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I Beat OpenOffice Into Submission

It really shouldn't be this hard.

Michael David Crawford, Consulting Software Engineer

June 25, 2008

Copyright © 2008 Michael David Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

You will be happy to know that after many trials and tribulations I got all my free CD requests entered into an Open Office.org database, and printed them all out on Avery address labels.

I was very nervous when, after many test prints on plain paper, I loaded the label sheets into my printer to print the real things. The labels are expensive, and I had so many to print that I'd have to buy another batch if this try failed.

But I was very happy and relieved when they all came out OK.

But it took the latest 3.0.0 Beta, which is only available on Mac OS X for Intel Macs. The PowerPC Beta, an older revision, wouldn't work at all. Even so the Intel Beta still had some bugs, but I was able to work around them. Details within.

And OOo crashed when I exited after printing the labels.

Download OpenOffice.org - Free!

OpenOffice.org is an Open Source office productivity application. It includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database, and programs for graphics and presentations.

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The Mac OS X version is still in Beta testing. You can download it from here if you'd like to try it, but because the Mac version is not yet considered reliable, you should back up your data frequently.

The two problems I commonly encountered were that the print job dialog wouldn't appear, so no print could be made, or only about forty of the seventy-odd addresses would print.

I found this last very strange: if I could get it to print at all, it would only print some of them, but the same ones every time.

The latest Intel Beta would print all the addresses, but it printed them in the wrong place. It placed a very large margin at the top, so that the bottom row of addresses didn't fall on a label.

I discovered that the paper was being set to the wrong size. But when I set the paper to Letter size, what was two columns of five labels was changed to a single column, so the right-hand column wouldn't be used.

I realized that this must be because the label template had the wrong measurements in it, or perhaps there was some rounding error. The original erroneous paper width was 8.55", wider than US Letter's 8.5". OOo must have decided there wasn't room for the right-hand column.

I got it to work by reducing the horizontal pitch a little bit.

The addresses were also being printed right at the top of the labels. Small errors in paper feeding could cause some of the text to be cut off, so I added a tenth of an inch to the top margin.

That was the last adjustment needed; after a test print I printed the real labels.

It's going to take some time to get all the CDs packed in their mailers, as there are over seventy to send. I also have to fill out a bunch of customs declarations by hand, as I was unable to find any kind of software that could print the declarations from a computer.

I expect I'll get them all in the mail Friday morning.

Now that I seemed to have worked out the process completely, I'll mail a batch whenever I get a total of ten requests - that is, ten addresses to fill one sheet of mailing labels. It shouldn't be hard to keep up with that.

One reason I've taken so long to get to this point is that I had such a big backlog of requests that I couldn't afford the postage. I've finally got enough in my budget to just make this batch.

I'm going to add PayPal and Amazon donation buttons to my Free CD page, for those who want to help with postage, but I'll make it clear that it's not necessary. No one will be turned away for not donating.

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