is a free set of electronic office applications that give you the ability to perform all of the document handling that you need. Comparable to commercially sold applications, the suite of applications has gained millions of satisified users since being released into the public domain by Sun Microsystems. Oracle corporation took over Sun and has been the sponsor. Since OpenOffice was trademarked in the Netherlands, the proper name is but it is popularly known without the ".org".

OpenOffice Draw PDF File ImportCredit: Javrsmith

While the various applications are each fully capable of handling many of the tasks needed in a modern office, OpenOffice does a great job of importing PDF files into Draw. Once in the application, you may alter text or add to it, add graphical elements, resize items and change text fonts. This functionality was present in older versions of Draw but with version 3.3, it has become very useful. The actual PDF import is handled by an application extension developed by Oracle. Considered to be a "Beta" version until OpenOffice 3.3, this tool has become very popular with many computer users.

The PDF import extension is not designed to defeat various protection mechanisms built into certain documents. It can, however, provide editing support to people who wish to modify PDF files that are no locked. Draw now has the ability to export PDF as do the other OpenOffice applications. When working with an imported PDF, Draw can save changes in a new hybrid file type. This gives the designer maximum flexibility when working with these changed documents. Often, however, just importing and saving the document in the native OpenOffice ODF format will work well for most purposes.

With all of the functionality built into the OpenOffice applications, many options are available for document creation. For a simple visitor sign in sheet, for example, Write, Calc, Draw or Impress could be used. Each gives the user the ability to set up a title and a repeating series of lines in a fillable form. If the data is to be keyed in electronically, Write would be the best option. If the form is to be printed and then filled out by hand, Draw would possibly be the best option. The choice will come down to personal preference and experience. Most people will use Write more extensively than the other applications so that tool may be the best for a simple form. Some people, such as bookkeepers or accountants, use spreadsheet programs like Calc extensively. These people will find it easy to set up a form in Calc. Others may be used to drawing or presentation programs for most business functions. For them, Draw or Impress could be used to create the simple visitor sign in sheet. There are many options with OpenOffice and remember, every component is free for anyone to use for any purpose.

Another useful aspect of OpenOffice is the level of support that is available. There are many published books, blogs and how to articles that can help people overcome problems. There is also a support site and a very active community of users that can assist with issues encountered in any of the applications. Support is available in many languages, (as are the applications), but the primary language is English. Beginners can find tutorials, wiki texts and examples that can be searched to find a solution to an encountered task. If in doubt, Google can be searched for OpenOffice questions and the answer should be easily found.

As one noted reviewer mentioned, the problems with OpenOffice are more with the learned behavior of users rather than with the application itself. Others have mentioned that it is far cheaper to use OpenOffice, perhaps 10% of the cost of upgrading to the latest commercial product. As the applications are free, the only costs incurred would be labor and training materials, of course. Check out the free OpenOffice applications. While you may find yourself using them for all of your documents, you should find the PDF import file functions to be extremely useful.