So, I came up with a more interesting take on a character, but I’m very far along in the outlining process and said character has a lot of scenes mixed in with the even larger number of scenes in the book without said character. I wanted to somehow look at all their scenes to make sure that this character wasn’t doing anything out of character for their new . . . character. Ahem. Anyway. As I use a spreadsheet to outline, this should be easy, right? I tried using Search with their name, and that did let me find where they appeared, but I wanted a way to see only their scenes, all together, in order. I sorted by plot and chapter and scene, but then what? That’s when Standard Filter entered the stage.
Filters are part of Calc’s Data features, and they appear with Sort on the Data menu (for ease-of-use, I have added buttons to the standard toolbar for ‘Sort’ and for ‘Standard Filter’ and for ‘Remove Filter’). As its name implies, Standard Filter allows you to filter data in a range based on one to three criteria (you can do up to eight with Advanced Filter). It also automatically selects relevant data just like Sort which I described in a previous post. After opening the Standard Filter window, I selected the data column I wanted, in this case Scene Description, selected ‘Contains’ as the condition, and then typed in character’s name. On the next criteria row, I selected OR, then I again selected Scene Description, set condition to ‘Contains,’ and typed in the possessive form of character name (with apostrophe s). After a quick glance through the results, I brought up the filter window again, clicked on the ‘More’ button for more options, and checked Case Sensitive. This particular character’s name is part of several words and thus rows were being left that had nothing to do with this character because those words are in several scene descriptions. That taken care of, everything was perfect. I could now read through all of that character’s scenes one after another to make sure they were acting, doing, and thinking as they should based on their new characterization!
Ah, but once I am done with that, how to get the outline back to its all-inclusive nature? As you may have guessed from my comment about how I customized my toolbar, you merely click into the filtered data and use the Remove Filter choice on the Data menu. In some versions of OpenOffice, Remove Filter might not be available unless you have no range of cells selected. Simply click on any cell to clear a selection.
Note that removing a Standard Filter also removes its filter settings. Thus, if you want to filter again at some point, you have to re-enter all the criteria again. If you find yourself using certain filters over and over, then you need the Advanced Filter feature. It lets you set up filter criteria in another part of the spreadsheet or on a spreadsheet on another tab. Merely copy your header cells (Plot, Chap, Scene Description, etc), paste them in the spreadsheet where you want (make sure to leave a row and column gap between your book outline data and anything else!), then enter the criteria in the cells below that pasted header row. This filter data will remain until you delete it. Criteria in rows are matched with OR, while criteria in columns are matched with AND. So, if I wanted to search for scenes that had Anaya AND were before chapter 9, I would have one criteria row with Anaya under Scene Description, and <9 under Chap. If I wanted to search for all scenes with Anaya OR Aeron, I would have two rows, one with Anaya and one with Aeron, both under Scene Description. Once your criteria are set up, go back to the Advanced Filter window, click the Selection button, select your criteria rows and columns (including the header row), and, optionally, tell Calc where you want the results output, then click Ok. If you do not give an output location, the data itself is filtered. Again, you can choose Remove Filter to see all the data, if you use this option.
So there you go. If you, too, use a spreadsheet to outline, this is a pretty nifty way to filter out what you don’t need to see at the moment and focus on just the scenes you want, even if those scenes are part of multiple plots and stuff.
Important Postscript: OpenOffice Calc has an option setting (Tools->Options->OpenOffice Calc->Calculate) called ‘Search criteria = and <> must apply to whole cells.’ In words this means when looking for an equal match, or a not equal match, compare against ALL the text in a cell at once. If this option is checked, then Calc will filter using ‘whole cell equals criteria,’ instead of ‘cell contains criteria.’ So in my last example, the only rows that would be returned are those in which the Scene Description cell has ONLY ‘Anaya,’ or ‘Aeron’ in it, and in my actual spreadsheet that would return an empty result. This makes advanced filtering useless for me, so I turned that option off and everything worked as expected.