Introduction to StarCalc


Sun StarCalc is a spreadsheet application used to process business and financial transactions of various kinds.


To carry its various tasks, StarCalc organizes each one of its workbooks into worksheets. You can have just one worksheet in a workbook or you can have a lot of worksheets in a workbook.

When StarCalc starts, it is ready to receive your instructions. The application opens with an empty document, impressive and quite unfamiliar the first time you launch it. If you are new to this kind of spreadsheet application, you will feel comfortable in no time.

Meet Sun StarCalc

In Microsoft Windows, to start StarOffice 5.2, from the Taskbar, click Start -> Programs -> StarOffice 5.2 -> StarOffice 5.2.

If using in Microsoft Windows, to start StarCalc, click Start -> (All) Programs -> -> Spreadsheet.

In Linux, I recommend you create a shortcut on the desktop. For example, I use Red Hat 7.1. On the top left section of the desktop, you should have a shortcut called Home Directory. If you don't see it, from the Taskbar, click Start -> Programs -> File Manager. Whether you double-click the Home Directory shortcut or you open the File Manager, it should open a window whose title bar displays (because my login name is jezoo) /home/jezoo. Under this directory, you should see a folder called office52. Click it to select it. In the right frame, you should see a shortcut named soffice. To create a shortcut, press and hold Ctrl, drag the soffice shortcut to your desktop, then release Ctrl.

If you are using StarOffice 5.2, after launching it, from the main menu (Windows or Linux), click File -> New -> Spreadsheet.

If you are using StarOffice 6.0, launch StarCalc by clicking Start -> Programs -> StarOffice 6.0 -> Spreadsheet.


If you are using StarOffice 6.0, or OpenOffice, the applications have been separated and each can be launched at its own time.


For the remainder of this site, unless specified otherwise, I will use and all instructions will be given as if you were using the Spreadsheet application of You should be able to follow, regardless of the version of StarOffice you are using.

From now on, on this site, unless specified otherwise, I will refer to StarCalc as the spreadsheet application that is present on all versions of StarOffice including

StarCalc is a classic computer application. On top of the application, you see the title bar with a small icon on the left side. Right to this system icon is the name of the program, in this case, StarOffice 5.2. The application's name is followed by the workbook's name, Untitled1.

StarCalc identifies each one of its files as a workbook, and by default, a starting document in Sun StarCalc is called Book1.
The name of the application and the name of the workbook in StarOffice 5.2 display as follows: StarOffice 5.2 - [FileName]
The names of the application and that of the workbook in StarOffice 6.0 and OpenOffice display as: FileName - StarOffice

StarOffice 5.2 is a Multiple Document Interface (MDI), which means that you can open more that one file, more than one workbook, inside the application. Therefore, if you create or initialize more than one workbook in StarCalc, subsequent workbooks would be called Book2, Book3, BookX.

  1. To see what you can do with the title bar, double-click on the title bar, for example on the right side of the word Untitled; that will restore the application.
  2. To maximize the application, double-click the title bar again.
  3. The File menu allows you to create either a new StarOffice document or to perform of the multiple operations common to computer applications. For example, you can use the File menu to save the current workbook, to close the current file, or to configure or initialize printing.
    To see the File menu, click File
  4. Besides the File menu, there are other menu items that allow you to do many other things. For example, while the File menu is still displaying, position the mouse on Tools, move the mouse down and click Options.
  5. From the Options dialog box, click General.
  6. Click the Spreadsheet link
  7. Click Layout or View
  8. Click Cancel.
  9. There are various categories of menus in StarCalc (and in most other applications). Let's review five of the most popular.
    a) A menu that stands by itself will perform a simple action, some of those actions even occur behind the scenes, sometimes giving you the impression that nothing happened when you clicked them. Examples of such menus can be found under Edit.
    To see an example, on the main menu, click Edit -> Copy
  10. Notice that (apparently) nothing happened. In later lessons, we will find what happens with some of these actions.
  11. b) There is another category of menu: those that have three dots on their line. The three dots on the menu indicate that this menu requires an intermediary action. As a result, most menus that display three dots would call a dialog box when you click them.
    To see an example, click File, observe that the Open... sub-menu has three dots, just like the Save As..., the Print..., and the Print Settings...
  12. To see an example, on the main menu, click Data and notice the various sub-menus with three dots. Click Validity...
  13. Click Cancel.
  14. c) Some menu items have a right pointing arrow. You don't need to click these menus, the arrow means that they have a sub-menu; just position your mouse on them and you will have access to the sub-menu.
    To see an example, on the main menu, click File, then position your mouse on New. Observe the various sub-menus.
  15. Position the mouse on Send and observe the sub-menu. To dismiss the menu, click File again.
  16. d) Another category of menu consists of one that is gray. A gray menu indicates that the action that is associated with it is not possible at this time; therefore, the menu is disabled. Such a menu would depend on another, intermediary action.
    To see an example, on the main menu, click Insert and position your mouse on Manual Break.
  17. Notice that the <No selection position> item is gray. Click it to see that nothing would happen.
  18. e) The last category of menus have either a check mark or a radio button. A check mark on the menu usually indicates that the item is displaying at this time. Such a menu allows you to toggle the appearance and the disappearance of the item with which it is associated.
    To see an example, on the main menu, click View and click Status Bar.
  19. Notice that the Status Bar has disappeared.
  20. On the main menu click View -> Status Bar to redisplay the Status Bar.
  21. Once again, on the main menu, click View and position your mouse on Toolbars.
  22. Whether a menu falls under one of our categories or not, some menu items display a combination of keys on their line, these are shortcuts. A shortcut is a key or a combination of keys that you press (simultaneously) to perform an action.
    To see some of the shortcuts, on the main menu, click Edit and notice the shortcuts on Cut or Copy
  23. Whenever you have opened a menu by mistake or you simply want to get rid of it, you usually can click somewhere else or the same menu.
    To cancel the open menu, press Esc.
  24. To perform a single key shortcut, you can press the corresponding key. To perform a shortcut that is a combination of keys, you will press and hold the first key, then press the second key once.
    To see a shortcut in action, notice the name of the workbook on the title bar (it might be Untitled2); press and hold Ctrl, then press N once, and release Ctrl.
  25. Notice that this shortcut calls the New dialog box (in StarOffice 6.0 or OpenOffice, Ctrl+N will create a new workbook. If you are using StarOffice 5.2, click Cancel.
    From now on, if I ask you to press Ctrl + O, I mean press and hold Ctrl, then press the letter O once and release Ctrl.
  26. Some shortcuts can be seen on the menu. Some others are hidden or they universally apply to all applications that run on the operating system.
    To see an example, and to close the current workbook, press Ctrl + F4 (Ctrl + F4 is an operating system's shortcut, it is used to close a (child) window). If you are asked whether you want to save anything, click Discard.
    If necessary, maximize the current workbook.
  27. Under the menu bar, the Function bar provides some of the most regularly used actions performed on the main menu. A bar or toolbar provides the same actions you would perform from the main menu, only faster, so that instead of going through the menu to save a workbook, you can just use the Save button.
    On this tutorial, each toolbar is called by its name. To know the names of toolbars, right-click a button on any toolbar to display a list.

    Since there are various buttons and sometimes they are unpredictable, to know what a particular button is used for, position your mouse on top of a button, a small yellowish box appears and lets you know what that particular button is used for, that small box is called a tool tip. You can also use context sensitive help to get information about a button.
    To see how this works, position your mouse (don't click) on the button that looks like a floppy disk, and keep it there for two seconds .

  28. After seeing the tool tip, move the mouse to another button to observe other tool tips.
    In this tutorial, every button on a toolbar is named after its tool tip. For example, when the mouse is positioned on top of the button that looks like a floppy disk, the tool tip that appears displays Save Document. Therefore, that button will be referred to as The Save Document Button.
  29. To use context sensitive help and find out about a button, press Shift + F1, then position your mouse on the button that looks like a floppy disk. Observe that this time, the tool tip provides more information.
  30. While the context-sensitive help is still active, position your mouse on the button that looks like an open folder:
  31. Press Esc to dismiss the context-sensitive help.
  32. Under the Function bar, there is another toolbar called the Object bar. This second toolbar offers the formatting features that we will use as we move along. Its buttons also provide tool tips and respond to context sensitive help. Besides other buttons, the Object bar is equipped with combo boxes, and each combo box can display an appropriate tool tip.
    Position the mouse on the first combo box on the Object bar and observe the tool tip. 
  33. Under the Object bar, there is another toolbar called the Formula Bar. It is made of three sections.
    a) On the left side you see a white box displaying a name like A1, that small box is called the Sheet Area. Position your mouse on it and observe the tool tip.
  34. b) On the right side of the Sheet Area, there is a button that looks like a keyboard.
    Position your mouse on it. The tool tip displays AutoPilot: Functions; and that is what we will call it.
  35. Still in the middle section of the Formula bar, there is another button with a Sigma sign.
    Position your mouse on it to find out that we will call it the Sum button.
  36. The last button on this section presents an = sign; that = is not the = sign, it is indeed a button and it is called the Function button.
    Position your mouse on it and observe the tool tip.
  37. c) On the right side of the Function button is a long empty white box or section called the Input Line.
    Position your mouse on it and observe the tool tip. 
  38. Under the Sheet Area and on the left side, there is another toolbar called the Main Toolbar.
    To toggle it, on the main menu, click View -> Toolbars -> Main Toolbar.
  39. Notice that the main toolbar has disappeared. To bring it back, click View -> Toolbars -> Main Toolbar.
  40. On the right side of the Main toolbar, there are gray boxes called rows. Each row is labeled with a number, starting at 1 on top, then 2, and so on. There are 32000 rows available.
    Under the Formula bar and especially under the Input Line, there is another series of gray boxes with letters such as A, B, C, D, etc. Each one of these boxes is called a column. There are 255 of them. 
    The main area of StarCalc is made of cells. A cell is the intersection of a column and a row. A cell is identified by its name and every cell has a name. By default, StarCalc appends the name of a row to the name of a column to identify a cell. Therefore, the first cell in the top left corner, which is the intersection of column A and row 1, is named A1. The name of a cell always displays in the Sheet Area. To see different cells names, find the cell that intersects a column and a row.
    For example, press the down arrow key and observe the Name Box.
  41. On the right side of the cells area, there is a vertical scroll bar that allows you to scroll up and down in case your worksheet cannot display everything at a time.
    Click and hold the down pointing arrow of the vertical scroll bar for a few seconds, then release it.
  42. Press Ctrl + Home to return to cell A1. 
    On the lower right section of the main window, there is a horizontal scroll bar that allows you to scroll left and right if your worksheet has more items than can be displayed all at once.
    To experiment with it, click and hold the right pointing arrow on the horizontal scroll bar for a few seconds, then release.
  43. Press Ctrl + Home.
  44. On the left side of the horizontal scrollbar, there are the worksheet tabs. By default, StarCalc provides three worksheets to start with. You can work with any of them and switch to another at any time. You can also delete some worksheets or add other worksheets as your work needs more or less. You can also change the names of worksheets anytime to suit their purpose.
    Click Sheet2, click Sheet3, click Sheet1.
  45. On the left side of the worksheet tabs, there are four navigation buttons. If you happen to use a lot of worksheets or the worksheet names are using a lot space, which will result in some worksheets hidden under the horizontal scroll bar, you can use the navigation buttons to move from one worksheet to another. 
    Under the navigation buttons and the worksheet tabs, the Status Bar provides a lot of information about the job that is going on.
    From now on, I will refer to a StarCalc spreadsheet as a workbook; sometimes, I will use the name spreadsheet.
  46. Close StarCalc without saving anything.


The button on top of the application on the left side of the StarOffice 5.2 name is called the system icon. It is different on both MS Windows and Linux but it serves the exact same purpose.



In reality, neither application of the StarOffice suite seems to be a Multiple Document Interface (MDI). Each appears to be its own Single Document Interface (SDI). This means that, whenever you start a new application (including a new workbook), it is as though you had launched an application (such as StarCalc) anew. Therefore, in any version of MS Windows or Linux, each file (each workbook) would have its own button on the taskbar.



















































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