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Create a Letterhead Using OpenOffice.org Writer
Pages: 1, 2

Change the Details of the Draft Letterhead

To change the letterhead, you need to work with the template, not with the letter that's open in front of you. You can change the paper size, the margins, the fonts, the paragraph spacing, and more. Here's what to do:

1. If you didn't keep a note of the name of the template you just created, you can find out what it is by choosing File -> Properties on the open letter and looking at the bottom of the General tab (Figure 3).

Figure 3
Figure 3. The Properties dialog, showing the name of the associated template

2. Close the letter without saving it, leaving OOo open.

3. To open the letterhead template, choose File -> Templates -> Edit.

You'll probably have to navigate from wherever the dialog opens to the User Template folder, where you'll find the template you just created. For example, if you are running OOo 1.1.3, your User Template folder will be .../OpenOffice.org1.1.3/user/template. Select the name of the new template (the default is letter.stw) and click on Open.

Before continuing, go into Tools -> Options and turn on paragraph ends and tabs (in Text Document -> Formatting Aids), and display text, object, and table boundaries (in OpenOffice.org -> Appearance). Having these items visible helps you understand what's going on in the template.

To see what the second page of the letterhead looks like, go to the end of the "[Please insert your text here]" paragraph and press Enter as many times as necessary to send the complimentary close paragraph to another page.

4. Press F11 to open the Stylist (Figure 4).

Notice there are five icons at the top of the Stylist, for Paragraph, Character, Frame, Page, and Numbering styles. We'll use Page, Paragraph, and Frame styles while amending the letterhead.

Figure 4
Figure 4. The Stylist

5. We'll start with page styles. Click on the Page Styles icon in the Stylist.

You should see the First Page style highlighted. Also look in the status bar at the bottom of the OOo window (see Figure 5), where one of the items in the status bar should show First Page. This is the page style for the first page of the letterhead.

Figure 5
Figure 5. Location of the page style in the status bar

Now go to the second page of the letter. Notice that the page style is Default.

If you want to change anything in the page style (the page size or the margins, for example), right-click on the style name in the Stylist and choose Modify. Notice that the Organizer tab for the First Page style shows that the next style (that is, the style for the page following this one) is set to Default.

On the Page tab, you can change the paper size, margins, and other parameters. On the other pages, you can choose a background (for example, a watermark), change the header and footer, add a page border, choose more than one column, or specify the location of footnotes. Most of these choices clearly are not relevant to a letterhead, so you can safely ignore them for now.

Make any changes you want, then click on OK to apply them.

6. Next, we'll look at paragraphs.

Perhaps you want to change the font used for the Sender's name and address. Click on the Paragraph Styles icon in the Stylist, then click on one of the paragraphs you want to change. In the Stylist you'll see a highlighted style name (Sender); you'll also see the same style name in the Apply Style box on the function bar (usually it's at the far left).

In the Stylist, right-click on the style name and choose Modify. The Paragraph Style dialog will open. Here you can change many attributes; the most likely ones are Font and Indents & Spacing. When you click on OK in this dialog, your changes are immediately applied to any paragraph with that style.

7. When you are done changing paragraphs, look at other aspects of the page layout.

Notice the gray boxes around some blocks of text. Click on one of these gray boxes. Small green squares appear along the edge of the gray box, and the cursor changes to a cross with tiny arrows at each end. The green squares (called "handles") indicate that the gray box is a text frame. (See Figure 6.)

Figure 6
Figure 6. Green handles on frame

In the Stylist, click on the Frame Styles icon. When you have a frame selected, the name of its style (in this case, Frame) is highlighted in the Stylist and shown in the Apply Style box on the function bar.

If you hold down the mouse button, you can drag the frame to another location on the page to reposition it. (For more precise control, right-click on the frame and choose Frame to open the Frame dialog, where you can change its properties.) Each frame has its own name, which you can find on the Options page of the Frame dialog.

8. If you included a graphic logo, click on it now. Notice in the Stylist that the frame style for the logo is Graphics, not Frame.

Notice also that the icons on the object bar have changed (see Figure 7). They are now icons relevant to frames and graphics, not paragraphs as they were when the cursor is in a paragraph.

Figure 7
Figure 7. The Frame/Graphics function bar

9. Now look at the right end of the object bar, where you'll see a left-pointing arrow. Click on this, and the icons change to another set for manipulating graphics (Figure 8).

Figure 8
Figure 8. Graphics object toobar

Related Reading

OpenOffice.org Writer
The Free Alternative to Microsoft Word
By Jean Hollis Weber

10. Delete all the extra blank paragraphs now, so that only the first page remains visible.

All the settings for the continuation page are still in the template, ready to be used when needed.

11. Choose File -> Save to save your changes to the letterhead template.

Now you are ready to create a letter from this template.

Use the Letterhead Template to Create Letters

To write a letter based on the template you just created:

1. Choose File -> New -> Templates and Documents.

2. In the Templates and Documents dialog, navigate to the location of the template (the folder called default) and double-click on it.

The new document will contain all the text and fields in the template. Type the contents of your letter in the appropriate place.

3. If you did not include name and address fields, you can simply type the recipient's name and address in the address block, and then save and print the letter.

If you included name and address fields in the template, you can use the Mail Merge feature to extract the information from address book database. To use Mail Merge:

1. Press F4 to open the database window. Navigate to the required database table, if you have more than one.

2. Select the address you want from the database.

If separate letters are going to several addressees, select all of the addresses by holding down the Shift key or the Ctrl key.

3. Click on the Mail Merge button near the right end of the database toolbar.

4. In the Mail Merge dialog, choose Selected records, and choose whether to print the letter immediately or save it to print later.

If saving to a file, choose a location in which to save the letter (the path) and a filename to give it. For this exercise, we'll print to a file.

5. Click on OK. Name and address details from your selected record will be inserted into the letter.

If you have not previously saved the letter itself (with fields, but not the selected recipient's name and address), you will be prompted to do so at this time, regardless of whether you are printing the merged letter to file.

6. Open one of the generated letters.

Find the date field, place the cursor just in front of it; then right-click and choose Fields. In the Edit Fields dialog, note that Date (fixed) is selected in the middle column of the screen. This setting ensures that the date won't change if you print another copy of the letter later; it will always show the date you created it.

Conclusion

That's it. You have created a letterhead template and used it to write a letter. You now have a template that you can use for as many letters as you wish. Even better, if you want to change the appearance of future letters, you can simply open the template (File -> Template -> Edit), make the changes, and save it. If you don't want existing letters to change their appearance if you reopen them, remember to choose No at the prompt "The Styles in this document do not match your current Styles. Should your current Styles be applied to this document?"

Jean Hollis Weber has worked as a technical publications consultant for the past 12 years. She has written books, taught short courses in technical writing and editing, and presented parts of graduate and undergraduate courses at several Australian universities. She maintains several web sites, including one for technical editors and one about OpenOffice.org.


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