Most of the editors I know work in MS Word, professing a love-hate relationship for it and specific complaints for some of its most meddlesome characteristics. Many use add-ins and macros to make Word as editor-friendly as possible. I’m no different. Word is not the only program in my word-processing arsenal, however, and it’s not the only game in town. Editors who don’t want or need a seriously souped-up, add-in-heavy word processor or who are committed to open source or free software, will find OpenOffice 3 Writer to be an excellent, free alternative to Word. Even editors who demand a full-featured or customizable program will find a lot to like and work with in OpenOffice. The following are a few of the advanced features of OpenOffice 3:
- A fine-tuned find-and-replace function—including wildcards.
- Spelling and grammar checker—including a customizable dictionary and the option to use auto-spellcheck.
- Customizable auto-functions—including autocorrect, autotext, autoformatting, and word completion.
- Styles and templates—including user created templates.
- Automatic, customized content creation—including index, bibliography, and table of contents.
- Editing/review functions—including tracked changes, compared documents, and comments (previously called “notes”).
- Macros and extensions—including user-recorded or written macros and a library of extensions by other users.
- Compatibility—including PC and Mac platforms, the option to automatically save documents into Word-compatible formats, and the ability to open many types of documents (including older versions of Word that newer Word programs sometimes balk at).
- Free, online, downloadable user guides—including guides for getting started with the OpenOffice 3 suite and guides specific to Writer and the other suite programs.
- Active user forums—including tips, templates, tutorials, extensions, and answers for questions.
Although popular Word macros and add-ins (such as those from The Editorium) will not work with OpenOffice, a number of other resources are available to make it a robust competitor to Word. Also, those familiar with Geoff Hart’s Effective Onscreen Editing: New Tools for an Old Profession will find that much of what makes for effective onscreen editing in Word also works in OpenOffice Writer.