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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Draw Functions in Open Office Word Processor

I was recently faced with the task of writing a report for a programming assignment and it had to be in a particular type (for example with .pdf, .srx extensions) and none of the file extension required were supported by Microsoft Office Word Processing that I use pretty well. The report was the documentation of a program written in Java and should include diagrams such as flow-charts, which are made of several different shaped objects linked by arrows and each shape usually correspond to a specific type of operation performed by the program. For example a diamond (decision box) usually expresses a condition and an ellipse the start or the end of the program etc...

Because Open Office can save file with the .srx extension as well as offering a fairly useful graphical user interface, I thought it will be a good idea to use it. Well I was wrong and that choice cost me marks because despite all my skills in the use of other word processors (Microsoft Word for example), what was supposed to be a simple and very quick task turned to be a big challenge and I didn’t manage to finish my report in the time scale that I set thinking it was safe and more than enough before the deadline.

The task I wanted to perform and which caused the problem sounds easy and involves making use of the drawing tools to draw the diagrams, something I’ve done numerous times in other packages. Under pressure it took me ages to find out how to get the draw functions toolbar, which is not accessible from any main menu option. After navigating throughout the package, I found that it was accessible from a very tiny button on the side of the editor, with a caption that does not suggest at all a drawing tool. As if it wasn’t enough, there was another gymnastic exercise to make in order to use the mini toolbar and it was after pressing the button many times that I realized that it had to be hold down and the cursor drag across the bar in order to select an object. To add insults to injury only ellipse and rectangle amongst all the objects offered could have been useful and therefore no way to draw a complete flow-chart that uses conventional shapes to represent the decision box, the input and output box, a major process box, etc…

So if after loosing all that time and even with my background and resilience still couldn’t make a good use of the draw functions in the Open word processor, I wonder what will feel somebody who is just beginning to use such packages? I am also concerned with the lack of consistencies in some features with other software packages that perform similar tasks and are already widely used.


  • It might have been a good idea to try using's dedicated drawing package instead of the text processor. I agree that the way text processors and DTP packages are designed nowadays is rediculous.

    By Blogger Paul Dann, at 25 November 2004 at 14:56  

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