Wednesday December 29, 2004 (08:00 AM GMT)
The OpenOffice.org suite has
positioned itself as a
competitive alternative to proprietary products such as Microsoft
Office and Corel's WordPerfect Office. One of OpenOffice.org's more
advanced features is its ability to access external data sources from
within its applications.
repositories abound in both users' desktops and in a company's IT
infrastructure. OpenOffice.org offers access to a whole gamut of data
sources, ranging from standard OBDC/JDBC connection capabilities to
localized access into text files, spreadsheets, and address books.
The real highlight in being able
from OOo into a data source lies in its robust GUI for consulting and
performing comprehensive searches. Users can make SQL-based queries or
simple sort/filter searches and use the retrieved information within
text documents or spreadsheets.
You configure OOo to access
external data via the
Tools > Data Sources... menu option. When you select this, a pop-up
window with two panes appears. The left side contains a list of access
points, while the right pane contains the parameters for configuring
the name, type, and location of each data source.
Let's see how this works by
search on data that is common to most users' desktops: the address book
of a mailing application. Since OpenOffice.org is an open source suite,
if you use it, chances are good you are a free software buff, so we'll
work with the Mozilla Thunderbird email client. OOo can also access
Outlook or LDAP address books.
From the drop down list appearing
in the Data Sources... pop-up window, select the
option, followed by the
Mozilla Address Book appearing
under the Data source URL menu. The final URL should show
Once you have the definition in place, select
and proceed to selecting the tab named Tables, which should show two
items, Collected Addresses and Personal Address Book, both of which
represent Mozilla's underlying address book structures.
By observing this information on
tab, OOo is effectively connecting to the data source. This same tab
would be populated with corresponding source data structures if you
were connecting to a relational database or other repository.
Now can proceed by selecting the
Queries tab and the
New Query(Design View) icon, which brings up a separate window for
defining our search terms.
The bottom half of this last
window will contain a
series of cells, each one used for defining a queries characteristics
on the data source. Each row defined on the first line -- declared as
-- will have a drop-down menu containing the fields on the selected
data source table. In our case, it will contain First Name, Last Name,
Email, City, State, and all the other fields as defined in the Mozilla
The fields defined on the first
row will be
used for representing a top-level filter on our query, while the lower
rows are employed for providing more granularity to the results, such
as its sort order or a specific filter function. With the query
defined, you can execute it from the top Edit menu, or save it for
later reuse. Depending on your search terms, you should get a result
set containing a list of organized names or terms extracted directly
from your address book.
Daniel Rubio is the principal
Osmosis Latina, a firm specializing in enterprise software development,
training, and consulting based in Mexico.