OpenOffice

What it is

An OpenOffice extension that allows you to insert your own accented and special characters. It works in OpenOffice Writer so is available for all text documents. It's indispensable if you write in more than one language, and invaluable even if you work only in English (as long as you would like to be able to write résumé or Götterdämmerung or Łódź or use «» or ± or °C in your work without struggling to insert the non-English characters).

What it does

Say you want to write the word café . Normally, to insert the character é (e acute) you can either enter Alt+0233 on the numeric pad (remembering to keep NumLock on) or open the Insert menu, select Special character on the sub-menu, then search through the table and click on the letter é. All very time-consuming and error prone.

With this extension installed, you would type e', position the cursor after the apostrophe, then press a shortcut key combination such as Ctrl+shift+z (or some other shortcut of your choosing - I've reassigned F7 and it works beautifully) and the two characters would be removed and replaced by the single letter é.

This is nice and easy to remember and almost impossible to get wrong, but best of all, there are many more letter pairs available – about 180 at the moment. These are just a few of them:

In fact, most European languages using a Latin alphabet are covered, including such oddities as the Turkish dotless ı and the Spanish upside down question mark ¿ and the German double-s ß and the Icelandic thorn Þ and so on and so on. The latest version also includes most upper and lower case Greek letters, and some common mathematical symbols. The full list of current combinations is given in the Release Notes.

Even better is that you can edit the table in the extension yourself to remove characters you'll never use and add new ones that are particularly useful to you. For example adding the mathematical function sign would be just a matter of inserting say 'fu' and its symbol 'ƒ' in the table, and it's there whenever you need it.

Note that this functionality cannot be provided by the OpenOffice autocorrect function. This only operates on whole words, and does a conversion every time it finds the matched characters, even when you don't want it to. The extension operates only when you tell it to, and can operate anywhere in a text document even in the middle of words.

Conventional Character Combinations

These are the current conventions for character pairs:

If you make changes I would recommend trying to stick with this scheme or invent a good consistent one of your own - there's no point in having something that's so difficult to remember you have to use the normal lookup table anyway.

Limitations

Language

The provided set is intended to cover all the languages of the European Union that use a Latin alphabet, and Turkish. I believe there may be gaps in Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian, which I'm unable to check. The various digraphs such as the Czech 'ch' are not included either as I'm not sure how they are used – in all text, or only in typeset text (like the English ae). Some of the input pairs may not be optimal for native speakers, for example I simply had to guess a combination for the Icelandic letters eth and thorn.

Apostrophe and Quotation Marks

Because the extension relies heavily on the single and double apostrophe, for instance to make acute and grave characters, it is advisable to turn off Custom Quotes in OpenOffice. Otherwise OO will substitute an opening or closing quotation mark for the straight apostrophe before this macro is invoked, which will not then be able to find the resulting pair in the conversion table.

To make up for the lack of real quotation marks, they are now available in the table, so that '\ becomes ‘, '/ becomes ’, "\ becomes “, and "/ becomes ”, which gives explicit control over the type of quotation mark used.

Needless to say this results in a further complication. If your language uses different quotation marks you may need to amend these entries – just be aware of the problem and it's easy to fix.

Installation

The extension is found here: accentuate and installation instructions are in the Release Notes. It should work for all versions of OpenOffice.

Changing and testing the macro

Testing is easy – just type in a known pair, press the shortcut key, and if it changes to what you want, it works. If you've made significant changes to the table it's probably wise to do a fuller test eg make sure that the first and last pairs both still work and that all your changes are correct, but it's a very simple piece of code and it shouldn't take more than a few minutes to confirm everything's OK.

Making changes is done through the Tools+Macros+Organise Macros+OpenOffice.Org Basic menu sequence then selecting accentuate and pressing Edit. Most changes will just be to add another character pair, remove some redundant ones, or change the mapping to something you find more convenient.

Don't put comments in the table – oo Basic doesn't like it.

Don't forget to save the file when you've finished making changes!

If you want to change the code that's fine, but you're on your own and don't need help from me. If you do anything interesting, let me know.

Suggestions

The provided set is intended to cover all the languages of the European Union that use a latin alphabet, and Turkish. I believe there may be gaps in Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian, which I'm unable to check. The various digraphs such as the Czech 'ch' are not included either as I'm not sure how they are used – in all text, or only in typeset text (like the English ae). Some of the input pairs may not be optimal for native speakers, for example I simply had to guess a combination for the Icelandic letters eth and thorn.

I'd be pleased to receive corrections, but please make sure they are correct – I don't want to spend a lot of time trying to sort out abstruse linguistic issues myself. Evidence supporting a suggested change would be a good idea.

Gaps in the table are less important, but rational suggestions would also be appreciated.

Last update of this site 20080928