OpenOffice: Tips and Tricks Part II

Friday Aug 22nd 2008 by Eric Geier

We continue our series on hidden timesaving treasures in Open Office with a look at how to import the MS Office custom dictionary, saving docs in the MS Office format, and how to use MS Office templates.

In part one we started a tutorial series covering tips and tricks to help you make the transition from Microsoft (MS) Office to (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. 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 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 1.

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, 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.

Always Saving to MS Office Format

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. In the Default File Format section, choose the document type you want to set and select the format you desire, as seen in Figure 4.

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.

Stealing MS Office Templates

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 2003Templates1033.

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: C:UsersusernameAppDataRoamingOpenOffice.org2usertemplate

In Windows XP, try the following path: C:Documents and SettingsusernameApplication DataOpenOffice.org2usertemplate

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 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 Converter wizard (see Figure 5), accessible by clicking File -- Wizards -- Document Converter.

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.

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).

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