Beginning OpenOffice 3: From Novice to Professional

Reviewed by Major Keary

Beginning OpenOffice 3 is well-organised, well-indexed, and has a detailed table of contents. It is a comprehensive account of how to use five of the six modules that make up the OpenOffice suite.

The OpenOffice online help is good, but such systems lack examples and can be frustrating for users seeking a solution to some particular problem. There is nothing like a proper book, especially one that focuses on practical issues and provides real-world examples. Beginning OpenOffice 3 is described on its front cover as "a complete guide", which is a misnomer. A complete guide would require a huge volume. What the book does deliver is a sound and well-organised guide to those parts of OpenOffice that meet the needs of most users who work in English. The author uses, to good effect, a tutorial style that goes well beyond simple how-to instructions and which makes the text a valuable on-going manual. It explains how to use the main modules:

  • Writer
  • Calc
  • Impress
  • Draw
  • Base


Base is a database application that "grew from the Hyper-threaded Structured Query Language Database (HSQLDB) project". For users new to database technology Base comes with Wizards that walk one through the various processes. The book provides novices with a good introduction to using the Base wizards.

Formula is not described. It is a sophisticated method of entering complex mathematical formulae and was introduced as a separate module in Open Office 3. Its omission from this guide is understandable: it is something that most users are not likely to need. However, it is a topic that should be considered for any future edition.

The first part of the book deals with the core applications. Three chapters cover Writer in detail, and there is a chapter for each of Calc, Impress, Draw, and Base.

The second part, which is about a third of the page count, contains four chapters that discuss working across applications.

A chapter, Building Web Pages, is designed for users who are not familiar with advanced web technologies. It offers simple solutions for the design and creation of web pages. Of course, it is not a substitute for the tools required for large projects, but is sufficient for modest tasks and provides a good introduction to basic web technologies.

Working with Others is a well-presented introduction to, and an ongoing resource for, dealing with transferring files between users, between different applications, and across platforms. It discusses collaborative work where several people may be working on a task that might involve text files, spreadsheets, and presentations where different software or different operating systems are involved.

Linking and Embedding discusses methods of "linking and embedding documents and objects in other documents". Examples include mail merge, management of bibliographic resources, using spreadsheet data in a document, and recording and running macros.

The final chapter, Extensions, describes a number of extensions that can be installed to "expand the tools available for particular jobs". The URL for each one is provided and its functions described.

This is a compact guide to those features of OpenOffice that meet the needs of most users. Well presented, well written, and well organised. Well worth considering as a library acquisition.

Andy Channelle: Beginning OpenOffice 3: From Novice to Professional
ISBN 978-1-4302-1590-5
Published by Apress, 465 pp., RRP AU$ 57.95

This title can be purchased from the Australian distributor at


A discount can be redeemed by entering the following code at the checkout:



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