Lodahl's blog: 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007

29 October 2007

Schools warned off Microsoft deal

Have a look at this article on BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/7063716.stm

Schools warned off Microsoft deal
The UK computer agency Becta is advising schools not to sign licensing agreements with Microsoft because of alleged anti-competitive practices.
About time we see some concrete advise on this issue. Here is the original press release from Becta.

28 October 2007


I came across this blogpost (http://netapps.muohio.edu/blogs/darcusb/darcusb/). It's a discussion about bibliographic applications, here Zotero versus RefWorks.

I am using Zotero my self. Zotero is licensed as open source and works as extensions to other application (Mozilla Firefox and OpenOffice.org).
RefWorks is what I would call proprietary software going towards freeware. The software is in some context free (as in free beer, not as in freedom).
The discussion in the above mentioned blogpost is very much a comparison of free software and proprietary software. Why some librarians can recommend students and scientist to use a non-free application. In my mind there is nothing wrong with proprietary software. I am using proprietary and commercial software every day together with free and open source software. I choose from a various of parameters. To mention a few: Functions and features, robust data storage, openness in data format, price versus value.

As I see the problem is, that both applications in the comparison, as well as any other bibliographic application, stores data in closed binary databases. None of the two applications are actually open in the way data is stored. I chose Zotero, because I find the connection between my Internet browser (Firefox) and my text editor (OpenOffice.org Writer) convenient.

The basic problem here, as in many other situations, is that we don't have an open standard for storing bibliographic data. If the providers of bibliographic applications could agree on one common way of storing the data, any student, teacher or librarian could use an application of his or her own choise. Data can be published, exchanged and searched in.

Should this be a part of the ODF standard ?
I don't know.
I am one of the people speaking the ODF case in Denmark.
It would be natural to extend ODF to contain bibliographical data as meta data (Rob Weir about the Semamtic Web: http://www.robweir.com/blog/2007/10/odf-enters-semantic-web.html)

On the other hand we must be careful not to think that we can put everything into one standard. ODF is developed in OASIS and approved by ISO. ODF is implemented in OpenOffice.org, Kword and many other applications. A new version of ODF will be a hard work to get through the two organizations and the implementation will be delayed several years. The more different aspects the format contains, the more difficult versioning and implementation will become.

24 October 2007

My favorite extensions

The extension mechanism was introduced in OpenOffice.org 2.04 but even before that, you could install so called UNO-packages. But the extension framework has been developed over several versions and we haven't seen the end yet. In the future we will see support for multi language extensions and automatic update.

If you would like to know more about extension, just tune in on http://extensions.services.openoffice.org/

This is how extensions are described on the OpenOffice.org homepage:

OpenOffice.org offers a complete framework allowing it to be enriched. You'll find here entry points for the various aspects of creating and distributing these extensions. An extension is a third party tool that brings OOo new functions. This can be done through addons, addins, deployed by UNO packages. Extensions also covers templates, galleries.

Here is my favorite extensions:

SVG Import
This extension makes it possible for OpenOffice.org to consume SVG files (scalable vector graphics). I use SVG files from http://www.openclipart.org/ in almost all occasions where I need to show drawings in my documents. A project in OpenOffice.org is about to implement a native filter for inport/export, but until then, you need this extension

Lorem Ipsum generator
He-he, I made this my self. As I'm often writing training material, I need to produce a lot of 'dummy documents' for both OpenOffice.org and Lotus Notes. This extension gives you the opportunity to generate any amount of Lorem Ipsum you like.

This extension is not an OXT file, so you must open the extension manager and import the extension from there. OXT files can be activated by clicking the icon or directly from your internet browser.
This extension makes any word in your writer document 'active', because you can just click the icon and a Wikipedia search will be submitted immediately.

Zotero is actually a bibliography plug-in for Firefox, but in conjunctions with an extension for Openoffice.org, you get a very comprehensive tools. Read this article by Dimitri Popov http://www.linux.com/feature/119419. The extension is well documented on the website http://www.zotero.org/documentation/

Lilypond is a stand alone application for music notation. OOoLilyPond is a macro for OpenOffice.org that simplifies the integration of music notation in OpenOffice.org Writer, Impress and Draw. It can be used to write a book on music theory or to write down exercises for music instruments or voices which need to be commented with lots of text.


This is a very comprehensive application for mathematical notation and even graphs. For students, teachers and engineers.

BasicAddonBuilder is an OpenOffice.org extension that allow you to export a StarBasic library in the OpenOffice.org extension format, ready for deployment.

Sun Report Builder
Create with the Sun Report Builder stylish, smart-looking database reports. The flexible report editor can define group and page headers as well as group and page footers and even calculation fields are available to accomplish complex database reports.

This is a Danish extension that provides young students with a grammatical tool for analyzing sentences. Inserts grammatical symbols below each word.

23 October 2007

Open source is not about cutting down expenses

The general discussion about the use of open source software like OpenOffice.org very often comes around talking about money. And most people expect that cheap (in this case very cheap) software is poor software. In some cases this is actually true, but not in all cases. There are lots of software projects that serves high quality applications for you.

Open source is not about cutting down expenses but about spending money where you get value.

Lets take a look at one of the most popular open source projects, OpenOffice.org. Compared to Microsoft Office, this project is a little bit less feature rich. But what's the difference, when your employees haven't learned how to use the application that you bought so expensive ? Nothing. A much more valuable choice could be to implement OpenOffice.org and I say implement. Not just install it, but actually make sure that everybody who needs to know, will know. Teach them how to use it. And you will find that the actual result will be, that OpenOffice.org will increase productivity, because the number of usable features is higher. You have gained more value.

Another thing to consider is, to begin thinking about collaborative software. Take the Office thought a little bit further. How about spending money on collaboration instead of fancy features in desktop applications. Features that we use because they are there - not because we need them. If you implement OpenOffice.org and spend the license fee to buy good and solid software like Software from IBM Lotus, you will see your employees work together and find them think as a team instead of individual pieces. The jigsaw will soon show a very pretty picture: Pieces will come together.

Open source software is not about cutting down, but about spending differently.

21 October 2007


I receive about 3 -5 direct mails on a daily basis, asking questions about OpenOffice.org. Please respect me, when I reply, that I can't answer all these mails individually. I have a full time job and spends several hours every day working for OpenOffice.org in Denmark.

Support questions can be posted here:
Danish: http://www.oooforum.dk . I will, together with many others, try to answer all questions here.
International: http://www.oooforum.org

Further more, you can find manuals and documentation here:
Danish: http://doc.oooforum.org
International: http://documentation.openoffice.org/

I can also recommend this blog (Solveig Haugland): http://openoffice.blogs.com/

Most questions I get is about two issues: Installing the Danish spellchecker and reading docx files.

Regarding the Danish spellchecker:
I expect the Danish spellchecker to be pre-installed with OpenOffice.org 2.4. There are several discussions about installation on the Danish support forum about this. And yes: there are still some problems.

Regarding handling docx documents:
Ask the sender to use an international acknowledged file format like ODF. And subscribe to the Danish Newsletter (mailto:nyhedsbrev-subscribe@da.openoffice.org?subject=Tilmeldingen%20sker%20ved%20at%20sende%20denne%20besked).
I'm trying to keep up with the latest news every month (Read older issues: http://da.openoffice.org/servlets/BrowseList?listName=nyhedsbrev)

18 October 2007

13 reasons why Linux should be on your desktop

I just fell over this article by Kim Brebach (Oct. 16, 2007). The article is a summary of, how and why you should consider Linux a serious alternative to Microsoft Windows. http://www.desktoplinux.com/articles/AT5836989728.html. Specially now, that it can be difficult to avoid an operating system that is defect and you actually don't want to use (Vista).

The article is specially relevant now, that Ubuntu has released 7.10.

17 October 2007

Administration of OpenOffice.org

Imagine you are asked to deploy OpenOffice.org in a large company, maybe 1.000 users or more. You will definitively need some tools. Lucky for you, there is an Administration Guide for that purpose. What about accessing user profile settings from on an LDAP server or restricting functionality for users. Would that be relevant in a large installation ?

Just turn in on the Administration Guide here: http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Documentation/Administration_Guide

16 October 2007

Introduction II - start and open files

This is the second film:

Symfoni Software

Zotero and OpenOffice.org

I just found this article from Dmitri Popov
Using Zotero to manage OpenOffice.org bibliographies


If OpenOffice.org's own bibliography feature doesn't really cut it for you, you have several choices. One popular bibliography solution is Bibus, a cross-platform tool that integrates nicely with OpenOffice.org. It is, however, not the only bibliographical tool out there. In fact, there is another nifty tool called Zotero that turns Firefox into a powerful research tool.
Directly integrated with OpenOffice.org. Amazing how extensions can make things happen.

15 October 2007

Introduction to OpenOffice.org (in Danish)

I am working on a series of introduction videos for OpenOffice.org in Danish. This is the first one:

This is done together with my company Symfony Software.

14 October 2007

Trade unions - take a stand !

I have previously written about trade unions. Or the lack of commitment from the trade unions (blog post here: http://lodahl.blogspot.com/2007/05/where-is-trade-unions.html ).

Lately I have seen two Danish trade unions take a stand: They will provide their members with Microsoft certified courses. First it was HK/Samdata http://www.version2.dk/artikel/3857 that are dumping the marketplace with almost free Microsoft certification. This week I could read that another trade union is about to take up competition. The union is Prosa http://www.prosa.dk/News/index.php3?story_id=2989 who is also 'selling' Microsoft courses. This latest initiative is quite surprising, because Prosa has been very active in the work for open standards from a competitive point of view.

Why offer a Microsoft course to the members ?

Why not offer courses in game development ?
Why not offer courses in Java ?
Why not offer courses in XML ?
Why not offer courses in ITIL and Prince2 ?

By offering courses in vendor specific products like Vista and .Net, the trade unions becomes a part of the problem: We all think that a Microsoft certificate is needed to get a job and because of that we actually need it. Not because it's relevant, but because everybody agrees that this is a must-have certificate. As a result, all decision makers is schooled by Microsoft and partners.

I don't mind that the trade unions are offering IT courses to the members. I think it's a good idea. But the education should not be a part of the Microsoft strategy: Take over the education. We have seen that in public school and universities. This strategy makes Microsoft products de-facto needs in business.

10 October 2007

Thats a challenge

Once in a while I see some challenging questions on the Danish support site http://www.oooforum.dk . Today I found a question about outline numbering. The question came from a couple of guys from University of Southern Denmark (http://www.sdu.dk/?sc_lang=en). The university is using OpenOffice.org and these two are doing an assignment.

They need to make a TOC like this:

1. First chapter
1.1 First issue in first chapter
1.2 Second issue in first chapter
2. Second chapter
2.1 First issue in second chapter
Another header
3. Third chapter
3.1 ...
3.2 ...

Please note that they want to continue the numbering of chapters, even if there is a header in between. The problem is, that the normal behavior would be like this:

1. First chapter
1.1 First issue in first chapter
1.2 Second issue in first chapter
2. Second chapter
2.1 First issue in second chapter
Another header
1. Third chapter
1.1 ...
1.2 ...

The outline numbering will reset after the heading entry.

The difficult part is, that the document actually contains four numbered levels of headings 8+ the top level). But only two numbered levels is to shown in the TOC.


Normally this would be accomplished this way:

Header <- Heading 1
1. First chapter <-
Heading 2
1.1 First issue in first chapter <- Heading 3
1.2 Second issue in first chapter <-
Heading 3
2. Second chapter <-
Heading 2
2.1 First issue in second chapter <-
Heading 3
Another header <-
Heading 1
1. Third chapter <-
Heading 2
1.1 ... <-
Heading 2
1.2 ...
<- Heading 2

But the problem is, that the outline numbering always starts from the top. So what we did was this

Header <- Heading 3
1. First chapter <-
Heading 1
1.1 First issue in first chapter <-
Heading 2
1.2 Second issue in first chapter <-
Heading 2
2. Second chapter <-
Heading 1
2.1 First issue in second chapter <-
Heading 2
Another header <-
Heading 3
3. Third chapter <-
Heading 1
3.1 ... <-
Heading 2
3.2 ... <-
Heading 2
The header styles and TOC styles was changed, so it looks as if Header is higher level that Chapter and issue. The TOC is evaluating untill third level and the two first levels are numbered.


09 October 2007

Reading ODF files

If you want to read ODF files, you can use OpenOffice.org for that purpose. If you are using OpenOffice.org you can even read files directly in your browser. Read this article:

OpenOffice.org documents within Firefox
By Percy Cabello, Posted on September 23, 2007

If you don't have OpenOffice.org installed already, you can download it here for free http://download.openoffice.org

But even if you don't want to install OpenOffice.org you can read ODF files without any problems. It's just a plug-in for your Firefox browser. Read this article:

View open document text files with Firefox
By Percy Cabello, Posted on February 15, 2007

You can also download an ODF viewer from this place:
http://opendocumentfellowship.org/odfviewer . But why not install OpenOffice.org in stead ?

If free software isn't enough

My son Christian Lodahl showed me this (turn in the speakers, it's great music too):

08 October 2007

How to put a watermark text on your documents

I know at least three ways you can put a watermark text in your documents:

  • Background image
  • Drawing text
  • Insert Fontwork

1) Background image
Select your page style in the style navigator. Right click and choose Modify.
Select the Background tab and select Graphics in the first field.
Now you can select an image file from your system.
You can either stretch the image or place it on a specific position.

2) Drawing text
From the Toolbar Drawing, select the tool Text.
Draw a box with you mouse and type the text in the box
If you want to see the background text on all pages, you can draw the box in the page header or footer
Mark the text in the box and format it as you need (text size, font, color etc.)
If you mark the text, you can use the rotate tool to rotate the text (grab the corners with your mouse and drag)
Mark the text box and right click. Select Arrange. Select In background

3) Fontwork
Click once in the page header og footer
Click Fontwork Gallery and select a Fontwork style
Type the text you want to appear in the background
Select the inserted Fontwork, right click and select Wrap - In background


Each of the above methods has advantages and disadvantages. Choose from your needs in the individual case. There might even be other methods to achieve the same or better results.

07 October 2007

Search the Internet form OpenOffice.org

Very often when you are working with text documents in Writer, you need to do some research or look up a word on the Internet while you are writing. You can actually look up words on the Internet directly from OpenOffice.org bur very few people has yet discovered this handsome feature in the application.

Some general search sites are predefined in OpenOffice.org, e.g. AltaVista, Gogle and Yahoo, but you can also define your own searches. I often use the Mariam-Webster on-line dictionary to look up English words.

How to define a new search

First you have to find out how the search site parses the search string in the URL address. Try to make a simple search on the search site and the take a look at the URL address when you see the result. On Mariam-Webster it looks like this:

The word I was looking up here was 'accent'.

Now copy the URL string and open OpenOffice.org Writer

Select Tools – Options – Internet – Search

Create a new search and paste the URL from the clipboard into the 'prefix' field.

Select 'Or' and do the same again

Select 'Exact' and do the same again.

Close the Options dialog.

How to search from OpenOffice.org

If the toolbar “Hyperlink bar” is not visible in OpenOffice.org you should make it visible by selecting View – Toolbars and then select “Hyperlink bar”.

Now you are ready to look up any word from your document. Select a word in the text and you will see that the word is now automatically filled in the first field on the Hyperlink bar.

Now you just need to click the search icon and select the search site you want to use. In this case I select M-W and my browser will immediately show me the search result.


OpenOffice.org has lots and lots of secret features and this is one of them. Very few people will discover all features, but if you try to have a look around the application you will find lots of them.

I can recommend Solveig Hauglands blog. She has made a lot of small tricks and how-tos.

04 October 2007

Translation (press release)

Wide agreement about open standards
(Unofficial translation of the press release)


The government KL (Danish Municipals ) and Danish Regions has made an agreement about the application from obligatory, open standards for software there public sector.

Before the summer the Minister of Science and technology and the Parliament (Folketinget) agreed on a schedule plan for adopting the open standards. The schedule and the adoption of the first part of obligatory , open standards is validated by a government decision and is actually validated by an agreement between the government, KL and Danish Regions.

The agreement implies , that public authorities from January 1th. 2008 shall apply seven sets of open standards in connection with new it - systems, unless that results in extra expenses. All authorities shall contemporary be able to receive text documents as two open standards (EOOXML and ODF).

Obligatory , open defaults shall :
- support contest and options on the software markedet
- give rise to the assumption by context between it - systems, solutions and organisations
- secure bigger effectiveness and better problem solving.

later that year there will be a conference about the adoption af open standards in the public sector.

The government KL and Danish regions has agree to continuously take standardization into account and adopt open standards. It will secure against connections across the public sectors and ensure competition, innovation and a multiple software market to the best for development of the digital governance.

Minister of Science and technology Helge Sander:
”This agreement means, that vi actually seriously has set of to adopt open standards. Denmark is already leading at this field and therefore every new steps we take, give echo abroad. I expects , that the citizen and the businesses will experience, that there will be further options , and that they digital solutions proves better connectivity and is more user friendly.”

Chairman of KL Erik Fabrin:
”For the municipals the agreement is an importantly step in the right direction. I am persuaded, that the use of open it standards is the access to a better working public sector, where we can be give citizen better consecutive services and better accessibility. I also expects, that an enhanced adoption of open standards will make it less expensive to exchange data between authorities and make it easier for new businesses to come in at the public it market with new solutions. However the agreement itself is not doing that. We must make an effort in all parts of public sector and use resources push that development."

Charman of Danish regions Bent Hansen:
”The regions are pleased to have been a part of this agenda in relationship to the adoption of open standards. The demands on accessibility will as an example help that all inhabitants , also persons with disabilities, can benefit of the digitalization of the public sector. The agreement shows that the public sector in cooperation can handle improvement of an important task and take commitment to the future digital development."

Progress in Denmark

The last few days shown a few interesting news.

The Danish Government has made an agreement with Danish Municipals ( http://www.kl.dk ) and Danish Regions ( http://www.regioner.dk ) about how open standards should be implemented in the public sector. This press release is in Danish:
My own unofficial translation here.
A lot of details about the implementation has been published here: http://videnskabsministeriet.dk/site/forside/nyheder/Aktuelle-temaer/aabne-standarder/bilag e.g. these manuals for the offices: http://www.oio.dk/aabnestandarderforsoftware .

The Minister of finance has been asked to reveal how much the Danish state is paying Microsoft each year ( http://www.computerworld.dk/art/41817 ). The Minister (Thor Pedersen) claims that these numbers is impossible to collect. This is rubbish, because the sate has a centralized purchase of software licenses.

Several Members of the Danish Parliament wants to liberate the scholar system from Microsoft monopoly. Microsoft is offering a 70% discount to schools and universities but despite that, the bill is too high. And the MP know that monopoly in schools will keep the Microsoft monopoly in the rest of the country, both public and private sector. http://www.computerworld.dk/art/41789
The reason for this discussion is an article ( http://www.computerworld.dk/art/41785 ) that covers the fact that using Linux in the schools is more expensive than Windows. But the actual cause for that fact is, that Linux support is very expensive today. Why ? Because not many customers are using it. If the schools could gather together and collaborate about a common solution and establish a support center, it would be much cheaper.

What is nearly grotesque is that the agreement between the government and the Danish Municipals specifically mentions schools, hospitals and public libraries as not covered by the agreement. So what is it worth, when my children don't get the opportunity to learn about OpenOffice.org and open standards at school. They will end up as Microsoft users just like the previous generation. When they get on the job market, they will ask for Microsoft applications.

Sorry that all my references are in Danish. I'll try to find some time to translate to English one of these days.

03 October 2007

Extending OpenOffice.org

Sorry, I have been away from my blog for a few days.

This summer I wrote a Danish manual about extensions and how to create and maintain extensions( http://doc.oooforum.dk/Extensions.pdf ). When I wrote the manual, I used both the wiki on http://www.OpenOffice.org : http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Extensions . I also used two articles by Dimitri Popov (http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/7802 and http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/9412).

Dimitri is using an example in his article, where he is creating dummy text with Lorem Ipsum. I remember, that it was annoying that the example was masde as a mock up as example and didn't actually create Lorem Ipsum text. I know that this was not the purpose of the article, but I was still thinking: "Why not do it ?".

I have never made a macro in OpenOffice.org before, so I took this as a challenge. I had to find out everything from the beginning and I has some difficulties extracting data from the XML stream. The solution is a little clumsy, I will admit that. If any of you know a better and more elegant way, please feel free to make a new macro.

There is still a few other issues , but I expect to get them solved over the next few weeks.

I have uploaded the solution as extension to the repository, but it's actually not published yet. You can find the odt-file here: http://extensions.services.openoffice.org/download/288

When you have installed the extension, you will see a new tool bar with a button. This button will call http://www.lipsum.com/ give you some dummy text. Not rocket science, but anyway a helpfull feature.

Thanks to DannyB for this description of how to parse an XML stream http://www.oooforum.org/forum/viewtopic.phtml?t=4907 and to Andrew Pitonyak for his dokumentation "Useful Macro Information".