Well, there are a lot of different layouts. One of the layouts is the default US keyboard layout in OSX. I believe it is called "USA Macintosh," and all the diacritics needed for French are there. It is not the same as the "US International" keyboard layout on Mac, which I loved. I personally work with a custom keyboard layout that I designed for the easy inclusion of all the diacritics needed for the transliteration of semitic languages. This was based on the 'USA Macintosh' layout which was already in my computer. Unfortunately, there is not any GUI tool yet for the creation of custom keyboards.
Originally Posted by ron177
However, this site is very helpful when it comes to that, and it is not difficult to understand the config files you will be editing, though they may look intimidating at first sight.
If you want a 'real' French keyboard, there are a lot of them out there, with different variants for personal preferences and national differences. I believe there is "French Macintosh" as well, if that is what you are used to. I always like the Swiss keyboard layouts, since they all the accents are easily accessible, but the layout is overall much closer to English.
As far as Persian, I don't have a clue, but you can always modify one of the preexisting layouts in the computer to suit your preferences.
Their are many fonts available in the software center. That seems to be the easiest way to install them, and they should all appear in OOo automatically. I use mostly Linux Libertine, and it is there, though I don't know if it supports Arabic characters. I'm sure there are some nice Arabic fonts there that support the special Persian characters, but I really have no experience with that.
There is a package in the software center called "ttf-mscorefonts-installer." This will get you the basic fonts that come installed on an MS system, including Times New Roman. You can be sure that any Windows user has these fonts.
Now, if you want to install a font that you downloaded yourself and isn't in the software center, it can a little more of a pain. When you double click the icon, it opens up in a font viewer, and you have th option to install. When you click install, it copies the file to the appropriate place in ".fonts" inside your home folder (the period at the beginning of the name makes it invisible most of the time. If you want to see all of your hidden folders, you can toggle them with ctrl+h. You can also create hidden files and folders yourself, simply by starting the name with a period).
The problem is that not all programs check the user fonts when they load, and some of them only open the system-wide fonts which are stored in "/usr/share/fonts". I don't remember if OOo was one of these programs or not, but it may have been. I know GIMP was one. In any event, you will have to put any fonts you want system-wide in the correct folder in this directory (usually the Truetype folder, if the extension is ttf). This is kinda a pain, since it's a system folder, and you need root privileges to modify it's contents (which is a good thing, but it makes the whole process more difficult).
to do this, hit ctrl+f2 to open the gnome command prompt. From there, you type:
gksu nautilus /usr/share/fonts
"gksu" allows you to preform a command with root privileges, and opens a prompt for the administrative password. "nautilus" is the name of your file browser, and the last bit is, of course, the target folder.
I actually have a custom menu item with the command "gksu nautilus /" so I can access admin privileges more quickly from the gui.
BUT, be very careful when using the windows that this pops up. Anything you delete is deleted forever, and you can now modify all of your system files, which is generally not something you want to do. You can seriously jack up your computer from here. Also, you don't need admin privileges to open and copy files from system folders into your home folder, and it is not a good idea to do so, because they all get copied with root-only permissions when you do that, which is not what you want. Use a normal browser for that stuff.
Anyway, once you are in /usr/share/fonts, move the font file into the appropriate folder, and it will be accessible in every program and to every user. I install every font that is not available from the software center this way.
As far a dictionaries (and I mean spell-check dictionaries), OOo extensions can be gotten here, and that includes dictionaries. There will doubtless be many options for French spell checking (and thesaurus), as there are for German. I don't know about Persian, but I found two for modern Hebrew, so I guess it ought to be there. They are generated by the community, so I guess it depends on if enough Persian speakers use the program. Of course, if you are talking about Old Persian or something like that, I doubt you will find anything. I haven't had any luck with Aramaic or Akkadian either .
If you mean dictionaries where you look things up, there are obviously always on-line dictionaries, and there are several decent off-line dictionary programs for Linux. I happen to like one called "GoldenDict" which supports most open source dictionary formats. It still can be difficult to get modules for less common languages, however. I found some good stuff for Arabic and Latin, but no Hebrew. Again, I can't say about Persian. That't not really OOo's thing, however.
OOo handles rtf just fine. The question is whether rtf can handle OOo. rtf is basically one step up from pure text. You can do text formating and images (now, I think), but I don't believe it supports more sophisticated paragraph formating needed for footnotes and bibliographic entries (at least not Chicago style). I'm not sure it even supports double spacing. It definitely doesn't do table of contents or things like that. It's just formated text.
About sharing and accessibility, you mentioned odt being one of the formats you use frequently. I wonder if it is completely accessible to not only MS Word users but also those in other platforms. I always assumed that rtf is the most accessible of all formats. No? Does OOo export or save in rtf pretty neatly?
 I played around with RTF a bit because of your question, and it seemed to do a pretty good job, actually. My diagrams didn't show up, but everything else looked great. Perhaps it's worth giving a shot to see how it works for your needs.
If you don't need any of that other stuff for your shared documents, then rtf will be fine, but if you do, it doesn't matter which program you use, because it's not part of rtf, or at least it wasn't a few years ago when I was playing with it.
OOo usually does a pretty good job exporting to .doc formats, especially docx, and those retain pretty much all of the complex formating. You would just have to find out if any of the specific formating you use gets lost in the export.
A final note here is that you have to turn on right-left text formating for it to really work properly, which I guess you will need for Persian. you have to go to Tools>Options and then you will get a dialogue. In the menu on the left there is a place for "language settings" and under that go to the entry called "languages."
At the bottom there is a check box that says "Enabled for complex text layout (CTL)."
Check that box. Then, in the section that says "Default languages for documents," you can go to CTL, pull down the menu, and there is an entry for Farsi.
If you restart the program, you should have text direction selectors in your formating toolbar. They look like the "beginning of paragraph" symbol with little arrows next to them. This allows you to change the text direction of the paragraph and all the punctuation behaves as it is supposed to. If the icons don't show up, you can add them quite easily, but I think they show up.
You can open the options again, and this time there will be an entry called "Complex Text Layout" with a few nice options (one that lets you change the cursor behavior form logical to visual, for example).
On the options dialog, there is also an entry for "OpenOffice.org Writer," and there will be two entries for basic fonts. One is for western languages, so you can choose whatever you want for you defaults, and the other is for your CTL font. Here you will choose whatever font works best for your Persian.
I haven't used Kword, but I know some people like it. I know OOo is more powerful, but perhaps Kword is sufficient. I really don't know. Abiword is fast and slick, and it does footnotes, and I can also usually get my bibliography right in it. But, as far as indexing styles for certain types of text, and generating a table of contents, I don't think it does that kind of stuff, at least not the last time I used it.
Finally I would love to hear your experience with other world processors. Have you tried Kword and AbiWord at all? What do you think of them?
One thing you might consider if sharing documents is very important for you is using Google Docs. While Docs isn't quite as powerful as Word or OpenOffice, I think it is better than Abiword, and your colleagues will definitely see exactly what you see, and be able to edit documents and all of that. I believe that it supports user-defined styles to some extent as well, but I'm not sure. Zoho also does on-line document editing stuff, and they might be better, but I haven't tried it. Google docs can export to doc, odt, rtf, pdf, and some others as well, but I am not sure how well it does it. I know it has some difficulty importing odt and doc format.
Of course, that doesn't matter if you just do everything in Google Docs. The trick is that you must be on-line for it to work. I think, one day, when there is Internet everywhere, and the Google Docs platform has been developed a bit more, it will be the way we work with shared documents. It's already pretty great, since anyone with a browser can use it, it looks the same in every browser, the multi-lingual support is already there, and Google's spell-checking is some of the best out there.