Side-by-side box plots provide a visual display of the 5-Number Summaries (minimum, first quartile, median, third quartile, maximum) of multiple sets of data. Most spreadsheet software does not have a built-in way to create box plots, but one can write programs (called "macros") to make them. Here is a link to an OpenOffice Calc file that is set up to allow the user to enter data and create box plots and histograms.
Download the file by right-clicking on the link and choosing save. After you've downloaded it, open the file and come back to this page. As you open the file, you may be prompted with a security warning asking if you want to ENABLE or DISABLE macros. Choose ENABLE. Now go open the file and come back. We'll wait.
If you'd rather see a screencast (about 7 minutes) explaining the rest of this process, watch this.
If you weren't prompted with the security warning, you need to make sure macros are enabled in OpenOffice Calc. To check, from the TOOLS menu, select OPTIONS. On the left-hand side of the dialog box, choose SECURITY. Click on the MACRO SECURITY button and, in the next box, select MEDIUM (if LOW was already selected, the macro should work with no changes; MEDIUM is a safer setting than LOW). Now, every time you open a file containing macros, OO Calc will prompt you to enable or disable macros. If you changed the setting from HIGH to MEDIUM, you will need to close the file and re-open it. No need to save the file at this point, as you haven't made any changes to it yet. So close and re-open the file (choosing ENABLE macros when prompted) and come back to this page.
Welcome back. Notice at the bottom of the open file are tabs for 4 worksheets. The instructions in the blue box in the first worksheet (Box Plots) tell you all you need to know, but here's a paraphrase.
If you already know the 5-Number Summaries of your data sets, you can put them in place of the data in the big yellow box. Notice there is room for up to 4 sets of data. Alternatively, you can put the raw data in the columns in the worksheet labeled Raw Data. Obviously, you should delete the original data. After you've entered your own data, change the Axis label on the Box Plot worksheet (it says Pulse Rate (beats/minute), which is probably not a good description of your data!). Click on the two buttons (Get Values... and Draw BoxPlots). Go ahead. We'll wait.
If all went well, you came here from a new document opened in OOo Draw that has the box plots you want. If the labels refer to pulse rates, you forgot to change them in the spreadsheet. Fix that and any other problems you notice, and you're ready to copy and paste the graph into your OOo Writer (I have tried briefly and failed to copy the drawing into a Word document; you experiment with exporting the file, but I haven't gotten around to that yet). So open that program and come back.
Go back to OOoDraw, and from the Edit menu, choose SELECT ALL and the COPY. Now go into OOo Writer and position the cursor where you want the graph (you can move it around later) and PASTE (either from the Edit Menu, or use CTRL-v).
If you plan to include text or other graphics on the same page, you will probably want to make some adjustments to the properties of the box plot. First, set its WRAP to NO WRAP by doing the following: right-click anywhere in the graph and a menu box will appear. Choose WRAP (from about half-way down the box) and select NO WRAP. This will force text and other objects to live above and below the graph.
Now you can move and re-size the graph by clicking inside it and moving it with the left mouse button (when cursor appears as a plus sign with arrows), or grabbing one of the corner points and dragging to stretch or shrink. You can also right-click inside the graph (you might have to move the mouse around to click in the right spot) to get the menu box that includes Position and Size.
You may have to fiddle with the position and size of the graph so that your solution is nicely presented. Remember,