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Pastfinders’ Computer Users’ Group

October 21, 2009


We’ll cover office suites using Open Office but what we say will generally apply to all suites. Open Office is free and Microsoft Office Standard is $240. But you may have programs that came installed on your computer such as Works, WordPerfect or Microsoft Office. With all programs, you can’t ask how to do something until you know what the program can do. So with any new program, look at all of the Menu Bar items which will generally tell you everything that a program can do. We’ll do that with each program we discuss.


Open Office Writer: We’ll start by clicking on File at the top, left of the page. Like many other menu bar items, most of these are standard Windows functions. Opening, closing, saving and printing are basic and we won’t go much beyond those in this session but feel free to try any of items to see what they do. The best way to learn is to TRY. Next in line is Edit and note that most edit functions can be accomplished with a keystroke combination so you don’t have to continually move from keyboard to mouse and back. Refer to the keystroke combination handout for more. Those functions used most often are Copy, Cut, and Paste. The next item is View in which you can select from many items to be displayed. Following that is Insert which provides for many different types of things to be inserted into your document; ie a graphic, a hyperlink or a special character. Format allows you to select how you want the document to look; bulleted text, under alignment you select from Left, Right, Centered or Full Justification, Character allows the selection of the font you want as well as a few other attributes and you can choose to create columns and choose the size and type. Table allows you to insert and modify a table. The next item, Tools has many functions beyond where we’ll go except for Spelling and Grammar. You can open and work on more than one document and Window lets you select from among those that are open. The ever useful Help provides a complete tutorial and allows you to select a subject to learn more. If you don’t find what you’re seeking help on, try looking under a different word for the same subject.

We’ll open a document and add, correct and modify it to see how the basic functions work. We’ll first go to View and click on Toolbars and scroll down to Format and select that. That shows many of the formatting functions that we’ll use. Many of the functions we will apply to the item that is selected which can be done by placing the cursor before the item, holding down the left button and swiping across the text that we want. There is another way, however. Place the cursor on the word or in the sentence or paragraph that you want to select. Two left clicks selects a word, three, a sentence and four, a paragraph. Once selected we’ll use the keystroke combinations to accomplish what we want, ie copy, cut, bold etc.

When you create a new file, name the file and save it every so often to prevent losing it in case of a crash or power failure. When you’re done, save it and then print as many copies as you need. Go to File/Print and if Print Preview is available, click on that to see if the product meets your needs. Printing functions available depend in part on the printer driver that works with your printer but if you want to print on both sides of the paper, check your printer manual for how to do that.


Open Office Calc: Note as we go through the menu bar that many of the same items appear here as appeared in Writer. Most new terms affect Rows, Columns or Cells each of which can be selected or have attributes assigned. We’ll discuss items as we use them. We have a spreadsheet into which we’ve entered several stocks, the date that they were bought, the price paid, the value that they had on October 14 of this year, the total increase in value and the annualized increase.


We start at the top of the chart and type Stock in the first column, press Tab and then enter Date. Repeat moving from column to column and entering Price, Date, Value, Increase and Annualized. Swipe across what you’ve just entered and press Ctrl-B to bold it. In the Format Bar, select Font Size

and press the down arrow to select 14.


We’ll estimate how many stocks we’ll enter and format enough rows to accomodate them. Doing too many will not cause problems. Start in the second line in the first Date column, hold the left mouse button down and scroll down as far as you need to and keeping the left button down, press the CTRL key down, move the mouse the the next Date column and repeat, releasing the buttons when done. Both columns should be highlighted. Click on Format/Cells and then select Date and choose the date format that you want. We’ll select the default. Now move to the Price column and repeat the above to select it and the Value column. Once selected, go to the top of the page and click on what appears to be a pile of money (just above the Column F) and click on it to format those columns as currency. Repeat the selection process for the last two column and at the top of the page, choose per cent (%) as the format.


Enter a stock name in the first column, the date you bought it and the price, move to the second date column and enter the date you checked its value and in the Value column, enter the value. The increase in value is (the value - the price) divided by the value. In order to tell Calc that we’re entering numbers and not text, we precede each entry by =. So in cell F2 we will enter =(E2-C2)/C2. The Annualized gain needs to figure the number of days between the two date columns, divide that by 365 to get years and divide that number into the Increase. In cell G2, therefore, we’ll enter =F2/((D2-B2)/365 where D2-B2 finds the number of days between the two dates. When we enter more stocks, we’ll leave these last two column blank until the end. When we’re all finished,we’ll select cell F2 and do CTRL-C and then swipe down from cell F3 until the end and press CTRL V. That copies the formula in F2 into the rest of the column but adjusts each reference for the proper row. Repeat for G2 although we could have selected both columns and copied them together.

These are the basic steps needed to create any spreadsheet. One additional useful function is the Data Series. Enter a number in a cell. Click on that cell then click the cell below and then back to the original. Grab the handle at the lower right of the cell and pull it downward keeping to the right of the column. When you’ve gone far enough, release the left button and you’ll have a series of numbers. You can also do consecutive dates. 

As with Writer, once you understand some basics, you can explore the rest by trying to see what they can do.


Genealogy on a Spreadsheet:

I once used a spreadsheet for genealogy. The Batchelder family birth, marriage and death records are available on the published Massachusetts Vital Records series and there are 317 records for John. Many children are listed as being the children of John and Sarah. But they cover over a hundred years and they couldn’t all be the same John and Sarah. Using the Series function, I filled column A with years from 1650 to 1850. Then I looked up marriages and for the first John and Sarah and I entered an M in column B at the appropriate date. The next John and Sarah into column C etc. Then I went through the kids to enter their birth year under a John and Sarah that might still be producing. I moved data about as it became apparent that one John was the son of another John. It gave me some semblance of what was happening in that family spread over several towns that I was not getting by just reading it.


Open Office Impress: We’ve created a presentation with Impress and we’ll use that to demonstrate how to use Impress. See the presentation on the last page of this handout. But first we’ll look at what’s on the menu bar. File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Table, Tools, Slide Show, Window, and Help. When you open Impress, there are many tool bars shown but for this view I shut them down so as not to confuse them with the basic Menu Bar. Many items are the same as we’ve seen before and a few are unique to a presentation, such as the heading Slide Show.


Pastfinders has created a CD that has several free programs that you can install on your computer. The CDs will be stored in a Pastfinder CD folder in the Pastfinder drawer of the filing cabinet in the Special Collections Room. Programs include the web browser, Firefox; the email program, Thunderbird; genealogy program, Personal Ancestral File; office suite, Open Office; note taking software, Editpad Lite; photograph editor and indexer, Picasa 3.5; a viewer that will open any file, Universal Viewer; a junk cleaner, Ccleaner; an image processing program, Irfanview; a program that adds Any Folder to Send to options, Send To; and a duplicate file finder, Easy Duplicate Finder.


To use the CD, click on View Files, select the one you want to install and click on it. It will install that program in the Program files folder of your computer. Accept all the defaults unless you have reason not to but when optional programs such as Yahoo Tools Bar are offered to be installed, use your own judgement.


Firefox is a browser like Internet Explorer but many believe it to be the better choice, being somewhat safer and it has many add-ons that can be downloaded.


Thunderbird is an email program that beats Outlook Express. One major feature allows you to download mail headers only so you can see who it’s from and delete it without opening it.


Picasa 3.5 now includes face recognition software. You identify a face and it searches and finds all of the others that match. If you have old photos where only some people are identified, this software may be able find which others are the same person. We’ll cover this next month.


Open Office we just covered, Irfanview, Ccleaner, PAF, Send to and Editpad Lite we’ve covered in prior sessions.


Message Boards and Mailing Lists:

Message boards may cover surnames, places or topics and mailing lists cover surnames, places and many different topics. You can go to and scroll down the left column until you get to mailing lists and you can look at the Index to see all of the subjects covered. When you choose one, you can subscribe either to every message on the subject or to a one email a day Digest of messages for that day. You can post messages and see if anyone has any information on the subject. You may have cousins out there that you have never met. There is also an archive of messages that are as old as the mailing list is which may be over 10 years. With ancestors in VT and Western MA I belong to the Connecticut River Valley Mailing List (CT-River-Valley) as well as the Windham County, VT list. Both are a lot quieter than they used to be.

Under Message Boards, you can select from Surnames, Places and Topics and find if there is a board covering what you want. Once you are taken to the board of your choice, you can enter something to search for. If you are on the Smith board, you can search that board for a given name or a place. Be a little careful when you search to make sure the Smith board is selected under the search box because Rootsweb tends to default to All Boards and while you might like to search all boards at some time, searching for David Smith by entering David and have it default to All Boards may give you more Davids than you want. Searching for a place can be useful if David Smith was from Pioria, say, you could also look up the Peoria Board and search for Smith. You can search for more than one term at a time such as David Smith on the Peoria board. It will find David and Smith in the same message but not necessarily together. 

Another Message Board Service is where you enter the name of the board that you want and all boards with that name appear and you can select one. If a county name is the same as a surname, then both boards will be listed. When you search a board here, you search the board you are using and not All Boards as in Roots Web. Another approach for finding someone applicable to all searches is to enter a wife’s maiden name if you searching the husband’s family. Especially useful where searching leads to too many results is to see if there is a family member with an uncommon given name or an uncommon location. David and John Dill had a half-brother named Mungo. Mungo turns up far fewer hits than either David or John but might miss something the others would have found.


I have used message boards and have found a couple of cousins and the son of a man I used to work with. It’s satisfying when you find someone who has the data that you were looking for and can lead you to other sources of information.


There are many more Mailing Lists and Message Boards and you can go to and scroll down to see a list of the many others that are out there.


Here's a reduced view of the four slides of our presentation created with Impress.