Applies to openSUSE Leap 42.1

8 LibreOffice: The Office Suite


LibreOffice is an open source office suite that provides tools for all types of office tasks such as writing texts, working with spreadsheets, or creating graphics and presentations. With LibreOffice, you can use the same data across different computing platforms. You can also open and edit files in other formats, including Microsoft Office, then save them back to this format, if needed. This chapter contains information that applies to all of the LibreOffice modules.

8.1 LibreOffice Modules

LibreOffice consists of several application modules (subprograms), which are designed to interact with each other. They are listed in Table 8.1. A full description of each module is available in the online help, described in Section 8.10, “For More Information”.

Table 8.1: The LibreOffice Application Modules




Word processor application module


Spreadsheet application module


Presentation application module


Database application module


Application module for drawing vector graphics


Application module for generating mathematical formulas

8.2 Starting LibreOffice

To start LibreOffice click Applications › Office › LibreOffice.

The following chapters cover individual LibreOffice modules:

Chapter 9, LibreOffice Writer

Introduces LibreOffice Writer.

Chapter 10, LibreOffice Calc

Introduces LibreOffice Calc.

Chapter 11, LibreOffice Impress, Base, Draw, and Math

Introduces LibreOffice Impress, Base, Draw, and Math.

In the selection dialog, choose the module you want to open or which file type you want to create. If any LibreOffice application is open, you can start any of the other applications by clicking File › New › Name of Application.

You can also start individual LibreOffice modules from your main menu. As an alternative, use the command libreoffice and one of the options --writer, --calc, --impress, --draw or --base to start the respective module. Find more useful options with --help.

Before you start working with LibreOffice, you may be interested in changing some options from the preferences dialog. Click Tools › Options to open it. The most important ones are:

LibreOffice › User Data

Insert your user data like company, first and last name, street, city, and other useful information. This data is used in LibreOffice Writer for annotations, for example.

LibreOffice › Fonts

Offers mappings from one font name to another. This could be useful, if you exchange documents with others and the document you received contains fonts that are not available on your system.

Load/Save › General

Contains loading and saving specific options. For example, you can choose whether to always create a backup copy and which default file format LibreOffice should use.

To learn more about configuring LibreOffice, see Section 8.7, “Changing the Global Settings”.

8.3 Compatibility with Other Office Applications

LibreOffice can work with documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and databases in many other formats, including Microsoft Office. They can be easily opened like other files and saved back to the original format. If you have problems with your documents, consider opening them in the original application and resaving them in an open format such as RTF for text documents.

In case of migration issues with spreadsheets, however, it is advisable to always save them as Excel files. Use the Excel format as an intermediate format. The CSV format can work, too, but you will lose all cell formatting. CSV sometimes also leads to incorrect cell type detection for spreadsheets.

8.3.1 Converting Documents to the LibreOffice Format

LibreOffice can read, edit, and save documents in several formats. It is not necessary to convert files from those formats to the LibreOffice format to use those files. However, if you want to convert the files, you can do so. To convert several documents, such as when first switching to LibreOffice, do the following:

  1. Select File › Wizards › Document Converter.

  2. Choose the file format from which to convert.

  3. Click Next.

  4. Specify where LibreOffice should look for templates and documents to convert and in which directory the converted files should be placed.

    Documents retrieved from a Windows partition are usually in a subdirectory of /windows.

  5. Make sure that all other settings are correct, then click Next.

  6. Review the summary of the actions to perform, then start the conversion by clicking Convert. When everything is done, close the Wizard by clicking Close.

    The amount of time needed for the conversion depends on the number of files and their complexity. For most documents, conversion does not take very long.

8.3.2 Sharing Files with Users of Other Office Suites

LibreOffice is available for several operating systems. This makes it an excellent tool when a group of users frequently need to share files and do not use the same system on their computers.

When sharing documents with others, you have several options.

If the recipient needs to be able to edit the file

Save the document in the format the other user needs. For example, to save as a Microsoft Word file, click File › Save As, then select the Microsoft Word file type for the version of Word the other user needs.

If the recipient only needs to read the document

Export the document to a PDF file with File › Export as PDF. PDF files can be read on any platform using a PDF viewer.

If you want to share a document for editing

Agree on a common exchange format that works for everyone. TXT and RTF formats, although limited in formatting, can be a good option for text documents.

If you want to e-mail a document as a PDF

Click File › Send › E-mail as PDF. Your default e-mail program opens with the file attached.

If you want to e-mail a document to a Microsoft Word user

Click File › Send › E-mail as Microsoft Word. Your default e-mail program opens with the file attached.

Send a document as the body of an e-mail

Click File › Send › Document as E-mail. Your default e-mail program opens with the contents of the document as the e-mail body.

8.4 Saving LibreOffice Files with a Password

You can save files, no matter in which LibreOffice format, with a password. Note that this offers limited protection only. For stronger protection, use encryption methods as described in Book “Security Guide”, Chapter 11 “Encrypting Partitions and Files”. To save a file with a password, select File › Save or File › Save As. In the dialog that opens, activate the Save with password check box and click OK. After you have typed and confirmed your password, your file will be saved. The next time a user opens the file, he will be prompted for the password.

To change the password, either overwrite the same file by selecting File › Save As or select File › Properties and click Change Password to access the password dialog.

8.5 Signing Documents

You can digitally sign documents to protect them. For this you need a personal certificate, similar to an HTTPS certificate. You can either create a self-signed certificate or choose to get one from a Certificate Authority.

When applying a digital signature to a document, a kind of checksum is created from the document's content and your personal key. The checksum is stored together with the document.

When another person opens the document, the checksum will be generated again. The new checksum is then compared to the original checksum If both are equal, the application will signal that the document has not been changed in the meantime.

To add a certificate to LibreOffice, you need to use Firefox. Start Firefox by selecting Applications › Internet › Firefox. Go to the certificates preferences by opening the menu (the button with the three-lines icon), then select Preferences › Advanced › Certificates › View Certificates. Add your certificate by selecting Your Certificates and clicking Import and then locate your certificate.

To sign a document, first open it in LibreOffice. Then select File › Digital Signatures › Sign Document. Select the certificate you want to use for signing, then click OK.

openSUSE Leap allows you to access certificates from the certificate store. For more information, refer to Book “Security Guide”, Chapter 12 “Certificate Store”.

8.6 Customizing LibreOffice

You can customize LibreOffice to best suit your needs and working style. Toolbars, menus, and key combinations can all be reconfigured to help you more quickly access the features you use the most. You can also assign macros to application events if you want specific actions to occur when those events take place. For example, if you always work with a specific spreadsheet, you can create a macro that opens the spreadsheet and assign the macro to the Start Application event.

This section contains simple, generic instructions for customizing your environment. The changes you make are effective immediately, so you can see if the changes are what you wanted and go back and modify them if they are not. See the LibreOffice help files for detailed instructions.

To access the customization dialog in any open LibreOffice module, select Tools › Customize.

Customization Dialog in Writer
Figure 8.1: Customization Dialog in Writer
Note: Further Information

Click Help for more information about the options in the Customize dialog.

Procedure 8.1: Customizing Toolbars
  1. In the customization dialog, click the Toolbar tab.

  2. From the Toolbar drop-down box, select the toolbar you want to customize.

  3. Select the check boxes next to the commands you want to appear on the toolbar, and deselect the check boxes next to the commands you do not want to appear. A short description for each command is shown at the bottom of the dialog.

  4. With Save In, select whether to save your customized toolbar in the current LibreOffice module or in the current document. If you decide to save it in the LibreOffice module, the customized toolbar is used whenever you open that module. If you decide to save it together with the current document, the customized toolbar is used whenever you open that document.

  5. Repeat to customize additional toolbars.

  6. Click OK.

If you want to switch back to the original settings again, open the customization dialog, click the Toolbar drop-down box and select Restore Default Settings. Click Yes and Reset to proceed.

Procedure 8.2: Showing or Hiding Buttons in the Toolbar
  1. Click the arrow icon at the right edge of the toolbar you want to change.

  2. Click Visible Buttons to display a list of buttons.

  3. Select the buttons in the list to enable (check) or disable (uncheck) them.

Procedure 8.3: Customizing Menus

You can add or delete items from current menus, reorganize menus, and even create new menus.

  1. Click Tools › Customize › Menus.

  2. Select the menu you want to change, or click New to create a new menu.

  3. Modify, add, or delete menu items as desired.

  4. Click OK.

Procedure 8.4: Customizing Key Combinations

You can reassign currently assigned key combinations and assign new ones to frequently used functions.

  1. Click Tools › Customize › Keyboard.

  2. Select the keys you want to assign to a combination.

  3. Select a Category and an appropriate function.

  4. Click Modify to assign the function to the key or Delete to remove an existing assignment.

  5. Click OK.

Procedure 8.5: Customizing Events

LibreOffice also provides ways to assign macros to events such as application start-up or the saving of a document. The assigned macro runs automatically whenever the selected event occurs.

  1. Click Tools › Customize › Events.

  2. Select the event you want to change.

  3. Assign or remove macros for the selected event.

  4. Click OK.

8.7 Changing the Global Settings

Global settings can be changed in any LibreOffice application by clicking Tools › Options on the menu bar. This opens the window shown in the figure below. A tree structure is used to display categories of settings.

The Options Window
Figure 8.2: The Options Window

The settings categories that appear depend on the module you are working in. For example, if you are in Writer, the LibreOffice Writer category appears in the list, but the LibreOffice Calc category does not. The LibreOffice Base category appears in both Calc and Writer. The Module column in the table shows where each setting category is available.

The following table lists the settings categories along with a brief description of each category:

Table 8.2: Global Setting Categories

Settings Category




Various basic settings, including your user data (such as your address and e-mail), important paths, and settings for printers and external programs.



Includes the settings related to the opening and saving of several file types. There is a dialog for general settings and several special dialogs to define how external formats should be handled.


Language Settings

Covers the various settings related to languages and writing aids, such as your locale and spell checker settings. This is also the place to enable support for Asian languages.


LibreOffice Writer

Configures the global word processing options, such as the basic fonts and layout that Writer should use.


LibreOffice Writer/Web

Changes the settings related to the HTML authoring features of LibreOffice.


LibreOffice Base

Provides dialogs to set and edit connections and registered databases.



Defines the default colors used for newly created charts.



Allows configuring a proxy and the e-mail software to use. You can also enable viewing LibreOffice documents in Firefox.


Important: Settings Apply Globally

All settings listed in the table apply globally for the specified applications. That means, they are used as defaults for every new document you create.

8.8 Using Templates

A template is a document containing only the styles—and content— that you want to appear in every document of that type. When a document is created or opened with the template, the styles are automatically applied to that document. Templates greatly enhance the use of LibreOffice by simplifying formatting tasks for a variety of different types of documents.

For example, in a word processor, you can write letters, memos, and reports, all of which look different and require different styles. Or, for example, for spreadsheets, you could use different cell styles or headings for certain types of spreadsheets. If you use templates for each of your document types, the styles you need for each document are always readily available.

LibreOffice comes with a set of predefined templates, and you can find additional templates on the Internet. For details, see Section 8.10, “For More Information”. If you want to create your own templates, this requires some up-front planning. You need to determine how you want the document to look so you can create the styles you need in that template.

A detailed explanation of templates is beyond the scope of this section. Procedure 8.6, “Creating LibreOffice Templates” only shows how to generate a template from an existing document.

Procedure 8.6: Creating LibreOffice Templates

For text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings, you can easily create a template from an existing document as follows:

  1. Start LibreOffice and open or create a document that contains the styles and content that you want to re-use for other documents of that type.

  2. Click File › Templates › Save as Template.

  3. Choose a directory to save the image in by double-clicking one of the directory names.

    If you are in a subdirectory and want to go up again, use the path bar displayed above the directories.

  4. From the toolbar, choose Save.

  5. Specify a name for the template.

  6. Click OK.

Note: Converting Microsoft Word Templates

You can convert Microsoft Word templates like you would convert any other Word document. For more information, see Section 8.3.1, “Converting Documents to the LibreOffice Format”.

8.9 Setting Metadata and Properties

When exchanging documents with other people, it is sometimes useful to store metadata like the owner of the file, who it was received from, and a URL. LibreOffice lets you attach such metadata to the file. This helps you track metadata which you do not want to or cannot save in the content of the file. This feature is also the basis for later sorting, searching and retrieving your documents based on metadata.

As an example, we assume you want to set these properties to your file:

  • A title, subject, and some keywords

  • The owner of the file

  • Who sent you the file

To attach such metadata to your document, proceed as follows:

Procedure 8.7: Setting Properties
  1. Click File › Properties. A dialog opens. It has, among others, the following tabs:


    Insert your title, subject, keywords and comments as you like.

    Custom Properties

    Custom properties specify the editor, owner, publisher, received from, and other useful metadata.

  2. Change to the Description tab and insert title, subject, and your keywords.

  3. Switch to the Custom Properties tab.

  4. In the Name row, click the drop-down box of an unused entry (for example, Info 1). A list of properties appears, from it, choose Owner.

  5. Insert the name of the owner in the Value row.

  6. Repeat the previous step with the Received from property and a suitable value.

  7. If you want to add more than four properties, use Add to add another row.

  8. Leave the dialog with OK.

  9. Save your file.

8.10 For More Information

LibreOffice contains extensive online help. In addition, a large community of users and developers support it. The following lists shows some places where you can go for additional information.

LibreOffice Online Help Menu

Extensive help on performing any task in LibreOffice.

Home page of LibreOffice

Official question and answer page for LibreOffice.

Taming LibreOffice: books, news, tips and tricks.

Extensive information about creating and using macros.

Various templates for creating labels with LibreOffice.

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