Last month we started a tutorial series covering tips and tricks to help you
make the transition from Microsoft (MS) Office to OpenOffice.org (OOo) 2.4
easier. We discovered how to add more templates and clip art to OOo, include
grammar checking, and replicate the convenient Split Window feature of MS
Office. This part of the series will take you through the process of importing
the custom dictionary of MS Office, setting OOo to always save in the MS Office
format, and using MS Office. Ready, set, go!
You know when Word or Writer thinks you
misspelled a word it puts that annoying, yet priceless, red squiggly line under
the word? Well when you right-click the word or run the Spelling Grammar tool
and add it to the dictionary, it puts the word or phrase into your custom
dictionary. Therefore, the next time you type the word or phrase, Word doesn’t
prompt you that it’s misspelled. You are teaching MS Office people’s names,
technical terms, brand names, and other words not in its dictionary.
OpenOffice.org has the same type of custom dictionary functionality, yet it
doesn’t make use of any words or phrases you’ve added to your Microsoft Office
dictionary. This can be a real pain in the butt if you’ve used this feature a
great deal in Microsoft Office. However don’t fret, you can import your
Microsoft Office custom dictionary entries into OpenOffice.org. As the following
paragraphs discuss, all it just takes is downloading a macro and a few minutes
of your time.
First you need to find the CUSTOM.DIC file that contains the words you’ve
added to the custom dictionary Microsoft Office uses. In Windows Vista, you may
be able to find this file at C:UsersusernameAppDataRoamingMicrosoftProof.
In XP, try C:Documents and SettingsusernameApplicationDataMicrosoftProof.
Tip: In order to see the AppData or ApplicationData folders you must have the
Show Hidden Files and Folders option enabled-the people at Microsoft think you
may go crazy and start messing with the important files. To toggle this option
in My Computer (Computer in Vista) or Windows Explorer, click Tools — Folder
Options, select the View tab, and check or uncheck the option as shown in Figure
If you don’t find the CUSTOM.DIC file in the typical spot, you can reference
the Custom Dictionaries dialog box of Microsoft Word for a hint to where the
file is located. On the Word toolbar, click Tools — Options…, select the
Spelling & Grammar tab, and click the Custom Dictionaries button. Finally,
near the bottom of the dialog box you’ll see a partial path to the file, which
Microsoft actually labels the Full Path. If all else fails, you can try running
a search of your entire computer, including system files.
If you’re curious, you can double-click the CUSTOM.DIC file to open it up and
see what words you’ve added to the dictionary over the years. It might even
bring back some of those grand memories of typing those last minute reports for
school or work.
Now you need to download the Dictionary Import/Export macro and extract the
contents of the .zip file into an accessible folder.
Next you need to add the folder containing the macro (.sxw) file to the
Trusted Sources of Writer, as the default Macro Security settings probably won’t
let you run the Macro. On the Writer toolbar, click Tools — Options, expand
OpenOffice.org, select Security, click the Macro Security button, and select the
Trusted Sources tab as seen in Figure 2. Then click the Add button, browse to
and select the folder you just extracted the file to, and click OK.
Finally, you can open the macro (.sxw) file by either double-clicking it or
using the Open dialog box of Writer. Next, click the big Run Macro button in the
document to bring up the Import & Export Dictionary dialog box, as shown in
Figure 3. Click the button next to the Text File field to browse and select the
CUSTOM.DIC file you found earlier. Then you can choose a dictionary to import
the words to (standard.dic should be fine) and click the Import button.
Well done; now Writer shouldn’t bother about misspelling words you had
already added to Word. Just remember any words you add to Word from now on won’t
automatically be added to your Writer custom dictionary; and vice versa. If you
seem to use both applications regularly, you might want to repeat this process
once in awhile.
Do you find yourself regularly having to
save your OOo files to the MS counterpart? Well you will probably always have
to, that is until you can convince your IT department and colleagues to dump
Microsoft and go open-source. While the debate continues, though, you can make
it a bit easier on yourself. Instead of having to do a Save As after finishing a
document, you can set OOo to always automatically save in the MS (or any other)
format you choose.
When you have OOo open, click Tools — Options, expand the Load/Save
category, and select General. Then in the Default File Format section, choose
the document type you want to set and select the format you desire, as seen in
It’s as simple as that. Just remember fancy formatting and special features,
such as Mail Merges, don’t seem to convert well between the two formats.
If you can’t give up the MS Office templates
you’ve used in the past or you would like additional templates to use with OOo,
don’t worry; you can easily open up Microsoft templates. Simply click File —
Open and open them up just like any other document or template file. You can
usually find the MS Office templates at C:Program FilesMicrosoft Office
For your convenience, you can make the Microsoft templates appear in the OOo
Templates and Documents dialog box. However, first you must convert them into
the appropriate template format (from .dot to .ott for Writer, from .pot to .otp
for Impress, and from .xlt to .ots for Calc) and stick them in the right spot.
When you want to convert just a select few, you can do it manually. Open the MS
Office template, choose File — Save As, select the template format, browse to
where your OOo templates are stored, and hit Save.
If you’re using Windows Vista, the OOo template path may be:
In Windows XP, try the following path: C:Documents and
Tip: Just like discussed earlier when working with the custom dictionaries in
Windows, the Show Hidden Files and Folders option needs to be enabled in order
to browse to these locations.
If you can’t seem to find the OOo templates location in Windows, or you’re
using another platform, you can reference the path shown in the Options dialog
box of OOo. Click Tools — Options, expand the OpenOffice.org category, click
Paths, and see the Path given for Templates.
If you want to convert a batch of MS Office templates, you can use the
Document Convertor wizard (see Figure 5), accessible by clicking File — Wizards
— Document Convertor.
Then you select the types of documents/templates you want to convert, select
the path for the Microsoft templates for the Import From path, and select the
path for where your OOo templates are stored for the Save To field.
Stay tuned–more OpenOffice.org tips and tricks coming next week.
Eric Geier is the Founder and President of
Sky-Nets, Ltd., a Wi-Fi Hotspot
Network. He is also the author of many networking and computing books, including
Home Networking All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies (Wiley 2008) and 100
Things You Need to Know about Microsoft Windows Vista (Que 2007).
This article was first published on LinuxPlanet.com.