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What's New in OpenOffice.org 2.4? A Few Things to Keep You Occupied While Waiting for v3.0

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The release of OpenOffice.org 3.0 is right around the corner. Time sure flies, doesn't it?

It seems as if OpenOffice.org 2.3 just made it's own debut, with a slew of great new charting features, improved Calc functionality, Base upgrades and so on. Between last year's 2.3 rollout and this year's upcoming 3.0 debut, a number of additional improvements have been made to the OpenOffice suite. To keep you happy until you hit the upgrade button this fall, here is a review of some of the new features the developers of OpenOffice.org have added in the past six months.

Nine New Charting Features in Calc

OpenOffice.org's charting features continue to improve, both in functionality and in appearance. With the release of version 2.4, you can now perform the following tasks:

  • Add the regression equation to a regression curve with the click of a button
  • Draw bars side-by-side (rather than stacked) in a double-axis bar chart
  • Reverse the Y or X axis to display an “upside-down chart”
  • Show values in a chart as both numbers and percentages
  • Put each part of a data label on a separate line
  • Choose your own number format for data labels (rather than having to choose formatting from the data source)
  • Place data labels more efficiently and stylishly in bar charts
  • Use best-fit technology to avoid overlapping of labels on pie charts
  • Remove labels from individual data points on a chart.

Let's take quick look at a few of these features.

Regression Curves with Equations

Displaying the actual equation for a trend line in a regression curve would be a major, plus, right? Now, Calc allows you to do this, and it's as simple as clicking a button.

To add the equation:

  1. Create an XY (Scatter) chart in Calc.
  2. Double click the chart to open Edit mode.
  3. Click Insert > Statistics.
  4. Choose the regression curve you would like (here, I selected Linear regression) and click OK. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Right click the regressionline on your chart and select Insert Regression Curve Equation.
  6. Place the equation on the chart in an appropriate location, making any style changes as needed by right clicking the equation while in edit mode. (See Figure 2.)

Making Side-by-Side Comparisons in Double-Axis Bar Charts

Let's say you've created a chart with two Y axes in order to show

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the comparison between two sets of data. Before the release of OpenOffice.org 2.4, your data would be stacked, with some data likely hidden behind the other. Now, you can display both sets of data side by side. How?

  1. In Calc, create your column or bar chart with two data series.
  2. Double click the chart to open Edit mode.
  3. Click the second data series to select it. You'll see one green dot in the center of each bar in that series.
  4. Right click any of the bars in the series and select Object Properties.
  5. Select the Options tab.
  6. In the Align data to series to section, choose the radio button for Secondary Y axis. (See Figure 3.)
  7. In the Settings section, check the box to Show bars side by side.
  8. Click OK.

Figure 4 shows an example of a double-axis bar chart. Obviously, the data here is much easier to read than it would be if one data series had overlapped the other. (See Figure 4.)

Next

  • Figure 1

    In Edit mode, select Insert > Statistics to define the type of regression curve you want. Click OK, then right click the regression line to add the equation.

  • Figure 2

    The equation for each regression line in this chart was added by the click of a button. After adding the equation, it can be moved, formatted and styled to look nice in your chart.

  • Figure 3

    New to version 2.4 is the option to place bars in a double-axis chart side-by-side. Simply select the secondary data set and right click to navigate to the Object Properties dialog. The option for making a side-by-side comparison is found under the Options tab.

  • Figure 4

    You can highlight data more effectively in a double-axis chart by displaying the data side-by-side rather than stacked.

  • Figure 5

    With your chart in Edit mode, use the Format menu to select an axis in your chart. Under the Scale tab, simply check the Reverse direction box and click OK. The specified axis will be reversed to better emphasize a particular data set.

  • Figure 6

    This is an example of a chart as it would normally appear after using the Chart Wizard.

  • Figure 7

    This is the same data as shown in Figure 6, but the Y axis has been reversed to emphasize the data for the months this company experience a net loss.

  • Figure 8

    New to 2.4 is the ability to select only one column in a regular text document, OCR scan or log file. Here, the BLK feature is turned on and only the portion of the text needed is selected.

  • Figure 9

    Tables, such as this, that include both first and last names in the same column aren't nearly as effective as tables that include an individual column for each piece of data.

  • Figure 10

    Using OpenOffice.org's new conversion features allows you to take text and split it across several columns in a table. This allows you to create tables such as this from the one shown in Figure 9.

  • Figure 11

    In the Text to Columns dialog, you can choose to separate text in one column across several columns by Fixed Width or by a number of separation delimiters, such as tabs, commas, spaces, and so on.



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