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Open Office Database Tutorials

Setting Up Open Office and ooBase

You may find that the database being shipped with OpenOffice (ver.2 and higher) delights you as much as it has me. This page tries to help you use it.

Forget anything you may have heard about Adabas, which came with Star Office, the commercial version of Open Office 1. The current Open Office's database, "Base", aka "ooBase", is unrelated. And remember that Open Office, including ooBase, is free! But don't let that fool you. And it's not new. Big organizations, government and civilian, are adopting it as their standard office suite... and saving million$, but still Getting The Job Done.

There's more about ooBase in the main index to this material.

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Page contents © TK Boyd, Sheepdog Software ®, 2/06-7/09.

You've just set up ooBase, and it is working.... sort of...

I'm not going to say much about how you install Open Office, which will install ooBase as one of it's components. I'm not going to say much because the process is automated well, and there are better places to seek help with installations, and because I only know about installing it on a Windows system, and you, gentle reader, may be using Linux or something else. (One of the great strengths of Open Office!)

When you have ooBase set up... sort of... (i.e. it will start, even if it doesn't work quite correctly), and if you are working on a Windows machine, then read the rest of this if your ooBase is "being weird". (You lucky Linux people won't have the problem this fixes, I don't think. Do write and tell me if that's wrong, please!?)

It may be that the problem isn't with Open Office....

This page is published to give you the following short note on an issue that some readers may need to deal with.

To use Base, your system must have a Java run time environment/ engine, aka RTE, aka JRE. Don't be put off by this... it isn't a big deal, and you may already have one.

Before you get too worried about this esoteric subject, let's take a look at one of the things which may have brought you to this page.

If you are one of the people who "can't edit" something, then let's be sure that you really "can't"... it may just be, forgive me, operator error!

If you are not familiar with the ooBase main project manager window, you might want to take a quick trip to my page about it. To edit a form you created earlier, select "Forms" in the left hand pane, right-click on the form's name in the lower right pane, click on "edit" in the menu that pops up. Another "can't edit" situation arises if you create a table with no primary key. If you've done that, you can probably open the table for edit, and make one of the fields your primary key, or add a field for the job. (The following works well: Field Name: PK, Field Type: "Integer[INTEGER]", and set the "AutoValue" property to "Yes". Having crated that field, right click in the narrow column to the left of the "Field Name" column (in the "Table Design" window). Click "Primary Key" from the menu that pops up. A right pointing green arrow and a little key should appear in the narrow column to the left of the "Field Name" column.

Neither of those ideas fix things for you? We'll go back to the Java RTE then.

The RTE is used for other things, any one of which you may have installed already, and the RTE to go with it. Much of Open Office will work without an RTE, but not Base. Also: once you have the RTE, other parts of Open Office will do more. And you won't need to go through it all again a little further down the road when you want to install one of the other things that use it.

I'm no fan of adding things to my computer's system, but sometimes something is worth the nuisance and risk. I believe that the Java RTE is an example.

Not only must you have the RTE, but it must be the right one, and Base must be using that one, not another. You may have more than one RTE on your computer. (At 7/2009, I was running OO 3.1 with JRE 1.6.0_14)

If Base just won't start, or is being weird, check your Java RTE as follows:
- Get an Open Office window open... it can be any OO component.
- Click on the menu entry "Tools"
- Click on the sub menu entry "Options"
- If the "" heading has a + in front of it, click
       on the + to make it a -, and display the tree of sub-options
- Click on "Java", and hold your breath! Don't be alarmed
       if no JAVA RTEs immediately show
- After 5- 15 seconds, you should see one or more RTEs.
If you have only one RTE on the machine, you may find that the circle (radio button) in front of it is not "filled in". I've seen OO installations in this state work perfectly well. I guess the logic is that if there is only one RTE, then OO is clever enough to just use it. You can click on it to "fill in" the radio button, just to be safe. Then, carrying on the earlier instructions....

- Select the one with a version id starting 1.5... or higher.
- Close everything.
- Try Base again! (It is unlikely that rebooting the PC will be necessary.)   :-)

What happens if you update your RTE? Well, I suppose that in theory, your Open Office installation could become confused. I've never encountered the problem myself... it seems to notice and take care of everything by itself. If I ever did have a problem, I'd be very surprised if it couldn't be overcome by the explicit "set RTE choice" instructions just given.

I hope that fixed everything for you? If not, there are many people waiting to help you in various places. The Open Office forums are excellent. If you have to post a request for help, a thread name like "Base says Error 57" is more likely to get a response than "Newbie needs help". Another good place to go is Google's groups service. If you are not familiar with the latter, you should try it. You will have to do some "panning for gold". (That metaphor is so much more encouraging than "sorting wheat from chaff", which might also be used.) There is a lot of rubbish to skim though, in order to find the flecks of gold, but there is gold there! Build your panning skills, and you may find yourself a regular user of There's more on using a newsgroup or forum at my page on the subject.

Oh yes! What if you don't have the Java RTE?

First, are you sure you don't? Go to There's a link called "Do I have Java?" which will check your system for you. You only need to pass the basic "You have the recommended... installed" test. On my machine just now, I didn't pass the "Test your Java Virtual Machine" test... but my OO is working just fine. (I suspect I failed the fancier test because my firewall or Firefox settings are "tight", to keep rogue html code neutered.)

If you downloaded and installed OpenOffice from the official site, you may have the JRE installed without realizing it. A while ago (6/2007) there was an "include the Java JRE" (another name for the RTE) tickbox on the OpenOffice suite download page. For some time now (at 7/09), Open Office has been distributed to Windows users with the JRE incorporated. Linux and Mac users will have to consult other experts for answers to what their JRE concerns should be.

If you already have a suitable Java installed on your machine before you install the OpenOffice suite, then there is no need to download the installer with Java... but you might as well fetch the JRE with your Open Office, just in case your Java is old. If you decide against this, when you go to the relevant page at the site, be sure to UN-tick the "Include the Java JRE" box, if it is still on the page when you try this. ("JRE"? Another name for the RTE.)

Some older machines may be infested with a version of "Java" that Microsoft was once distributing. For once, the courts managed to do something with them, and that "initiative" went away. I think the problem is restricted to Windows 98 machines. If you know better, and/ or can remind me of links to the un-install instructions, do please let me know? (The MS "Java" is NOT suitable for the OpenOffice suite... what a surprise.)

If you have a "too old" version of the RTE, or chose not to download the Java RTE when you download (or just forgot about it) you can install Java afterwards, as explained here.

If you don't have the RTE, for many platforms (Windows, Linux, etc) you can get it free from You go to the Java SE Downloads page, go a little way down it to the "Java Runtime Environment (JRE)" link, follow that, and collect the "Java Runtime Environment (JRE) SE Runtime Environment" which is right for your system. (You don't need the SDK.) There are good installation notes there for you. Be sure you download the right RTE for your operating system... there are versions for Windows (different flavors for 32-bit and 64-bit systems), Linux, and others.

People using Macs should look for an "about Java" page at I had a link to one here for you, but they "improved" the site, and I'm not spending my time chasing revisions for such a minor OS. The passion of Mac owners does not change the brand's market share.

Which Java RTE version should you download? Generally speaking, always try for the latest stable release. Even if the OpenOffice site is talking, say, about Java RTE 5, if Java RTE 6 is available, try that first. If you have problems, go to the OpenOffice site, or the Setup section of the OpenOffice forum, and see what people are saying about matches (or otherwise!) between different versions of the RTE and the OpenOffice suite.

If the advice on this did fix something for you, please write and tell me the "symptoms" your machine was showing? I went through all of this so long ago myself that I can't remember what my ooBase was doing before I gave it the right RTE! (Contact info just a little further down the page.)

One such person wrote in. He had a database set up, had a table, had a form. Form had a navigation bar on it.... BUT! The navigation buttons were grayed out, and he couldn't get a context menu for the navigation bar while in form design mode. See how deceptive this problem can be? You would expect a program to WORK, or NOT WORK, wouldn't you? Imagine being able to do so much without the right RTE!
From here you can return to my ooBase Tutorials main menu, or just jump to the first tutorial specific to "Base".

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