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Creating a Personal or Company Budget with OpenOffice/StarOffice Calc

Part 1: Basics

Calc is a free spreadsheet for GNU-Linux, FreeBSD, MAC, MS-Windows, Unix, and more

Mike Angelo -- 21 December 2003 (C) -- Page 1

Article Index
OpenOffice.org Note

Due to some trademarking concerns, the OpenOffice software suite and its development organization both are officially named OpenOffice.org. However, it's lots easier to say, write, and read just plain OpenOffice rather than OpenOffice.org which is somewhat more cumbersome to say, write, and read. Thus, in this article we use the easier to deal with name of OpenOffice -- in pursuit of linguistic efficiency.

Microsoft Office & OpenOffice Licensing Note

The applicable Microsoft greedy, end-user agreements (EULAs) taken together with Microsoft's horrible Product Activation system mean that With MS Office 2003 and its product family including MS Excel, you are restricted to installing Office 2003 on only one desktop computer and one laptop computer for each copy or license for MS Office 2003 that you buy from Microsoft.

OpenOffice, including Calc, is Open Source Software and thus not only free, but you may install it on as many machines as you like.

Please see the Microsoft Product Activation Note in the right-hand sidebar in our article, OpenOffice 1.1 -- A Complete Office/Productivity Software Suite.

For more about why Linux is so much a better choice, please see our article Gaël Duval Tells Why Mandrake Linux Is Better Than MS Windows

To learn how to run MS Windows-based software and accessories in GNU-Linux, please see our article Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems

In this hands-on tutorial, you will learn how to use OpenOffice/StarOffice Calc's powerful number-crunching and financial features by creating a simple personal, family, or company budget. Previously, you learned how to use Calc to create a simple contact manager or personal information manager (PIM).

You can later apply the basic skills and principles that you learn in this tutorial to design and create all sorts of financial and accounting forms, tools, and reports with Calc. Thus you will be able to use Calc to manage and track your income, expenses and payables, receipts and receivables, bill payments, inventory, assets, debts, taxes, and lots more.

For an overview of OpenOffice, please see our article OpenOffice 1.1 -- A Complete Office/Productivity Software Suite. Also, you might find it helpful to review our OpenOffice/StarOffice Writer tutorial if you already have not done so.

Calc is the spreadsheet component of the OpenOffice.org and StarOffice office/productivity suites. It is powerful number-crunching, financial, and data-organization software. That puts OpenOffice Calc and StarOffice Calc right up there with Lotus 123 and Microsoft Excel as a major spreadsheet application.

Unlike Lotus 123 and Excel, OpenOffice Calc is free and also available for all the major computer platforms -- GNU-Linux, Free BSD, LinuxPPC, Mac OS X or X11, MS Windows, Unix, and more. That puts OpenOffice Calc way ahead of Lotus 123 and Microsoft Excel, the comparable IBM and Microsoft spreadsheet products.

StarOffice also is a multi-platform product, however, it is not free. Rather, it is a commercial version of OpenOffice, but much less expensive than MS Office. OpenOffice and StarOffice are very similar in form and function. Thus you can apply this tutorial to both OpenOffice Calc and StarOffice Calc.

Overview of Today's Calc Tutorial

In today's tutorial, let's create a simple budget with OpenOffice Calc. This budget planner and report tutorial is about Calc's use for number crunching and financial data organization and analyses. Although this tutorial is discussed in terms of OpenOffice, it pretty much applies to StarOffice also.

The purpose of today's tutorial is:

(a) to introduce people that never have used a spreadsheet for number crunching or financial analyses to spreadsheet number-crunching and financial analyses basics,

(b) to introduce people that never have used OpenOffice Calc or StarOffice Calc to Calc basics,

(c) and to help MS Excel and Lotus 123 users migrate to OpenOffice Calc.

Thus the focus of today's how-to article is on the basics of Calc's number-crunching function rather than setting up Calc and navigating it. That was covered in our Calc contact and personal information tutorial.

If you have a major GNU-Linux distribution, you likely already have OpenOffice and its Calc module. OpenOffice is included with many prominent GNU-Linux distributions.

If you are an MS Windows user you might not already have OpenOffice installed. Whichever of the above listed OSs you use; you can download and install OpenOffice at no charge to you. Download links are in the Resources section on page 3 at the end of this tutorial.

If you prefer commercial or boxed-product software to open source or free software, try the commercial version of OpenOffice, StarOffice. Sun's StarOffice is $80 for the boxed product. There is a link to Sun's comparison of StarOffice to OpenOffice in the Resources section at the end of this article.

On the other hand, Microsoft Office is very pricey. For just MS Excel 2003 alone, Microsoft's listed price is $229 (new, upgrade is $109). The Standard MS Office 2003 suite, which includes Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word, lists for $399 (new, upgrade is $239) on Microsoft's Web site. The full blown MS Office 2003 Professional suite lists for $499 (new, upgrade is $329) on Microsoft's Web site.

Additionally, MS Office and its component applications such as Excel come with very consumer un-friendly licensing and the horrible Microsoft Product Activation mechanism. For those reasons we recommend OpenOffice 1.1 and StarOffice 7 over MS Office 2003 or MS Office XP. Moreover, you can save lots of money by using OpenOffice 1.1 or StarOffice 7 instead of MS Office 2003.

Please see the Licensing and Product Activation Notes in the right-hand sidebar, above.

Figure 1, below, is a simple personal budget created to demonstrate OpenOffice Calc as a number-crunching and financial data analysis application, the OpenOffice Monthly Budget Demo. The view in Figure 1 is the finished product, as it would appear printed.

There are many budget and financial management programs readily available. However, it is very easy for you to create your own.

By using OpenOffice/StarOffice Calc to create your very own budget and financial management program, you have the advantage of being able to customize it just the way you want it. Moreover, since OpenOffice/StarOffice and its Calc spreadsheet module run on most major operating system platforms, you can open a Calc-based budget or financial management program and work with it on almost any computer system. You cannot do that with Microsoft Office or Lotus 123.

Figure 1. A simple personal budget created to demonstrate OpenOffice Calc as a number-crunching and financial data analysis application. This view is as it would appear printed. Please see text for an explanation.

Figures 2 and 3 on pages 2 and 3 show the starting and finished working views of the OpenOffice Monthly Budget Demo opened in a Calc.

The Hands-On OpenOffice Calc Tutorial

  • Getting Started

Start by opening a Calc spreadsheet and inserting OpenOffice Monthly Budget Demo in cell A1. Then set that title in 20-pt. Nimbus Sans L, bold and center it. If Nimbus Sans L is not available in your copy of OpenOffice or StarOffice, please pick another sans-serif font such as Arial or Albany.

If you know how to do all that, skip on down to the Labeling the columns or data fields section of this article on page 2. If not, please continue with this section.

To create your budget spreadsheet, first please launch OpenOffice (or StarOffice) Calc. If OpenOffice did not open in Calc when you launched it; simply click on File > New > Spreadsheet on the main menu bar.

To change fonts, go to the second drop-down box from the left in the Object Bar. That's the middle toolbar at the top of the Calc desktop in Figures 2 and 3, on pages 2 and 3. Then click on the down-arrow and scroll down until you see Nimbus Sans L. Next click on Nimbus Sans L to select it.

Alternatively you can go to the Menu bar and click on Format > Cells > Font to open the Font tab. Then in the Font selection pane, scroll down until you see Nimbus Sans L. Then click on Nimbus Sans L and then on OK.

If Nimbus Sans L is not available in your copy of OpenOffice or StarOffice, please pick another sans-serif font such as Arial or Albany.

If you are already familiar with OpenOffice Writer or StarOffice Writer, you might have noticed that this font management system almost is the very same look, feel, and procedure for changing fonts in Writer. That's because OpenOffice/StarOffice is a well-integrated suite of office/productivity applications. Well-integrated suite means that the OpenOffice/StarOffice desktop and workspace has the same underlying user-interface architecture across all the OpenOffice/StarOffice applications.

Nevertheless, there are some differences. For example the menu route to the fonts in Writer is Format > Character > Font but is Format > Cells > Font in Calc. In Microsoft Word 2000, the menu route to the fonts is simply Format > Font.

  • See Labeling the columns or data fields on Page 2 ----->
  • Article Index

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