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Open Office
Brief Notes on Upgrading to a Newer Version

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 ®, 11/08-11/10.

Brief notes on upgrading an Open Office installation to a newer version _______________

In a nutshell: When I went from a 2.2.1 installation to version 3.0.0, the upgrade went without hassle. (And from 3.0 to 3.1.0. And 3.1.0 to 3.2.0) I didn't uninstall my old Open Office first, but during the install of the new version, old program files, etc... but not data... were cleared away for me. Marks out of ten? Ten!

The machine I had this happy experience on runs Windows XP, SP3. I did the 2.x to 3.0 upgrade 28 November 2008, and the 3.0 to 3.1 sometime before 7/09. I've now done upgrades many times. The latest was on 12 Oct 10, on a Windows XP system, from 3.1.0 to 3.2.0, UK English. I used the "standard" download, complete with JRE.

A few details from the October 2010 upgrade: My "Start Menu" retained the old "Open Office 3.1" folder, but it was empty. A new folder, "Open Office 3.2" was created with the shortcuts I would need. An old shortcut which I would not have expected to work DID... and yes, it really did... in other words it opened the old app in the new Open Office. It Just Worked. I didn't even have to re-boot Windows! After I had the new version up and running, I went to "Tools"/ "Extension Manager" and did "Check for Updates". (My Oracle (previously known as "Sun") Report Builder was out of date... possibly nothing to do with my upgrade of the underlying Open Office. I upgraded to version 1.2.1. (A quick test with an old database turned up an interesting anomaly.... in one (not every) instance, dates in a report were expressed as if I were in Israel! Ah, the "joys" of computers. Bah. But it mostly worked.)

There ARE a FEW gotchas, though, which may catch some people. Explained later.

And now for the story in more detail...

First, I backed up any files that I didn't want to lose, if things went wrong. Also, I would not have embarked on this upgrade if, say, I was also using the computer to prepare tax returns in the same week. While I was confident that the upgrade would go well because of earlier experiences with Open Office, any time you make changes to a computer, you can come out of the attempt with a dead machine. One that won't do the new things yet, but will not do what it did before anymore, either.

Backing up my important files entailed creating copies someplace other than on the hard drive I was going to affect while updating my Open Office suite.

Blow- by- blow account, with commentary

These details come from an instance of upgradine from before my 3.1 to 3.2 upgrade, but that upgrade (Oct 2010) went rather like what follows.

I started by making sure my system was online, with a broadband connection. (The download was 142MB) CDs are available!

Closed all open apps.

Started ooWriter.

Before I go further, let me reassure you that the path we are taking does remove your old OpenOffice... which is what I recommend.

I clicked on the menu's "Help" item, and from the sub menu clicked on "Check for updates". (I did not use "Tools | Update"... that is for updating a document within ooWriter, to bring it in line with things it is linked to in external files.... I think.)

ooWriter did a check, and came back with "New update available, click OK to open the download website."

Around about this part of the process, you may wonder if Open Office had noticed that you already have an older version installed. Everything you see, for a long time, looks like things look when you are installing your first version of Open Office. Fear not, all will be well.

Selected "Releases" link

Clicked "Download 3.0.0- English (US) edition". This was the best stable version available at the time. If you want UK English, fear not. The download is poorly labeled. It includes the UK English dictionary. And Spanish. And French. AND A JAVA UPDATE!) (In October, 2010, when I went for an upgrade, I was offered a "GB" (British) version... which is what I wanted. (And that came with a US dictionary as well as the British dictionary. Within a document, you can set individual paragraphs to use either. You can also switch the whole document to whatever spellcheck dictionary you want used.)

(I was using Firefox for this.. which may be relevant to....)

A "You have chosen to download..." window came up, with "Open with.." AND "OK" grayed out. However, when I clicked on "OK" anyway, it changed from grayed out to working, and a second click on the now-enabled "OK", started the download. I've been seeing this fairly regularly; it is not unique to OpenOffice downloads.

When the download had finished, I closed everything.

Used Windows (not Internet) Explorer (WindowsKey-E) to access my downloads folder, dbl-clicked on the file I'd downloaded.

Clicked lots of "Nexts", but did deviate from the defaults to do a "custom" install...

When the install was complete, I did have to clean up some old self-created shortcuts to old version. (Properties will help you see which are obsolete)

There were some nicely named scraps of my OO 2.x installation left in C:\Program Files.. but most of that structure had been emptied. The new stuff was in C:\Program Files\ 3. The scraps were minimal, so I left them in place in case they were important.

There was an OO ver 3 shortcut on my desktop, which I double-clicked, even before rebooting the system. This led to a normal and moderate set up sequence... establishing some basic settings. I was invited to register, and I said "okay", Nothing came of it, at first, but then I spotted the message from my firewall (underneath things) asking if it was okay. I said yes, and registering was easy. I just gave the website my Sun account user name and password, and I got a message saying words to the effect of "Done, thanks".

As I said, the "US English version" OO ver.3 update INCLUDED the UK English, the Spanish and the French dictionaries.

If you want to get rid of any of them, use "Tools | Extension Manager".

Gotchas ?

First Gotcha: First something that I hope is obvious: If you have two machines, one on 3.x and the other still on 2.x, and you develop something under 3.x, don't expect to be able to open the .odb file you creates with 3.x on the 2.x machine. (The changes in the database from 2.x to 3.x were fairly extensive. I've opened, say, old Writer documents with newer versions of Open Office many times. And I've opened databases with ooBase 3.2 even when they were created a while back, probably with ooBase 3.0)

Second Gotcha: a little less obvious:

Rmember that you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs... or getting obnoxious program bloat, as demonstrated by a certain large corporation which thinks more is always better.

With 3.0 and 3.1, the database module of Open Office, already very usable, became even better. Sundry little niggles (all right.. bugs and shortcomings!) were tidied up.

Before 3.0, you couldn't store macros inside your .odb file, except, briefly, within a form... but that macro wasn't then available to other forms in the database. During 3.0, you couldn't even do that. Because we were moving to the Brave New FIXED World of 3.1, and now you can save macros within the .odb file, properly.

If you had macros saved in your PC, as part of your OO installation I would guess they still work. If you had them in forms, those macros will have to be re-written.

Anyway, not everthing above will apply to every ooBase database, because the things I've mentioned are so arcane.

(There's more on macros in ooBase at my pages on the subject.)

Third Gotcha: There have been a few reports of ooBase being slower after an upgrade to 3.1. I haven't heard of a case that wasn't resolved by getting the computer's JRE up to date.

Some specific experiences

In the summer of 2011, I had, on one XP SP3 machine a solid OO3.0.0 installation. I went to update that, and the usual "Help | Check For Updates" returned- several times- "Checking for Update Failed". No big deal. I just went to and fetched the then current (3.3.0) version from there, double-clicked on the 151 MB I'd downloaded, and clicked "Next, next, next..." I had to shut some other programs I wanted to work with during the install, but other than that, it went reasonably. Old shortcuts, in a non-standard location, still worked, which I appreciated.

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