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Writer’s Tools for OpenOffice: Awful

Writer’s Tools for OpenOffice is supposed to be a collection of useful tools for writers available in an easy-to-install extension, manifesting itself in-program as an extra menu. What it is is terrible.

To begin with, it doesn’t install properly. Many of the options are totally dependent on a specific database being linked to OpenOffice. Well, it doesn’t link for me. I tell OpenOffice where the database is, hit “OK”, and the database disappears again. Whether this is the fault of Writer’s Tools or OpenOffice, I don’t know. What I do know is that either way this issue should have been addressed as a disclaimer or warning or even as an FAQ somewhere, so users wouldn’t have to deal with this. At the very least an extension should install.

So I can’t talk about the entirety of Writer’s Tools, but I can tell you what I’ve been able to work with, and it isn’t encouraging me to fix this problem:

  • Lookup Tool: gives too many options about where to look up the selected word – everything from Wikipedia to WordNet to a quotations book. It’d be more efficient to give me a Google page at this point.
  • Google translate: requires me to manually input the path to the default browser. Inexcusable.
  • Show on the map: ditto.
  • Every single backup option: virtually useless; you have to back up manually, so really, it’s almost the same thing as hitting “Save As” twice. You’d be better off writing a script. (Double the WTF points are awarded to the “multi format backup”, which “saves the currently opened Writer document in the Word, RTF, and TXT formats”. Why would you ever…)
  • Start/Stop timer: runs off popups, doesn’t keep a running timer anywhere, ugly, stupid.
  • Shorten URL: actually works flawlessly. Bravo.
  • Visual word count: requires you to manually input your goal every time you use it (which can only be a number of words, not, say, pages or lines or paragraphs or any other measurement) and only gives you a popup with a percentage and a progress bar. You can’t edit the document while the window is open. This would have been really neat as part of the status bar or as a toolbar, or at the very least, something that updated in real time. Instead it’s just shit.

Writer’s Tools reminds me of some of the basic Java programs I had to code in the first few classes I ever took of computer science. It’s convoluted, clunky, and overall useless (unless you want to shorten your URLs, that is).

As if this isn’t enough, the extension’s author actually charges $9.95 if you want to read the user manual. Let me make this perfectly clear: the extension’s author, who made an open source extension, charges you almost ten dollars to read the manual. The manual, by the by, is a physical book that is shipped to your home. Oh yeah, it’s also offered as an eBook for $5.95, but what he advertises incessantly (on the Google groups page, the extension page, even the goddamn menu itself) is a physical book.

So you’ve coded an extension on par with a CS student’s homework assignment, and then you have the bloody nerve to create an actual book about it that you expect people to pay real money for? People buy books about operating systems, office suites, programming languages… Dmitri Popov, do you really think your extension is at the same level as these?

Anyway, terrible extension, stay far away from it. If you can point me towards a more useful OOo extension, please do!