Free, easy, quick, great PDF creation: Try OpenOffice

keywords: free software, opensource, OpenOffice, grantwriting

I try to give credit where credit is due.

I have written before about using OpenOffice (version 2.4) for “real professional work.” In an earlier post, I wrote about successfully writing an entire grant application using OpenOffice for wordprocessing and figure creation in conjuntion with Zotero for references (and the grant was funded, so…).

PDF creation from OpenOffice (use “Export to PDF” in the File menu) simply works great. It is very fast and the pdf quality is excellent. One note – it does not open the pdf automatically – it just stores the file – so pay attention to this. This works much better than printing to a pdf using the Adobe PDF printer or using the Microsoft Office 2007 export to pdf functions (which, besides being slow, caused Microsoft Office to crash occasionally on my machine).

Also, before I forget, I really like OpenOffice Draw for scientific figure creation – I use it a lot in my work and I have been quite happy with it. I’m using Microsoft Office a fair amount now, but I still use draw to make figures. I’ve used Zotero and Draw for well over a year now, with fairly intense use.

Note: This is almost entirely based on using OpenOffice 2.4. The current version is 3.0, which I just downloaded.

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2 Responses

  1. I use OO.o daily & have used OO.o Draw for making figures which have appeared in print, but there are a lot of things frustrate me about it & I’m more inclined to use inkscape. The continued lack of SVG support in draw is frustrating. I don’t think the renderer in OO.o draw is as good, as images made in other programs don’t seem to import as well into it. It also seems to be much easier to keep an all- or mostly- vector workflow in Inkscape (even with the ability to trace imported bitmaps).

    Do you have tips for Draw that make it work better for you?

    Agree with you on Zotero. The one big piece they’re really missing is the ability to collaborate on the bibliography of a paper with other writers without using the work-around of having identical databases. I still use it, but if I can’t be more collaborative with coauthors, it is sometimes difficult to lure me away from LaTeX.

    • I’ve produced some very nice figures using Draw – figures I would show with pride in any context.

      I mostly use it to make multipanel figures as in importing various images from other programs and then doing things like resizing/cropping, arranging, and adding text and some other basic annotations (like overlaying arrows and shaded boxes to highlight regions of an image). I usually export from other programs as PNG or TIFF (TIFF for high quality) and then import into Draw. For what it’s worth, I save in the native .odg format. This is probably not hugely helpful.

      I don’t think this counts as really doing vector-based work, so maybe my usage has been pretty simple. That said, this is what I need it to do and it is much, much nicer to do it this way than using Microsoft Powerpoint for figure creation of this type or using Adobe Photoshop or anything like that. Draw makes it pretty quick and easy to get some nice results (for my usage).

      Thanks for the recommendation as to inkscape.

      As to Zotero – I find collaborative work on a manuscript (usually grants recently) also a problem. But my big problem is different. In “my world”, everyone uses MS Word, so when I convert to word format, bad things tend to happen with my references. Ironically, people tend to use Word 2003 and I now partially use Word 2007, so this is even a problem when I use Word because of version incompatibility. Recent Zotero versions seem to work better and faster now.

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