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Monday, August 17, 2009

Writer's Tool for Open Office

The good: Writer's Tools is an extension for Open Office that adds a basket full of eclectic tools to the Open Office Writer application (appearing on a new menu). The tools include web look up of words, Google translation of phrases, backup of current document via email, FTP, or Amazon S3, timing of writing sessions for billing or in case you just want to know how much time you're spending, notes and tasks stored in a database, and others. There are some features that aren't writing tasks, particularly, but are common among writers, such as a microblogging feature to send Identi.ca and Twitter messages. The extension is associated with Open Office, not the operating system, so it should work on Windows, Mac OS-X and Linux.

The bad: if you barely survive using your computer, this tool might not be right for you, mainly because of installation and configuration. At times, you'll need to find things most users don't have to worry about. For example, when you first use the word lookup feature, you'll be asked to give the full path to your default browser. This is the file directory and file name of the browser program (executable). The installation comes in a zip file, which includes a local web page for installation; don't fail to look at this. Links for help files are found near the bottom of the above link. Linux users may have to "translate" file paths for their distribution.

The Indifferent: depending on your attitude about free software, you may find this a blessing or a curse: there is an instruction manual on Lulu for Writer's Tools for a nominal fee. The software is a free download, so you can probably try it out without the manual before ordering the manual. Think of it as a tip to the software author.


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