Open Office Calc for the complete noob
May 3, 2014 6:32 AM   Subscribe

I have never operated a spreadsheet in my life. I've installed Open Office Calc and need to learn how to do stuff. Whatcha got?

I've downloaded the 500-page manual. I've located this this video tutorial for beginners, which is pretty good as far as free, kind-of-rambly Youtube tutorials go. I'm aware that offers a series of training videos, but as you might guess by the fact that I'm using free software, I'm trying to keep things on the super-cheap.

Have you come across training for this software that particularly impressed you, especially for someone who has somehow made it 40 years on this planet without having to touch Excel or its many equivalents? Thanks all!
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Once upon a time, I started a new job that involved a lot of poking around the dark innards of huge Excel sheets. My manager loaned me a book that amounted to "Excel for Dummies." It was actually pretty good. I can't remember the title -- it was not actually a "For Dummies" book. Might've been SAMS Press? I'm sorry that's not super-helpful.

It might help to know what you're interested in doing first? Excel and Calc are huge 'everything and the kitchen sink' packages, so if you're looking to solve specific problems, that'd be useful info.
posted by Alterscape at 6:53 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

First off, use LibreOffice instead. It's better supported, and hasn't got a weird petulant corporation behind it.

Then there's the WikiBooks LibreOffice/Calc thing.

But as Alterscape said, whatcha need? The subject's huge. Spreadsheets are for mostly numbers. If you're doing stuff that makes the rows of the spreadsheet act like records in a card file, stop: put down the spreadsheet, and use a database like you should have all along. Yeah, they both have rows, but so do neighbourhoods and boats. Spreadsheets don't have any inherent structure, and you can move cells between rows with no restriction. This is not so great if you paste the janitor's salary onto the CEO by mistake.
posted by scruss at 7:02 AM on May 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Pasting the janitor's salary onto the CEO's name is also quite easy.

You will find that much of what's available to train you how to use Excel is also applicable to Calc: to a fairly great extent, spreadsheets is spreadsheets especially if you're just starting out with them.

There's much more Excel training material around online - Youtube in particular is crawling with it - and once you've got a basic feel for what you're doing, you'll have the vocabulary and the underlying knowledge that will make you better able to track down the Calc-specific procedures when something doesn't work just like it does in Excel.
posted by flabdablet at 7:37 AM on May 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

In a more general sense think of a task. Any task, be it personal budget, make a pie chart of favorite 80s songs by artist, temperature by days, digits of pi etc etc.....

And then just start. Between the manual, built in in-line help for formulas and just generally googling the specific problem you will rapidly make progress.

Here's your first hint:
Put a number in 2 cells. In the third cell type an = sign (how all formulas start in spreadsheets) then click in the first cell, then a plus sign then the second cell. Those steps are the basis for 80% of spreadsheet work: take manually entered data from cells, do something to it, result. Sure adding 2+2 is easy but my "buy a car, keep them honest" spreadsheet has taken me years to perfect with every variability you can think of.... You just need a project to get going.
posted by chasles at 8:34 AM on May 3, 2014

If you have never used spreadsheets before and you didn't mention the reason you're diving into them now, I'm guessing it's because you don't know what they're good at. Spreadsheets are good at taking a formula and applying it to data and spitting out the result in a way that lets you avoid having to run the same calculations at a calculator 100 times.

Google's spreadsheets app is great. It's free, it's easy to share with people, and they have abilities that Excel (and I'm guessing OpenOffice) don't.

I agree that the best way to learn is to have a project. Here are some examples for you to poke around in. Take a look at the cells with formulas in them and try to figure out what they're doing and how to apply it to your circumstances in a way that might make your life easier. Another great thing is if you have any questions you can just google "How do I [do something]" and somebody will surely have already asked and answered it for you. I'm guessing this is true for OpenOffice as well.
posted by bleep at 2:53 PM on May 3, 2014

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