OpenOffice.org is a fantastic office suite for most translators. It’s free, it’s stable, it’s localized into many languages that the proprietary companies will never touch …there’s a lot to love. For a long time, the only feature of OO.o that I’ve found problematic (other than the fact that its macros are not compatible with Microsoft Office macros, and that’s not really OpenOffice’s fault) is the difficulty of inserting special characters such as accented letters. By default, OpenOffice requires you to go to Insert>Special Character and then insert the character of your choice if you want to type something that’s not on the keyboard.
To give Microsoft Office credit where credit is due, it has very simple keyboard shortcuts for inserting an accented letter. Even if you don’t translate into a language that makes copious use of accented letters, the keyboard shortcuts are still useful. For example although I translate exclusively into English I e-mail clients in French a good deal of the time, and although I’ve created an OpenOffice keyboard shortcut to pop up the Insert>Special Character dialog box, it still takes a lot of time and keystrokes to insert those letters when I’m typing in French.
There are a couple of workarounds for this issue. You can install a US International Keyboard layout and use it as needed. If you’re lazy, (I’m ashamed to admit how often I do this) you can save some time by copying the most commonly used accented letter (in French this would be é) and pasting it when you need it. Or (drum roll) you could check out this web page by Bill Hibbert, which includes an OpenOffice macro that will enable you to assign shortcuts to all sorts of special characters that use marks such as acute accent, circumflex accent, tilde, umlaut, inverted question mark, etc. Once you install this macro, you would for example type e’ and then a keyboard shortcut you assign, and the é would appear.
From reading this extremely helpful web page I am guessing that Bill Hibbert is not a translator? Why? Because this page is in a section of his website entitled “Boring Tech Stuff,” and I’m guessing that most translators who use OpenOffice will find Bill’s page nothing short of fascinating… Thanks, Bill!