How to Use Excel in OpenOffice

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If you've used Microsoft Excel, it won't take you very long to adjust to OpenOffice Calc, the spreadsheet component of OpenOffice. Calc supports files saved in Excel (.xls) format, and you can use Calc to open all versions of Excel files. You can even save files as older (pre-2007) Excel files, but as of May 2011, Calc could not export to the Excel 2007 .xlsx format.

  • Click "Start," type "Calc" into the search bar and then click "OpenOffice Calc" to launch the software. At first glance, you might have a hard time telling the difference between Calc and pre-2007 versions of Excel -- the menus and toolbars are very similar, and the main spreadsheet window is practically identical. At the bottom of the screen, Calc displays the three default spreadsheets for your project, labeled "Sheet1," "Sheet2" and "Sheet3."

  • Click in an empty cell to enter information. You can enter anything into any cell, but Calc understands some kinds of input to have special meaning. For example, if you enter a date using words and numbers, such as "May 18, 2011," the program may reformat the date to fit a numerical pattern (used for collating information). You can delve into the advanced settings at any time to change how information displays; simply click "Tools" and then "Options."

  • Click "File" and choose "Open" to select an Excel file to open using OpenOffice. Browse to the location of the .xls file and then double-click it to open it. If the file opens without an error message, you can be confident that all of the components and formulas from the Excel spreadsheet are supported in Calc. Likewise, Calc will tell you if a component didn't load correctly. For basic users, this won't be a problem. Most compatibility issues come from spreadsheets with complicated macros.

  • Add the information you need or modify the spreadsheet as you desire. Calc works just like Excel. OpenOffice provides users with a 400-page manual in PDF format to cover the complexities of the program, and like everything else in the OpenOffice collection, the manual is available free of charge (see Resources).

  • Click "File" and "Save As" to export your spreadsheet. By default, Calc will try to resave the file with an OpenOffice extension. Users of Excel 2007 with Service Pack 2 can open Calc files, but any older versions of the Excel software aren't compatible with .ods files. Choose "File Type" at the bottom of the save window and select "Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet" to save the Calc file in a compatible format.

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