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on March 22, 2008 at 1:42:14 pm


Generating IPA in OpenOffice.org


          (Writer, Calc, Impress, Base)


OpenOffice.org is available for just about all versions of Windows, MacOS and Linux and is a free download from OpenOffice.org. To go to the OpenOffice.org download page click here.


You can insert IPA characters into any OpenOffice.org application using the system method under General stuff to know about IPA on the main page for your operating system (click on one of the icons in the sidebar to go to the main page for your operating system). Many users do this as their normal method. But if you just need to insert an occasional character it may be easier to use the Insert Special Character feature of OpenOffice.org than to insert it with the system method above.


To do this in Writer, Calc or Impress, go to Insert > Special Character. A window will pop up showing characters and it will be set by default to Verdana or some other font that you are probably not using. Therefore, the first thing to do is use the drop-down to set the popup window to the IPA font you are using. (Tip: Click on the Font drop-down, then type the first letter of the font you are using, which will pop the Font drop-down directly to your font.)



To the right of the font drop-down you will see "Subset" and another drop-down. This drop-down will start out with "Basic Latin" (see above) and with the drop-down you can see other Unicode subsets - "Latin-1," "Latin-Extended-A and -B," "IPA Extensions," "Spacing Modifier Letters," and "Combining Diacritical Marks." There are more in the drop-down, but these are the ones you will be most concerned with. There is also a scroll bar on the character display and you will note that the Subset drop-down will change as you scroll down.


If you select a character in the display you will note a number in the lower right corner of the popup window. In the display above it says "U-0020 (32)," which is the code for space character, which you will note is selected by default when you open the Insert Special Character popup.) For the first 255 it will show the hex code followed by the decimal code (0-255) in parentheses. Characters with decimal numbers above 255 will just show the hex code. If you are going to use the character a lot you might find it easier to take note of the decimal (if on Windows) or the hex code (MacOS and Linux) and then insert the character as described under General stuff to know about IPA on the main page for your your operating system (jump to the page for your operating system with the icons in the sidebar).


One cool feature of the Insert Special Character feature is that you can select multiple characters and paste them all at once. As you select character(s) they will appear to the right of "Characters:" in the lower left corner of the popup window. You could, for example, create a transcription for an entire sentence all at once. You still have to hunt and peck in the display window to find the characters, but at least you don't have to reopen the Insert Special Character popup window for each character.


Sometimes you are working on a document where you will need only half a dozen different IPA characters or fewer. A trick that some people have used for such a situation is to insert all the characters at once and set them at the top of your document. Then copy them all to the clipboard and when you need one, paste them all and delete the unwanted ones.


Another trick that some people use is to define the IPA characters in the Autocorrect utility. To do so go to Tools > Autocorrect, and click on the Replace tab. You will see a long list of typos and spelling errors in a column on the left and the correction in a column to the right. OpenOffice.org comes with several hundred of these, but you can add and delete as you wish. To make a new entry type a couple of characters that will never occur in the real world but that are still mnemonic for the character into the Replace box. For example, for the eth you might enter "d-." In the With box to the right enter the eth, using Insert Special Character or any of the above methods, then click on the New button. Now, whenever you type "d-" followed by a space OpenOffice.org will automatically insert the eth. Of course, you need to keep track of what special combinations you used for the different IPA characters, but if you aren't going to need more than a few of them this may be the best method for you.



These instructions work for Writer, Calc or Impress. But if you need to use Base you have a problem: Databases do not save data in characters above decimal 255. So if you have such a massive amount of data that you need to hold it in a database, you will have to use a workaround. The best way is just to make up some weird combinations of letters that would never occur in the real world and use such a combination for each IPA character you want. Eventually you will pull your data out of the database file, probably as a merge into a document in Writer, Calc or Impress. After doing so you can just do a global find and replace for your weird combinations. You could record multiple find and replace actions into a macro if you will need to do it a lot.



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