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See this image Writer: The Free Alternative to Microsoft Word Paperback – August 2, 2004

ISBN-13: 063-6920008262 ISBN-10: 0596008260

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media (August 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596008260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596008260
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,148,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"I would recommending this for anyone who uses the suite and I can only hope that the author considers adding the missing suite applications as future volumes." Linux Magazine, November 2004

About the Author

Jean Hollis Weber has a Master of Science degree and over 25 years of experience as a scientific and technical editor in the fields of biology, mathematics, engineering, and computing. She has taught short courses in writing and editing and lectured to graduate and undergraduate classes in writing and editing at several Australian universities.

More About the Author

I have over 30 years of experience as a technical editor and writer. In 2003, after retiring from the paid workforce, I became involved with the community in the role of "lead editor" for a group of volunteers called OOoAuthors, who are writing user guides for I am now Co-lead of the Documentation Project at I am also active in the Friends of OpenDocument Inc., which publishes printed versions of the user guides.

In the past I was active in the Australia Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication and the Australian Society for Technical Communication. I have won several awards for my books and editors' website.

I maintain several websites and blogs: for technical editors, for travellers to Australia, for users of,, and for miscellaneous interests.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jack D. Herrington on September 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a well written and organized book that covers all of the essentials of Writer. You won't find information about how to write well, or organize your document effectively. This has a manual style, loaded (but not overwhelmed) with screenshots, which covers all of the functions of the application.

I've read (or looked over) a lot of books on Microsoft Word. I find the book a lot more pleasing. It doesn't treat you like an idiot. It understands that the common case is that you understand the basics of the application and you are just looking for how to do one particular thing.

I recommend this book for anyone using Writer.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you're ready to make a serious attempt at moving your word processing needs off of Microsoft Word, check out Writer - The Free Alternative to Microsoft Word by Jean Hollis Weber (O'Reilly). This is a no-fluff how-to book that will help you figure out how to work with Writer.

Chapter list: Setting Up Writer to Work Your Way; Writing, Editing, and Reviewing Documents; Controlling Page Layout; Using Templates and Styles Effectively; Getting the Most from Fields; Tables of Contents, Indexes, and Bibliographies; Working with Large or Complex Documents; Working with Graphics in Writer; Miscellaneous Tips and Tricks; Moving from Microsoft Word; Index

This is one of those books that falls outside the normal expectations for tech books. It's published by O'Reilly Community Press, which is described this way:

Unlike classic O'Reilly animal books, O'Reilly's role in the series is limited to providing manufacturing and distribution services rather than editorial development, so that each Community Press title reflects the editorial voice and organization of the community that has created it.

As a result, it doesn't have the same polish and finish as what you'd expect from an O'Reilly title. But don't let that deter you from the excellent content contained within. There's a three page preface stating the target audience, conventions in font, and all the other standard preface stuff. After that, it's all practical content on how to do specific tasks in Writer. The target audience is for intermediate to advanced users, so if you're competent around Word, you'll quickly catch on to what steps are required to produce the same time of reports you normally create in Word.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Harold McFarland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 30, 2004
Format: Paperback is the Open Source competitor to the Microsoft Office suite. Part of the suite, Writer is the word processor component and the only one covered in this book. The book does include a CD-ROM with a copy of for various operating systems including Linux, Mac, Solaris, and Windows. This book is a thorough introduction to the Writer software and includes configuration, writing, editing, review, page layout, templates, styles, fields, table of contents, indexes, bibliographies, and working with graphics. Basically, just about everything that you are likely to use in a business environment is covered. Some things are easier done in OpenOffice than in Word, and some are easier in Word. I did find that after spending about an hour with the software I was able to do everything I normally do in Word plus create a much more efficient interface to merge data from a dbase file into a template for a mail merge. I was a pleasure working with a product that interfaced well with other programs, something Microsoft products are not generally known for doing well, if at all. My experience with the software was very positive and the book a tremendous help at greatly lowering the learning curve. Writer is a highly recommended book for anyone thinking about looking at this product as an alternative to Microsoft Office.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By dpeach on May 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
O'Reilly made a great choice in picking up this previously self published book, "Taming Writer," and adding it to their collection. The author has a great style which is very easy to read.

For someone already familiar with word processing applications this book is a great help in showing how Writer accomplishes the task. It is written for someone who has experience in this type of software. As the subtitle is "The Free Alternative to Microsoft Word" you can imagine that much of the differences she shows are differences between Writer and Word.

The author does a great job at showing what can and cannot be done with OOo. She does not pretend that OOo Writer is perfect and is quick to show how to avoid some common pitfalls. The book is refreshing in that it does admit some weaknesses of the software, but also provides ways around the problems.

Because it is written for current users of word processors, it gives few examples of what can be done with the features. If you already know what you want to accomplish but are unsure of how it is done in Writer, then this book is a great help.

One of the strengths of OOo is "Styles." The author explained how to use styles in a very concise manner. The only thing lacking was a thorough explanation as to why someone should use styles. Other word processors handle formatting on a paragraph to paragraph, or word to word basis. OOo handles its formatting through styles, though you can do it the wrong way if you like. Styles are document wide formating and is much more powerful. But the book lacked the convincing paragraph or two as to why one should try to learn to use the Stylist.

There are lots of screen captures. Of which 183 are dialog boxes or menus.
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