5 Essential LibreOffice Writer Tips to Improve Your Productivity

LibreOffice is the frugal (or Linux) person’s choice of office suite, offering all the robustness of Microsoft’s dominant software while being fully open-source and not costing you a penny.

While even the latest version of the word-processing part of LibreOffice, Writer, looks a little old-hat without the fancy ribboned interface of Microsoft office or WPS, don’t be fooled. It has all the tools you need to create quality documents quickly. Here are a bunch of tips to hone your LibreOffice craft.

The ODT format that Writer saves documents in by default is a nice idea in principle, being a format that’s technically designed to work with minimal fuss no matter what office suite you’re using. But the reality is it’s not perfect, and if you’re sending an .odt document to Microsoft Office users, then they may run into a few hiccups opening it. For that reason, I like my default save format to be the more universally-compatible Word (.doc) format.

To change the default Writer save format, go to “Tools -> Options -> Load/Save -> General,” and under “Default File Format and ODF Settings” change the “Always save as” drop-down to “Microsoft Word 97/2003”.

libreoffice-tips-default-format

If you prefer .docx format (the newer format for Microsoft Office), select “Microsoft Word 2007 – 2013 XML” instead.

If you write regularly for a number of different outlets or clients like this one, then it’s often the case that each of them has certain stylistic and formatting quirks that you need to adapt to. To make this simpler, you can create your own styles for paragraphs, fonts, framing and page layout.

You can see these options by going to “Styles -> Styles and Formatting” or by pressing F11 in LibreOffice. To create a new style, press “Shift + F11” in LibreOffice, or right-click in the “Styles and Formatting” pane and click New. You can then give your style a recognizable name and edit it using the tabs before clicking OK. Activate it by double-clicking it in the “Styles and Formatting” pane.

One of the best things you can do to increase your efficiency in LibreOffice is familiarize yourself with its slew of keyboard shortcuts. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Undo and Redo actions: Ctrl + Z and Ctrl + Y
  • New paragraph within a list: Alt + Enter
  • Line break without new paragraph: Shift + Enter
  • Manual page break: Ctrl + Enter
  • Select entire words: Ctrl + Shift + Up/Left/Right/Down arrow (hold or press repeatedly to select more words)

The extensions available in LibreOffice are one of the most under-appreciated features of the software, and once you’ve set them up to work, adding them to your office suite is easy.

To go to the extension manager, click “Tools -> Extension Manager,” and you’ll see a bunch of extensions pre-installed with LibreOffice. To see the extensions available, go to the official website (you can also access it by clicking “Get more extensions online” in the Extension Manager) and browse around. Here you can download whichever ones you want.

libreoffice-tips-extensions

One potential obstacle is that you need to have Java installed on your PC (if you don’t and you try to add extensions, you’ll get a “Could not create Java Implementation Loader” message). Grab Java here, then you’re good to go.

To show you how to install extensions, I’ll demonstrate it with one of my favorites. OCR lets you convert PDFs or scanned documents to editable text in LibreOffice and is super-handy if you’re migrating a bunch of documents from physical to digital format.

To get it, go to Extension Manager (shortcut: Ctrl+Alt+E), click “Get more extensions online,” then type OCR into the search box at the top-right. Download “Libre OCR” to a folder of your choice, then back in the Extension Manager click “Add” and navigate to the place where you downloaded the extension.

libreoffice-tips-ocr

It should install in a matter of seconds then enable automatically. You’ll now see “OCR” in the menu at the top of LibreOffice where you can click it and upload images to convert.

LibreOffice isn’t quite as creaky as it first looks, is it? It goes without saying that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things you can do with LibreOffice, and if enough people take interest in this software, then we could add some more tips down the line. In the meantime, also check out our guide on how to speed up LibreOffice on your PC and also adding custom color to the color palette in LibreOffice.

One more thing. If you have used and loved LibreOffice, it only seems fair to donate them a little something for their unpaid efforts and to aid future development.

Let us know if we have missed out on other LibreOffice writer tips.

12 comments

  1. The first suggestion is really bad advice prone of a lot of troubles. M$ office format is a proprietary secret one so every software (except M$ of course) has hard time trying to interpret it, and a lot of errors can occur. You must keep using the open format, so you are sure you can write and read it correctly now and in the future, and only export (to a copy) in proprietary format when you have to send the file to someone that is unable to use LibreOffice.

    • Not strictly true. While some programs have “minor” issues the reality is that M$ made it EASY for other WP’s to use its file format. All because the standards organisation capitulated to Gates’s bribery and corruption. ODT was to be the ONLY universal format which gave Billy Boy the sh*ts and would have necessitated recompiling Word, along with Access, Excel et al.

      • “All because the standards organisation capitulated to Gates’s bribery and corruption.”
        The standards organization (OASIS) did not “capitulate” to Gates. Gates and Microsoft were there first. The first version of Microsoft Office was released in November 1990 while the first version of Open Document Format (ODF) was officially released in May 2005. So MS file formats were in almost exclusive use for 15 years before ODF came along. ODF is no more giving Billy Boy the sh**s than Linux is. Windows and Windows-based software are the de facto standards with which everybody else has to compete.

        • So Dragonmouth, you want to be economical with the truth huh? WordPerfect was there before Microsoft, so, doesn’t that make WP the defacto standard?

          Never said ODF was giving Billy Boy the shits, said it gave him the shits, and that was when it was all being proposed. Stop twisting comments, doesn’t do your arguments any favours. And, linux DID give Billy Boy the shits which was why they bribed companies into using their software for servers, even though Linux was, is, and is most likely to remain far superior to Windows server software. This confirmed to my by my previous IT manager who is a M$ fanboy… except when it comes to server software. Says Linux beats Windows hands down in that market.

          And yes OASIS DID capitulate. They even put out public releases effectively saying that, but not in those words as that would not be a “good look.”

          ODF was designed to be open and interchangeable with virtually ALL word processor programs. It worked perfectly with MS Word from the start. But noooo, Billy Boy couldn’t handle that a significant number of people wouldn’t be using “their” software.

          Nowhere is this more evident than in New Zealand whereby they (illegally btw) started giving MS Office to schools because they were switching to open format free software. And… they gave away Windows for free too, to schools. While muggins Mum, Dad etc. have to pay the M$ tax on every PC, laptop that isn’t Apple even if they don’t want to run Windows. Try buying one without Windows pre-installed on it. Not possible unless buying direct from the likes of Dell.

          Microsoft has been convicted numerous times in the States for its anti-competitive practices. They should have been forcibly broken up. Like certain other companies have had happen to them due to monopoly practices.

  2. 1. Might as well use MS Word instead of messing around with Libre Office Writer.

    3. Using k/b shortcuts is analogous to touch-typing. Those that type a lot can use all 10 fingers. For those that do not type a lot, touch-typing is a chore and makes them less productive. They are faster typing with only few fingers.

    “if enough people take interest in this software”
    It would be great if people took interest in using .ODT and other truly universal file formats instead of using .DOC and other proprietary MS Office file formats,

    • “It would be great if people took interest in using .ODT and other truly universal file formats instead of using .DOC and other proprietary MS Office file formats,”

      True, but corrupt M$ in it’s inimitable way got its, shock horror, way. What’s new?

        • Bollocks, they bribed the standards people into NOT making ODF the standard, but making MS Word a joint standard.

          15 years previous usage? So what? ODF would have, in fact does, work with MS Word. So what was M$ scared of? Oh, they couldn’t lock people into their format thereby locking them into M$ cash cow.

  3. I know this article/blog is about LibreOffice, but Word Perfect was being used long before M$ launched in 1990. Word Perfect launched in 1979 and was widely used in DOS. Word Perfect is still around today and they are not set up to still using DOS. It is also a good option to M$ Office and a lot cheaper to buy. I know that many medical offices used Word Perfect and still used it even after M$ launched M$ Office. At that time it was like the Win XP users of today, they simply didn’t want to budge and almost became ‘belligerent’ about this issue. Yes, to switch from Word Perfect to M$ Office there was a learning curve, no different than learning each new versions of Windows itself. I think, going from DOS to the first Windows 1.0(not Windows 10) OS – Now there was a true learning curve. :O)

  4. It doesn’t matter WHAT the standard of today is, the bottom line is that LibreOffice offers users the opportunity to use a suite that doesn’t lock them in for a few years until MICROSOFT decides its time for you to upgrade. Also it might not have the modern day ribbon?…but it offers customization unlike Microsoft….From the size of the icons, to the colors….to the materials..even the skin / theme of the entire application!..etc. its something Microsoft officewill EVER attain!

  5. Thanks for giving information about this new software. Will definitely give a try and the keyboard shortcuts are the attractive feature of this software.

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