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9 LibreOffice Writer


LibreOffice Writer is a full-featured word processor with page and text formatting capabilities. Its interface is similar to interfaces of other major word processors, and it includes some features that are usually found only in desktop publishing applications.

This chapter highlights a few key features of Writer. For more information about these features and for complete instructions for using Writer, look at the LibreOffice help or at the sources listed in Section 8.10, “For More Information”.

Much of the information in this chapter can also be applied to other LibreOffice modules. For example, other modules use styles similarly to how they are used in Writer.

9.1 Creating a New Document

There are three ways to create a new Writer document.

  • From Scratch.  To create a document from scratch, click File › New › Text Document and a new empty Writer document is created.

  • Wizard.  To use a standard format and predefined elements for your own documents, use a wizard. Click File › Wizards › Letter and follow the steps.

  • Templates.  To use a template, click File › New › Templates and choose one of the directories (for example, Business Correspondence) and a new document based on the style of your selected template is created.

For example, to create a business letter, click File › Wizards › Letter. Using the wizard's dialogs, you can easily create a basic document using a standard format. A sample wizard dialog is shown in Figure 9.1.

A LibreOffice Wizard
Figure 9.1: A LibreOffice Wizard

Enter text in the document window as desired. Use the Formatting toolbar or the Format menu to adjust the appearance of the document. Use the File menu or the relevant buttons in the toolbar to print and save your document. With the options under Insert, add extra items to your document, such as a table, picture, or chart.

9.2 Sharing Documents with Other Word Processors

You can use Writer to edit documents created in a variety of other word processors. For example, you can import a Microsoft* Word* document, edit it, and save it again as a Microsoft Word document. If you use LibreOffice in an environment where you need to share documents with Microsoft Word users, you should have little or no trouble exchanging document files.

Most Microsoft Word documents can be opened in LibreOffice without issue. Formatting, fonts, and all other aspects of the document remain intact. However, very complex documents can require editing after opening. Complex documents are documents containing, for example, complicated tables, Microsoft Office macros, or unusual fonts and formatting.

LibreOffice can save many popular word processing formats. Documents created in LibreOffice and saved as Microsoft Word files can be opened in Microsoft Word.

9.3 Formatting with Styles

The traditional way of formatting office documents is direct formatting. That means, you use a button, such as Bold, which sets a certain property (in this case, a bold typeface). With styles, you can bundle a set of properties (for example, font size and font weight) and give them a speaking name, such as Headline, first level. Using styles, rather than direct formatting has the following advantages:

  • Gives your pages, paragraphs, texts, and lists a consistent look.

  • Makes it easy to consistently change formatting later.

  • Reuse and load styles from another document.

  • Change one style and its properties are passed on to its descendants.

For example, imagine that you emphasize text by selecting it and clicking the Bold button. Later, decide you want the emphasized text to be italicized. Now, you would need to find all bolded text and manually change it to italics. If you use a character style from the beginning, however, you only need to change the style from bold to italics once. All text that has been formatted with that style then changes from bold to italics.

LibreOffice can use styles for applying consistent formatting to various elements in a document. The following types of styles are available in Writer:

Table 9.1: Types of Styles

Type of Style

What it Does


Applies standardized formatting to the various types of paragraphs in your document. For example, apply a paragraph style to a first-level heading to set the font and font size, spacing above and below the heading, location of the heading, and other formatting specifications.


Applies standardized formatting for types of text. For example, if you want emphasized text to appear in italics, you can create an emphasis style that italicizes selected text when you apply the style to it.


Applies standardized formatting to frames. For example, if your document uses marginal notes, you can create frames with specified borders, location, and other formatting so that all of your marginal notes have a consistent appearance.


Applies standardized formatting to a specified type of page. For example, if every page of your document contains a header and footer except for the first page, you can use a first page style that disables headers and footers. You can also use different page styles for left and right pages so that you have bigger margins on the insides of pages and your page numbers appear on an outside corner.


Applies standardized formatting to specified list types. For example, you can define a checklist with square check boxes and a bullet list with round bullets, then easily apply the correct style when creating your lists.

Text that is formatted with a menu option or toolbar button overrides any styles you have applied. For example, format a piece of text both with a character style and using the Bold button. Now, the text will be bold, no matter what is set in the style.

To remove all direct formatting, first select the appropriate text, then right-click it and choose Clear Direct Formatting.

Likewise, if you manually format paragraphs using Format › Paragraph, you can easily end up with inconsistent paragraph formatting. This is especially true if you copy and paste paragraphs from other documents with different formatting. However, if you apply paragraph styles, formatting remains consistent. If you change a style, the change is automatically applied to all paragraphs formatted with that style.

9.3.1 The Styles and Formatting Window

The Styles and Formatting window is a versatile formatting tool for applying styles to text, paragraphs, pages, frames, and lists. To open this window, click Format › Styles and Formatting or press F11.

Styles and Formatting Window
Figure 9.2: Styles and Formatting Window
Tip: Docking And Undocking the Style and Formatting Window

By default, the Styles and Formatting window is a floating window. It opens in its own window that you can place anywhere on the screen.

To make it appear always in the same part of the Writer interface, you can dock the Styles and Formatting window. To do so, drag its titlebar to the left or right side of the main Writer window until a gray frame appears, then release the mouse button to position it there. To undock the window and make it appear as a floating window again, drag its icon bar to a different place.

The docking/undocking mechanism applies to some other windows in LibreOffice as well, including the Navigator.

LibreOffice comes with several predefined styles. You can use these styles as they are, modify them, or create new styles. Use the icons at the top of the window to display formatting styles for the most common elements like paragraphs, frames, pages or lists. Go on with the instructions below, to learn more about styles.

9.3.2 Applying a Style

To apply a style, select the element you want to apply the style to, and double-click the style in the Styles and Formatting window. For example, to apply a style to a paragraph, place the cursor anywhere in that paragraph and double-click the desired paragraph style.

9.3.3 Changing a Style

By changing styles you can change formatting throughout a document, rather than applying the change separately everywhere you want to apply the new formatting.

To change an existing style, proceed as follows:

  1. In the Styles and Formatting window, right-click the style you want to change.

  2. Click Modify.

  3. Change the settings for the selected style.

    For information about the available settings, refer to the LibreOffice online help.

  4. Click OK.

9.3.4 Creating a Style

LibreOffice comes with a collection of styles to suit many users’ needs. However, most users eventually need a style that does not yet exist and therefore, want to create their own style:

Procedure 9.1: General Approach for Creating a New Style
  1. Open the Styles and Formatting window with Format › Styles and Formatting, or press F11.

  2. Make sure you are in the list of styles for the type of style you want to create.

    For example, if you are creating a character style, make sure you are in the character style list by clicking the corresponding icon in the Styles and Formatting window.

  3. Right-click anywhere in the list of styles in the Styles and Formatting window.

  4. Click New and the style dialog opens. The Organizer tab is preselected.

  5. First configure the three most important entries:


    The name of your style. Choose any name you like.

    Next Style

    The style that follows your style. The style here is used, when starting a new paragraph by pressing Enter. This is useful, for example, for headlines, after which you usually want to start a normal paragraph of text.

    Inherit From

    A style that your style depends on. If the selected style is changed, your style changes as well. For example, if you want to make consistent headers create a parent header style and subsequent headers depending on it. This can be useful when you only want to change the properties that need to be different.

    For details about the style options available in any tab, click that tab and then click Help.

  6. Confirm with OK to close the window. Example: Defining a Note Style

Let us assume, you need a note with a different background and borders. To create such styles, proceed as follows:

Procedure 9.2: Creating a Note Style
  1. Press F11. The Styles and Formatting window opens.

  2. Make sure you are in the Paragraph Style list by checking the pilcrow icon (¶) is selected.

  3. Right-click anywhere in the list of styles in the Styles and Formatting window and select New.

  4. Enter the following parameters in the Organizer tab:



    Next Style


    Inherit from

    - None -


    Custom Styles

  5. Change the indentation in the Indents & Spacing tab, labeled with Before Text. If you want more space above and below individual paragraphs, change the values in the Above paragraph and Below paragraph accordingly.

  6. Switch to the Background tab and choose a color for the background.

  7. Switch to the Borders tab and determine your line arrangements, line style, color and other parameters.

  8. Confirm with OK to close the window.

  9. Select your text in your document and double-click the Note style. Your style parameters are applied to the text. Example: Defining an Even-Odd Page Style

If you want to create double-sided printouts of your documents, it is a good idea to create even and odd pages. To create page styles for this, proceed as follows:

Procedure 9.3: Create an Even (Left) Page Style
  1. Press F11. The Styles and Formatting window opens.

  2. Make sure you are in the Page Style list by checking that the paper sheet icon is selected.

  3. Right-click anywhere in the list of styles in the Styles and Formatting window and select New.

  4. Enter the following parameters in the Organizer tab:


    Left Content Page

    Next Style

    Leave empty, will be changed later

    Inherit from

    not applicable


    not applicable

  5. Change additional parameters as you like in the other tabs. You can also adapt the page format and margins (Page tab) or any headers and footers.

  6. Confirm with OK to close the window.

Procedure 9.4: Create an Odd (Right) Page Style
  1. Follow the instruction in Procedure 9.3, “Create an Even (Left) Page Style” but use the string Right Content Page in the Organizer tab.

  2. Select the entry Left Content Page from the Next Style pop-up menu.

  3. Choose the same parameters as you did in the left page style. If you used different sizes for the left and right margin of your even page, you should mirror these values in your odd pages.

  4. Confirm with OK to close the window.

Then connect the left page style with the right page style:

Procedure 9.5: Connect the Right Page Style with the Left Page Style
  1. Right-click the Left Content Page entry and choose Modify.

  2. Choose Right Content Page from the Next Style pop-up menu.

  3. Confirm with OK to close the window.

To attach your style, make sure your page is a left (even) page and double-click Left Content Page. Whenever your text exceeds the length of a page, the following page automatically receives the alternative page style.

9.4 Working with Large Documents

You can use Writer to work on large documents. Large documents can be either a single file or a collection of files assembled into a single document.

9.4.1 Navigating in Large Documents

The Navigator tool displays information about the contents of a document. It also lets you quickly jump to different elements. For example, you can use the Navigator to get a quick overview of all images included in a document.

To open the Navigator, click View › Navigator or press F5. The elements listed in the Navigator vary according to the document loaded in Writer.

Navigator Tool in Writer
Figure 9.3: Navigator Tool in Writer

Double-click an item in the Navigator to jump to that item in the document.

9.4.2 Using Master Documents

If you are working with a very large document, such as a book, you might find it easier to manage the book with a master document, rather than keeping the book in a single file. A master document enables you to quickly apply formatting changes to a large document or to jump to each subdocument for editing.

A master document is a Writer document that serves as a container for multiple Writer files. You can maintain chapters or other subdocuments as individual files collected in the master document. Master documents are also useful if multiple users are working on a single document. You can separate each user’s section of the document into subdocuments collected in a master document, allowing multiple writers to work on their subdocuments at the same time without fear of overwriting others' work.

Procedure 9.6: Creating a Master Document
  1. Click New › Master Document.


    Open an existing document and click File › Send › Create Master Document.

  2. The Navigator window will open. In it, select Insert (Insert), then choose File.

  3. Select a file to add an existing file to the master document.

To enter some text directly into the master document, select Insert › Text.

The LibreOffice help files contain more complete information about working with master documents. Look for the topic named Using Master Documents and Subdocuments.

Tip: Styles and Templates in Master Documents

The styles from all of your subdocuments are imported into the master document. To ensure that formatting is consistent throughout your master document, you should use the same template for each subdocument. Doing so is not mandatory. However, if subdocuments are formatted differently, you might need to do some reformatting to successfully bring subdocuments into the master document without creating inconsistencies. For example, if two documents imported into your master document include different styles with the same name, the master document will use the formatting specified for that style in the first document you import.

9.5 Using Writer as an HTML Editor

In addition to being a full-featured word processor, Writer also functions as an HTML editor. You can style HTML pages like any other document, but there are specific HTML Styles that help with creating good HTML. You can view the document as it will appear online, or you can directly edit the HTML code.

Procedure 9.7: Creating an HTML Page
  1. Click File › New › HTML Document.

  2. Press F11 to open the Styles and Formatting window.

  3. At the bottom of the Styles and Formatting window, click the drop-down box to open it.

  4. Select HTML Styles.

  5. Create your HTML page, using the styles to tag your text.

  6. Click File › Save As.

  7. Select the location where you want to save your file and name the file. Make sure that in the bottom drop-down box, HTML Document is selected.

  8. Click OK.

If you prefer to edit HTML code directly, or if you want to see the HTML code created when you edit the HTML file as a Writer document, click View › HTML Source. In HTML Source mode, the Formatting and Styles list is not available.

The first time you switch to HTML Source mode, you are prompted to save the file as HTML, if you have not already done so.

To switch back from HTML Source mode to Web Layout, click View › HTML source again.

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