How to Layout a Book with OpenOffice.org: Part 2

This article is part of the Layout Books with OpenOffice series:

In the first part of this series, I explained how to prepare an OpenOffice.org document for book layout. In this second part, I am going to highlight some key points raised by some of our readers and also how to properly align page numbers and format paragraphs.

There are a couple of things you should consider before proceeding:

1. If you are submitting your book to a publisher, they normally do not expect you to format the book or do any typesetting. That is their job. They just want the raw manuscript. In some cases, they may even insist that you use a particular generic font and not change default margins. Make sure you read their submission guidelines.

2. One of our readers mentioned that he usually formats his books after he finishes writing. This is undoubtedly the best method in most cases. What we created in Part 1 was a basic template that you can use without any further formatting needed before you start writing. Furthermore, if you are working for the publisher or are the publisher, the author might be someone else. In that case, you will take his or her text and prepare it.

Basic page numbering is very easy in OpenOffice.org.  Just click Insert->Footer, and then click Insert->Fields->Page Number.  You can then left, center, or right align it. What that will give you is a page number at the bottom of every page (or at the top if you choose “Header” instead of footer).

In most non-fiction books, however, the page numbers are right aligned on the recto and left aligned on the verso. The result is that page numbers are always on the farthest ends of the pages away from the spine. The second problem to tackle is that page numbers normally start with the text, whereas the default numbering will start with your title page. This is where OpenOffice.org’s sophistication comes in handy. While it is easy to add page numbers, the available variations are extensive.

As I mentioned above, this particular part of layout is something that you must do after the book is completely finished, edited, reviewed, and ready for printing. Otherwise, you will most likely be wasting your time and will have to go back and make changes.

Page layout1. There are three page layout buttons at the bottom of your window. The first shows you one page at a time. The second shows you pages side-by-side, and the third specifically shows you mirrored pages like that of a book.  Click the third, and you should now have the title page by itself and then two pages mirrored throughout the rest of the document.

2. Count the pages preceding your first page of text. In my example, I have six.

3. Insert a header or footer. All of your page-number work will be performed there.

4. Go to your first page of text before proceeding so that you can see the results. Then,  click Insert->Fields->Other.

5. Under Type, select Page, leave it on Page numbers, and As Page Style.

Page number offset

6. This is the important part.  Under Offset enter the number of pages you just counted with a negative sign in front of it. In my example, I entered “-6″.

7. Click Insert. If your first page of text now has the number 1, you are good to go. If not, undo and recount until you are satisfied.

8. When you are satisfied, click Close.

9. Click on Format->Page.

10. Choose the Header or Footer tab, and un-check “Same content left/right“.

11. Click “OK” and scroll down to pages 2 and 3.

12. Highlight the number “3” and right align it. Page 2 should still be left aligned.

Alternating page numbers

Now all of your pages should alternate their page numbers properly. There is an alternative method of accomplishing this same task. You can read about both methods here.

Styles and formattingAnother beautiful feature of OpenOffice.org is its extensive use of page and paragraph styles. You can even create styles for specific characters. Click on the “Styles and Formatting” button or simply press F11, and you will see a sidebar with all of the currently available paragraph styles. You can create a style and format it however you see fit. To begin with a style that is already created, right click on it and then click “New”. This will copy that style and allow you to build from it.

This is where you can control indentation, line spacing, alignment (which you will most like want to justify), text flow (books usually hyphenate at the end of lines), fonts, and much more. It is completely up to you or whoever is setting publication guidelines for you.

Give your style a name and select the “Next Style” drop-down menu. This allows you to identify which style the next paragraph will use. You could conceivably have two alternating styles or just the same style automatically applied whenever you start a new paragraph.

I have made a document with everything I have done available for download so that you can actually see and play with my changes. In Part 3, we will cover illustrations, more in-depth style techniques, and export formats.