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Front Page » December 13, 2005 » Tech Tips » OpenOffice.org 2.0 Calc
Published 3,179 days ago

OpenOffice.org 2.0 Calc


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By JASON BAILEY
Sun Advocate/Progress Webmaster


Spreadsheets are very common in the computing world, especially among the business community. Spreadsheets have many uses, from calculating basic amortization schedules and analyzing budgets to general statistics. As a spreadsheet application, OpenOffice.org Calc will do all these things, and more.

Like its commercial alternatives, Calc can generate colorful charts & graphs to reflect different kinds of quantitative information, which are great for visual comparison. It also has strong mathematical, statistical and logistical analysis capabilities.

OpenOffice.org Calc has a strong Microsoft Excel influence. Visually, the program shares the same look and feel as Excel. Many of Calc's tools are positioned in similar places, and many of the keyboard hot-keys are the same. Navigation among rows, columns and cells highly similar as well.

OpenOffice.org Calc shares strong consistency with other OpenOffice.org applications, particularly with toolbar content and icon placement.

Calc's built-in functions use the same names and syntax as those in Microsoft Excel, for best compatibility. For example, both Calc's and Excel's functions begin with an equal sign (=). Both programs name their standard deviation function stdev. Both program's fv (future value) functions take the same set of parameters (which happen to follow in the same order).

As a result, compatibility between OpenOffice.org Calc and Microsoft Excel is outstanding, and makes Calc a viable alternative because it means Calc users can stay interoperable with the majority of the computing world.

The biggest lack of compatibility with Excel is in macros. This is because OpenOffice.org Calc does not use Visual Basic to power its macros, as Excel does. Instead, it uses its own macro scripting language, OpenOffice.org Basic. Although Calc can interpret some Excel macros, complex macros may not function properly, or function at all.

Like any modern spreadsheet application, multiple sheets can be created, renamed or reordered via the tabs at the bottom of the program.

Some have criticized OpenOffice.org Calc because it does not use Visual Basic, and quick label it an inadequacy. On the contrary! By using an open language that isn't specific to Windows, OpenOffice.org Calc macros can be played or executed on virtually any platform (Linux, Windows, OS-X, etc.).

Like its other siblings, OpenOffice.org Calc uses the OASIS OpenDocument file format by default. Unlike the Excel format, OpenDocument is not specific to any one piece of software, or controlled by any single vendor - it is a truly open standard. However, the program can be configured so new documents will be automatically saved as "Microsoft Excel 97/2000/XP" files - useful for those that frequently share files with Microsoft Office users. This setting can be found by selecting "Options" from the "Tools" menu at the top. Once the options box appears, expand the "Load/Save" section and select "General." Under "Document type," select "Spreadsheet" from the first drop-down box, and select "Microsoft Excel 97/2000/XP" from the next drop-down box.

Another great thing about Calc is its database connectivity, supporting both ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) and JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) standards. This gives Calc the ability to analyze sources of information stored outside the actual spreadsheet - in a database server, for example.

Various charts (pie, scatter plot, bar graghs, etc) can be inserted into the spreadsheet for visual representation.

Like OpenOffice.org Writer, Calc also has an "Export to PDF" feature. Once the PDF has been created, it can be opened in any PDF-compatible reader, like Adobe's free Acrobat Reader.

Calc also makes use of styles, like Writer, which can be applied, edited or managed via the Stylist (F11 key).

For many, OpenOffice.org Calc provides everything they will ever need in a spreadsheet. It can be downloaded, free of charge, from www.openoffice.org.

Have comments or suggestions for a weekly Tech Tips article? Send an email to webmaster@sunad.com.

Note: The Sun Advocate and Emery County Progress do not necessarily endorse the opinions of the author.


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