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.
1. Change the Default Save Format to Word
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”.
If you prefer .docx format (the newer format for Microsoft Office), select “Microsoft Word 2007 – 2013 XML” instead.
2. Create Formatting Styles for Your Documents
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.
3. Keyboard Shortcuts
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)
4. Get Extensions Working on LibreOffice
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.
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.
5. Convert PDFs to Editable Documents using OCR
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.
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.