How to Use Page Styles to Make Better Documents in LibreOffice

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Modern office software has evolved through a range of tools that can make your document creation efforts simpler. If you are tired of changing the style and format of every paragraph, page, slides, etc., when creating your document, you can make use of the Page Styles to make your job easier. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to set up Page Styles of the LibreOffice word processor.

Note: LibreOffice is free, open source and cross-platform compatible. This tutorial will be based on LibreOffice 7.

What are Page Styles

Page Styles allow us to define elements such as margins, the underlying page grid and tabs and indents, so these can be consistently applied across pages. It also allows us to add design elements such as borders, headers, footers and page numbers automatically to pages. And while the basics are … basic, these styles can become more complex, and you can run multiple versions – and even set up how they follow one another – as you create more complex documents.

Screenshot of the Organizer tab in LibreOffice Writer 7.

Note: once you master the Page Styles system, you can confidently tackle the Paragraph Styles, too, as they work in the same way, just with text elements such as indents, line spacing and font sizes rather than page formats.

Create a new style

The standard install comes with a collection of Page Styles covering things like HTML pages, first pages, footers, indices, etc. We’re starting from scratch to explore the different options fully. Later we’ll make dynamic changes to the styles.

Screenshot of the New Style service menu in LibreOffice 7 Writer.

To begin, select “View -> Styles” from the menu or hit F11. The Styles pane will open on the right side of your document. It has tabs for paragraphs, characters, frames, pages, lists and tables. Select the Pages icon. You’ll see the default list of page styles. You can double-click any of these to apply them to the currently viewed page.

Right-click in the Styles window and select “New … ” to create a new style. This will open the full Page Styles window. Begin by giving your style a descriptive name.

Set up your page

The configurable parts are arranged across the tabs at the top, beginning with the Organizer. In the Page tab, you can set the page size, the margins and define your layout. If you’re writing a multi-page letter you might select “Right and Left,” “Only left” or “Only right.” All of these options will have the same margins on the left and right edges. However, if you’re going for a book or booklet feel, selecting “Mirror” will allow you to define an Inner and Outer margin, which would be more pleasing, typically with a wider margin on the outside than the inside.

Screenshot showing the main page configuration options in LibreOffice 7's Page Styles editor.

On this screen you can also set the style for page numbers and also define a kind of baseline grid for the page, which allows you to keep everything lined up. To do the latter, select “Register-true” and then select “Text Body” from the styles list. If you want to see the grid, select “View -> Grid and Helplines … -> Display Grid.” It’s quite faint but is there! 

With the grid set up on the page, you can set Paragraph Styles to snap to the grid, too.

The next tab, Area, lets you set the page background, which can include colors, gradients, bitmaps, and patterns of hatch marks.

Refining the background

The Transparency tab sets the level of transparency for the background you’ve just set. It can be defined using a single value or a gradient. If you select Gradient, the start and end options are set to 0 percent by default, so you’ll need to adjust either of these to see any effect. Hit Apply to see changes on your document.

Screenshot from LibreOffice 7 Writer showing an editable gradient used on the page background.

Header and Footer allow you to define the space at the top and bottom of the page for furniture elements such as document titles, author name or page number. They both contain the same tools for setting margins independently of the page margins.

Once you’ve switched on the headers and/or footers, you can go to the page, double-click in the appropriate space and start adding your content.

Borders and columns

The Border tab allows you to set up borders around any or all sides of the content area, with padding to ensure the content doesn’t run into the border and a shadow option, too.

Screenshot showing LibreOffice 7 page setup with variable column widths.

Columns allow you to define the way the text is going to flow through your pages, including setting the gutter between columns and even defining individual column widths and setting up lines to separate them.

Finally, the Footnote tab allows you to define how footnotes are positioned within a page. Here you can define the maximum space allowed for a footnote (If it goes behond, it will spill over into the footnote space on the next page) and the separator to set it apart from your main document.

At any point during the editing of these settings, you can hit Apply to have changes reflected in the current document. Clicking OK will apply the changes and close the window.

Setting up chains

Back in the Organizer tab, having created a number of page styles, we can now set up how they react to one another. For instance, if you have a Title Page style, chances are you’ll want it to be followed by a non-Title Page style, which is where the Next Style selector is useful. This will automatically set the page after a title page with a specific style. This is really useful in a long document.

You can obviously change a page’s Page Style by right-clicking anywhere in the active page, choosing Page Style and selecting a different style. LibreOffice’s Page Styles save time and allow you to create more consistent and professional-looking documents without having to delve into settings for every page. You can also change the default font of your document for more consistency.

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Andy Channelle

Andy Channelle is a writer and web developer who has written for Linux Format, Mac Format, 3D World and others, and has also published best-selling books on Ubuntu Linux and OpenOffice.org. He's recently worked on web projects and campaigns for the International Red Cross and the UN. He produces - but hardly ever releases - electronica under the name Collision Detector. Andy lives in Wales, UK.

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