style. The Search for Styles field changes to a listing of the paragraph styles in use.

Grammar checking

There is no grammar checking function in OOo. There are, however, a number of grammar checkers under development:

Language Tool is a Python-based grammar checker originally written for German. Rules sets for Hungarian and English are also available. More information is available from and from

An Gramadóir is a Perl-based grammar checker originally written for Irish. More information is available from (This one is probably the best suited for languages that use noun classes, or an evidential grammar.)

CoGrOO is a grammar checker for Portuguese that is still in the alpha stage. More information is available from

Cymraeg is a grammar checker for Welsh. This is a commercial product. A demonstration copy of it can be obtained from

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