Composing Documents with Solaris 9 Writer
For many years, the most notable absence within Solaris was the lack of Microsoft Office or a compatible suite of applications that would let Solaris users share documents, read spreadsheets, view presentations, and so on. With the introduction of StarOffice, and subsequent release of the open source OpenOffice variant on StarOffice, this problem has been solved.
Included for free with Solaris 9, StarOffice is a remarkably capable, easy to use set of programs that work well in both the Common Desktop Environment and the GNOME environment. These programs offer a high degree of interchangeability with Windows and Mac office documents.
The showcase application of StarOffice is Writer, the document preparation and word processing environment. Clearly inspired by the interface and capabilities of Microsoft Word, Writer offers an elegantly designed and powerful environment for producing documents, whether they're just a few pages or hundreds of pages.
Creating new documents
After StarOffice is installed, you can launch Writer directly from either
- The GNOME menu (choose Applications --> Office --> StarOffice)
- The Common Desktop Environment taskbar (click the butterfly icon).
If that doesn't work, you should be able to move into the StarOffice directory and launch the program from the terminal:
Whichever way you start Writer, you get a blank Writer screen.
- The main section is a virtual piece of paper upon which you can type (or cut and paste) whatever you want.
- Other screen features include
• A menu bar along the top
• Two toolbars
• A ruler
• A toolbar running down the left side of the window
To accomplish this, choose Insert --> File.
The file selection dialog box is different from the normal Solaris selector, but the basic concept is the same:
1. Click the Up One Level button (it has a folder with an upward pointing arrow on it) to step up the directory tree
2. Click a folder in the main view to move into a directory.
When you've found the desired file, click it to select it.
After selecting the file, click Insert. You're taken back to the original document, with the new file incorporated.
When the file is imported, Writer shows the bottom of the page, the last line of the inserted material. Jump back to the top by scrolling, or try one of the Writer shortcuts: Press Ctrl+Home to move to the first line of text. The bottom-left corner of the window shows which page you are on (for example, Page 1 of 204).
Altering the appearance of text
You can make a title appealing by making the text bold, centered, or larger:
- To apply bold, follow these steps:
• 1. Select the text with the mouse (click+drag with the left button).
• 2. While the text is highlighted, click the Bold button (with the B on it) on the Formatting toolbar.
• The toolbar is split into two lines to make it easier to read.
- To center the material, click the Center Text button on the same toolbar. (The button looks like four tiny lines, center-aligned.)
- To make the text larger, select a font size from the Font Size menu. A variety of font sizes are shown in the pop-up menu; choose your favorite to select it.
With the addition of a judiciously placed carriage return to make the centering look good, the title looks much better.
You can make many additional changes in Writer. For example, you can select a line and then choose Format --> Paragraph.
The resulting Paragraph dialog box is complex, with many more options than the Microsoft Word equivalent. The dialog box features eight tabs along the top:
- Indents & Spacing
- Text Flow
- Drop Caps
StarOffice has an extensive, well-written online help system accessible from just about anywhere in the program. It's well worth using, whether you're a Writer neophyte or pro. Just click the Help button.
If you apply formatting to every word individually in a large document, it might take a bit of time to turn a plain text file into an attractive and highly readable document. You can speed up this process with styles.
The most common task with styles is to apply a given style to a passage of text. To create styles, you have to define them. This, fortunately, is easy.
Go back to the new colorful headline and select the text on that line, then open the Stylist window with either of these steps:
- Press the F11 key
- Choose Format --> Stylist
The Stylist window opens.
Presented in very small type, this window can be a bit baffling, but the mouseover pop-ups are a lifesaver here: Move the cursor over any of the tiny buttons to see a short description of the corresponding function.
The Stylist windows shows about 20 predefined styles, including ten levels of headers, First Line Indent, Hanging Indent, Signature, and Marginalia.
To create a new style, follow these steps:
1. Click the New Style from Selection button, which is the second button from the right.
The Create Style dialog box opens.
2. Type in the style name — for example, "White on Purple Head" — and click OK.
Now the Stylist window includes the new style you've just defined.
3. Close the Stylist window by clicking the small Close button in the top-right corner of the window.
Using styles to ensure consistency across a document is a tremendous boon to both the speed and accuracy of your document production.
You can also create special documents that are simply a collection of predefined styles by reading the Template section in the online help.
To apply a style to text, follow these steps:
1. Select the text.
2. Click the Apply Style pop-up menu on the left edge of the Formatting toolbar (it probably says Default).
The pop-up menu shows styles defined for this document only.
3. Select a style.
To apply a defined style to the selected text, click on the correct style name. For example, select White on Purple Head. All the character and paragraph styles (typeface, size, bold, text and background color) are applied to the new material.