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OpenOffice: Working with formulas

Posted in Tutorials,Ubuntu by Dennis on 7 July 2008
Tags: , , , , ,

As I am studying telecommunication engineering and I like to work with my computer, I use quite a lot OpenOffice to write pages of formulas for my projects, essays and so on. Working with formulas in OpenOffice is not difficult at all. What I want to do today is to give you some basic advice on how to work with formulas in an easy and quick way.

Supporting Formulas

First of all you have to make sure that your OpenOffice has the support for formulas. It can happen that you didn’t install it when you installed OpenOffice… some years ago maybe. It’s simply to understand if your OpenOffice can work with formulas or not. Simply go on Insert -> Objects -> Formula. If you are able to do this then everything is fine. Otherwise, if you are not able to select the “Formula” option then you have to install something.

If you are under Linux then you have to install the package “openoffice.org-math”. If you use Ubuntu you can do this in two ways:

  • By using Synaptic package manager (System->Administration->Package Manager Synaptic;
  • By using a simple terminal (Programs->Accessories->Terminal)

I’ll explain you how to do this in the second way. Open a terminal and write

sudo apt-get install openoffice.org-math

and click ENTER. You should see something like this:

now insert your password. Sudo is the command you have to use in order to (try..) to gain administrator rights on your machine. If your account (username) is among the sudoers (administrators), you will be able to install whatever you want, otherwise you will be blocked and you have to ask an administrator to install things for you.

You have of course to be connected to Internet in order to permit Ubuntu to go on a repository and pick up your package. After that the package should be installed. Close and open OpenOffice again and try to go on Insert->Object->Formula. Wow, it functions!

The formula syntax

Of course there is a syntax you have to use in order to correctly insert your formulas. The best way of quickly understand how this syntax works is try, try and try. OpenOffice will show some ? when you write something it doesn’t really like. I suggest you to have a look on this PDF File:

http://documentation.openoffice.org/HOW_TO/formula/Formula_CommandRef0_4_1.pdf

This is the official Formula Reference by OpenOffice. It contains all the symbols and stuff you can insert in your formulas.

Quick tips

Here are some quick trick you may need to know:

  • If you need invisible parenthesis use this ones: {};
  • To create a division bar write over. For example {3+x} over {e^x};
  • To insert a letter of the Greek alphabet write %nameofletter. For example %alpha, %omega, %BETA. Case matters here!;
  • For writing something just over or under something (apex position: powers and so on) try a^2, or a_2, or a^1_2;
  • If you use lots of formulas it’s boring to always go on Insert->Object->Formula. Select one formula and copy it (select the object formula, not its text). Then paste it and modify it whenever you need a new formula.

That’s it. You can have a look on this file, which is a ODT doc (OpenOffice written document) which contains some basic test I did with OpenOffice Formula: formulatest.odt

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3 Responses to 'OpenOffice: Working with formulas'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'OpenOffice: Working with formulas'.


  1. [...] arbolis: [...]

  2. sandrar said,

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

  3. Postman said,

    Great post ! I thought Open Office sucks with Formula before I stumbled to this post


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