If you often type the same phrases, sentences, or whole paragraphs, or if you use templates based on the structure of your documents, LibreOffice Writer’s AutoText can help.
AutoText allows you to store text snippets that you can reuse, so you don’t have to rewrite the same things. The best is that depending on the snippet you create, they can keep both the “structure” and the appearance of the text.
Install LibreOffice (Writer)
You can add LibreOffice to Debian/Ubuntu-based distributions with the command:
sudo apt install libreoffice
If you do not wish to install the entire LibreOffice suite, you can only install Writer with the command:
sudo apt install libreoffice-writer
However, it is not obligatory to resort to the command line. Since LibreOffice is considered the de facto office suite in the open-source world, you can find it pre-installed in most Linux distributions or readily available in the app stores/software centers where you can install it with one click.
From Text to AutoText
You can convert any chunk of text into an AutoText snippet. As your first experiment with it, try turning a short phrase to “plain text” AutoText. Write a phrase or sentence on your screen, then select the text.
Choose AutoText from the application’s Tools menu, or press Ctrl + F3 from your keyboard to open the relevant LibreOffice Writer window.
Meet the AutoText Window
The AutoText window comes by default with many snippets of phrases and even entire templates. To use them, select the one you want and click the Insert button. LibreOffice Writer will inject the selected AutoText snippet “where your cursor was” in your active document.
Since we want to create our own AutoText snippets, ignore the existing ones, and click on the “My AutoText” group that was empty until now. Enter a nickname for your snippet in the Name field and note the Shortcut that LibreOffice Writer will create as you type. This allows quick and easy access to your snippet. It’s not obligatory to accept Writer’s suggestion – you can change the shortcut to whatever you prefer. Just click in its field and replace the suggested Shortcut with anything you fancy.
Snippets and Shortcuts
Click on the “AutoText” pull-down menu below and in the middle of the window and pick “New (text only)” from the options that appear. You have just created your first AutoText snippet!
After coming back to your document, type the shortcut you used for your snippet – in our case, “mte” – and press F3. The AutoText snippet will replace the corresponding shortcut – in our example, the full name of our site, “Make Tech Easier.”
Create a Document Structure
Let’s see how we can make a more involved full-blown template for future documents.
On a blank page, construct a basic “structure” for a type of document you use regularly. We created a plain structure for ordinary news posts on a personal blog, as you can see in the image above.
Format Your Document
Continue by “formatting” the parts of your document as you’d like them to appear. Style all titles, subheadings, paragraphs, text, and apply different font sizes, colors, text alignment. Use placeholder content for everything that you’ll be able to select and replace. Remember, this will be a template you’ll use to base your future documents on, not a legitimate document itself.
Select everything in your document and return to the AutoText window as we saw before. Create a new snippet in the group My AutoText as before, but this time select “New” instead of “New (text only).” The non-text-only option keeps the formatting of all page items. Once more, note the Shortcut. We recommend substituting it with something easy to recall without having to hunt for snippets in sub-menus.
Try out your snippets
And that was it – your snippet is now usable, either by selecting it from the AutoText window and clicking Insert or by typing its shortcut and pressing F3.
Keep in mind the two different variants of snippets, since they can be appropriate in different cases. When you’re saving phrases, names, emails, etc., it’s better to store them as “plaintext” snippets. This way, when you inject them into documents you’re working on, they won’t look out of place. For anything more closely resembling a complete template, you’ll then “populate with content,” preferably the non-plaintext Snippet variant.
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