Taedium Edax Rerum

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Teaching Myself A Little OpenOffice.org

Posted by Doug on November 15, 2008

When I bought Natsuki (my HP Pavilion dv9500 Notebook PC), it took me all of a day to realize that Microsoft Works sucks, and Microsoft Office was significantly better, and so I plunked down over $100 of my hard-earned cash to buy Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007.  Now, over a year later, I’ve taken an interest in Sun Microsystems’ OpenOffice.org 3.0.0, which I downloaded from the official website for the low, low price of absolutely free.

OpenOffice.org (hereafter referred to as “OO.o”) functions pretty much like every other work processor I’ve ever used when it comes to basic tasks, but of course, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of more advanced usage, things get a little complicated.

I like to write, and as of late I have been (slowly) working on my own anime-inspired novel, The Mecha Monogatari, and posting it here.  I actually do the writing in OO.o, mainly so that  I can use the Autocorrect feature to change, for example, the name Hijuu to Hijū.  (I like the macrons.  Sue me.)  Once I got the text finished, then I copy-paste it into the editor window of WordPress and reformat it a little before publishing it to the blog.  Nothing complicated there.

Then I noticed that OO.o can export as a PDF.  Hmmm…what if I were to make my magnum opus available as a handy PDF?  Scott Sigler made his novel Ancestor available as a freely distributed PDF (I got it through the Skepticality podcast), and it worked pretty well for him.  So I open my story in OO.o, and select File > Export as PDF and get the “PDF Options” window.  Not having a clue as to what the various options are for, I just hit Export at the bottom, then it gives me a save file window.  I give the document a name and hit Save, and voilà! I can has PDF.  Very simple.

Most long PDFs have bookmarks which can be navigated in the sidebar, but mine didn’t.  Needless to say, this just wouldn’t do.  OO.o’s help files were, shall we say, less than helpful, and I what little help  a Google search provided almost solved the problem, but not quite.  It took me quite a bit of trial and error before I figured out how to do it, but honestly, now that I know, it isn’t that hard, either.  I am no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I figure someone else out there might be running into the same problem, so…

First off, I had to make headings in my text.  Opening the Styles and Formatting window, I just selected my chapter headings, and then clicked the Heading 2 style.

Walkthrough, Part 1

To change the formatting of a heading, just right-click the name of the heading in the Styles and Formatting window, and that will bring you to a window with many tabs, full of formatting options.

Then I created a Table of Contents by going to Insert > Index and Tables > Indexes and Tables, made sure the type was set to Table of Contents, and then hit OK.

Walkthrough, part 2

It gave me a nice, neat little Table of Contents without much fuss.  Then came the final step: I selected File > Export as PDF, and at the PDF Options window, I made sure that “Tagged PDF” and “Export Bookmarks” are checked.

Walkthrough, part 3

Then I hit Export and saved the file as before, and it gave me a nice 214 kilobyte Portable Document Format file, with bookmarks that will allowed my story to be navigated with much greater ease.  For those interested in seeing the final result, here it is (well, the story is nowhere near finished, but you know what I mean.  As I add chapters, I’ll update it and make it available on my Mecha Monogatari page).

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