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Computer Users’ Group

September 15, 2010


Wordprocessors: We covered basic word processing on December 15, 2004. Get it here: . Everything said then is still true although the programs have grown in complexity over the years, particularly in the document formats that they can input and create. And the newer program, Open Office is available that does for free what Microsoft Office does for a couple of hundred dollars. We’ll take a brief look at the Open Office Writer, the wordprocessor of the Open Office suite. You can download the program from this site: The latest version, 3.2.1 is also available on the Pastfinders’ Flash Drive that will be in the white plastic box in the top lefthand drawer in the Genealogy Room. Please sign out when you take it.


Wordprocessor called Writer

There are three toolbars along the top of the document. The top one has basic Windows drop-down menus that are common to most Windows programs; File, Edit, View, Insert, Table, Tools, Window and Help. The line below that is a row of icons that directly do what many of the items listed in the above menus do. We’ll go to the right end of that toolbar and click on the down arrow and the select VISIBLE BUTTONS. That gives us a description of every button in that row so we can see what can be done. Below that is the formatting toolbar that lets you select the font type, size and color, paragraph alignment, background color and more. Repeat the above procedure to see all of those functions. When you save a document, there are 21 formats available that allow the document to be opened and edited in other programs. We’ll use Writer to setup and start a document and cut and paste to move text around.


Here is a view of WordPerfect compared to Open Office Writer. Note how similar they are arranged. Word 2003 can be seen by clicking

Click on Home to see all of the program tutorials offered for free. Use it and learn more.

We’ll first format the document the way we want. We’ll choose Times New Roman Font, Size 12 points. We’ll accept Left Justified as the justification and we’re ready to start. The Spell Checker will keep us informed of mis-spellings.


If this document is one of many on the same subject, a folder should be created to hold them all. It’s best to get that done before you save the document. Press the Windows Logo Key and E to open My Computer (Computer in Win 7) and choose a place to create a folder. Click New Folder and type the folder name. Remember where you put it so you can save the document there. When you return to the document, you can save it before you even type anything. That establishes the save name and lets you easily click on Save often to assure you don’t loose it when the power goes off.


We’ll type My Story as the first line of the document to be used as the title. Highlight it either by swiping across it or placing the cursor in the text and clicking 3 times. Most programs allow you to move the cursor into the left margin until it becomes an arrow and then click an appropriate number of times to accept a line, a sentence or a paragraph. That feature does not seem to work with Open Office Writer.


A title should be bold so we’ll click the B at the top of the page. It should be centered so we’ll click the centered text box. It also ought to be larger so we’ll click on the arrow next to the 12 in the FONT box and select 14 and press enter.


We’ll paste in some text but when you type in text you do not have to hit the ENTER key at the end of a line as with a typewriter; text will wrap around. You do use the ENTER key to end a paragraph and if you want to insert a blank line. Well add a little text to what we pasted and mis-spell a word to see if the Spell Checker works. Note that the spell checker lightly underlines mis-spelled words. To use the spell checker, you can click on TOOLS/SPELL CHECKER or just press F7. It will identify the word and provide suggestions that you can accept by clicking Change or, as in the case of Pastfinder, you can click on Add to add the word to the dictionary.


Learning to use the functions requires only time to start a document and try out features of interest. If you do something you don’t like, you can go to Edit/Undo or press CTRL-Z to go back a step. Make a total mess of it if you want and then don’t save it and start over messing up another one. But that’s the way to learn; try using keyboard shortcuts and mouse clicks, see what’s in the drop down menus; see what happens when you click on this icon; oops!


To get a view of available shortcuts specific to this program and to see the many functions that can be performed, click on Tools/Customize and you can see the Menu Functions, Keystroke Meanings, Toolbars and Events. It’s too detailed for us to get into but it’s source of information that may be useful to you in the future.


You can export the file that you’ve created as a PDF (Portable Document File) file or as a Web Page (XHTML). Use it to create your own Home Page. Most Service Providers offer free space.



Spreadsheet called Calc.

The spreadsheet in Open Office is called Calc and it can be set to produce Excel documents as Microsoft Office does but that is seldom necessary. A spreadsheet consists of columns labeled alphabetically and rows that are labeled numerically. The intersection of a column and a row is a cell and is identified by the column name and the row name as in cell C5. Everything entered into a cell is treated as text unless identified by an arithmatic symbol or the character @. Text can extend beyond the boundaries of a cell but it belongs to the cell where it originated. It will be truncated if something is entered into a cell into which it extends.


We’ll look at a simple spreadsheet that I use to record daily rainfall readings, sum them for the month and total the months to get the year’s worth. That spreadsheet was created in a program called Quatro Pro which comes as part of WordPerfect Office. To do something similar in Open Office required a bit of learning on my part.


Most programs have a Data Fill function and in Calc it’s called AutoFill. Instead of typing 1,2,3 etc you can enter 1 in the first cell, go to the 31st cell and click on it and then go back to the cell containing the 1 and click on it. A box shows up with a handle that you can point to and drag to the last cell and the numbers 1 to 31 will be filled in. You can do the same for the months by entering January in the start cell, go to the 12th cell and click on it. Go back to the January cell and click, grab the handle and drag to fill in all of the months. It also works for days of the week.


Now that you’re set up to accept data, we need to be able to add it up. In the cell below the 31, enter Total. Move to the cell to the right of that and click. Go to the top of the page and find the Sigma and click on it. Then click on the first cell below January, move to the January 31 cell and hold the Shift key down and click to select the column. Then click on the cell just below that and you should see the formula =sum(b3-b33). Before you do anything else, go to the top of the page and click the green check mark to accept what you’ve done. Press CTRL-C to copy what’s in that cell, go along the row to the December column and hold the SHIFT key down and click to select the row. Press CTRL-V to paste the formula we created into every cell in the row. You can repeat the summation precess to add up all of the months’ rainfall to get the year’s total.


Update: Whatever is in the cell that you select appears in the long box at the top of the page (called input line) and can be edited there if you want to change something. A shorter way to sum up items in a column or row is to just enter a formula in the cell where the answer will appear. Thus, to sum up the first column we would go to cell B34 and enter “=SUM(B3:B33)” without the quotes. Easier but less dramatic!


In the section on Writer, what we pasted in discussed the number of ancestors a person has. Let’s use a spreadsheet to find out how many for 20 generations. Label the columns as Generation, Number and Total. In Generation column, AutoFill 1 to 20 as done above. In the first row below Number enter =2^A3. Copy that cell down the column to the 20th generation row. Now we want to start a total that adds each generation’s number to the total. Enter ∑ in C4, and hold the CTRL key down and click on cells B3 and B4 and then click the green check mark. Now enter ∑ in C5 and this time hold CTRL and select C4 and B5. Click the check mark. Now copy cell C5 to the rest of column C.


Beside the uses shown here, spreadsheets can be used to keep track of investments, track business or hobby sales profits, keep track of items that can be declared on your income tax including medical expenses, mileage to the doctor times the cost per mile, prescription drug costs etc.


Click here to see a PDF version of the Rainfall Chart we were duplicating above.

Click here to see the generations chart that we created. 

A Presentation Program Called Impress.

The hardest part of creating a Presentation program is deciding what to show and how to show it. Impress offers many forms that each page can take; Title page, bulleted text, narrative, images, links to other items and more. For each page, you can choose a different format. The first page asks whether you want to create a new presentation, one from a template or and existing one. Selecting New, we click Next and are asked what background to use and where it will be presented. And we’ll select Original and Screen and click next. Now we’re asked what type of transition to use and what Presentation Type . Click on the arrow next to Effect to see a list of all the transitions that you can use between slides. We’ll go part way down the list and choose Random Transitions and we’ll leave default checked and then click Create.


Now we’re where we start to create our masterpiece. The right panel shows the available layouts that we can use. There are too many for us to cover but if you point to one, a description is presented. We’ll create a small presentation using the Title Slide, the Title Text Slide and the Title Only Slide. On the Title Slide we’ll click on the title area which then becomes available to enter data. We’ll enter Jackie. Next, we’ll click in the Text area and enter My Great-granddaughter. We’ll then click on the Slide icon that’s the third one in from the right in the middle row. Point to it to make sure it says Slide and when you click it, it will open the next slide for you to enter data. We’ll click on the Title Text Slide in the Layout Window to change the format of our new slide. We’ll enter some text letting it wrap around until we want to enter text after a new bullet and then we’ll press Enter. When we’re done with that slide, we’ll repeat the process above to open the Title Only Slide. We’ll click on Insert at the top of the page and scroll down to Picture We’ll find a picture of Jackie and click on it. We’ll then use the boxes at the corners to size the picture to make it fit. We repeat that last process only this time we’ll select Movie and Sound as the format to insert and we’ll click on a video of Jackie.


At the meeting we were unable to answer a question on how to insert an image and then add text below it. Impress doesn’t make it easy but there are templates that show a text box and an object box side by side. By clicking on the text box, it can become resizeable and moveable so it could be moved down toward the bottom of the page. In the object box, click to select it and then go to the top of the page and click on Insert. Select the image you want to insert and size it to leave room for the text box below it. Drag and resize the text box and enter the text you want if you haven’t already.


That’s pretty much what it takes to create a presentation. How you save it depends on how you plan on showing it. To present it at the library using the library computers, you have to save it as Microsoft Powerpoint97/2000 (PPT) but to show it as a slide show using your own computer, you can save it as recommended by Impress.


You can see the slide show that we attempted to create but never quite finished by clicking here. It’s in Power Point Format. If you don’t have Power Point you can get a Power Point viewer free by going here:


The slide show can be an automatic slide show where the slides are shown with a designated time between slides or it can be such that you press the left mouse button to move to the next slide. The latter is usually used for a presentation to a group. We’ll select the first slide in the left column and then click on the right hand Icon in the middle row at the top of the page to see our show.


For a presentation at the library, the file can be copied to a flash drive and the drive inserted into the USB port of the library computer. There is a presentation device that can be used to advance the slides remotely. I will make mine available to anyone who needs to use it.


Here is a tip to make computing easier.

You don’t have to type the full URL of the web page that you want to visit; is all that you need to type. And if the URL is a Dot Com as Ancestry is, you need only type Ancestry and then press CTRL-ENTER. Both IE and Firefox will fill in the rest.