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Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a heavy but very useful book!, June 13, 2003
This review is from: Special Edition Using StarOffice 6.0 (Paperback)
A first-class user guide on OpenOffice.org/StarOffice has been written, and that book is Michael Koch's Special Edition Using StarOffice 6.0. This book, actually a second edition, covers the new version and gives fuller treatment to StarOffice writer and the HTML editor. Despite the use of "StarOffice" in the title, this book actually covers both StarOffice and OpenOffice.org in depth.
An an aside, let me compliment Que editions for the legibility and usability of layout. (Que also produced the excellent Ed Bott's Special Edition Using Microsoft Office XP). Nice readable texts, lots of boxes, tips and cautions. Every chapter finishes with a helpful troubleshooting section.
Two immediate reactions: 1) Gosh, I didn't know OpenOffice/StarOffice could do all that! I was pleasantly surprised, for example, to learn the number of graphic capabilities the program has. 2) This book covers functionality in considerable depth, with enough content to satisfy the newbie as well as the advanced user. In addition to documenting the office software, the book also includes reference sections on StarOffice Basic, using data sources, building forms and macros. It also includes a chapter on Adabas, the database that comes as part of the StarOffice package (but not with OpenOffice.org).
Koch benefits from the fact that users already start with a good conceptual framework of what MS Office products are supposed to do. The biggest conceptual challenge in moving from MS Office to Star/OpenOffice is getting used to the idea of applying styles to text instead of just clicking on an icon for formatting. MS Office actually has terrific styling capabilities (and a usable interface for managing styles),but Microsoft's friendly GUI discourages users from thinking about document structure. Contrast that to OpenOffice.org, which nudges the user more firmly towards styles. Managing the different layers of styles in OpenOffice.org can be tricky and confusing, so Koch spends a considerable amount of time and space on that. Another chapter on sharing and exchanging information with MS Office users goes into exquisite detail about compatibility and formatting losses when converting documents, as well as the StarOffice XML file format.
Generally, the book had the most reliable and in-depth information. That was especially helpful when trying to perform a complex action (like creating a table of contents). But the majority of my inquiries had to do with using the interface, not functionality. Often the sheer size of the book made daunting the simple task of finding a function on a dialog or a keyboard shortcut. This book was perfectly clear most of the time and provided generous explanations (unlike the online help, which generally was inadequate). Still, the kaaredyret and oodocs websites have been growing more helpful.
The book is a little behind on what's new in openoffice. Also, it's a bit heavy and sometimes it's hard to find things in the index. For the overwhelming number of users, this will probably be the only book about star/openoffice that you'll ever need.
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