LibreOffice Writer Heading Styles

Headings are elements that define a document or a section of a document. Used logically, they are:

  • Heading 1 – The title of the document
  • Heading 2 – Main sections of the document
  • Heading 3 – Higher-level subsections within Header 2
  • Heading 4 – Subsections within Header 3
  • And so on

Of course, this usage is just a suggestion, not a straight-jacket. If you were writing a book, you might want to create a special Title style for the title of the book, use Heading 1 for chapter names, and so forth. The real point is that there is a logical hierarchy implied by these heading numbers. And how you use them means that they get some different choices when you configure the styles for them.

One consideration that is important is the kind of writing you intend to do.  In my profession I do a lot of technical writing and documentation, which means that I use headings a great deal. And in the non-fiction books I read I see authors using headings and sub-headings to organize the material in their books. For people like me, and the authors of those books, knowing how to use Headings properly is very important. I would think this might also be useful to students writing research papers. If all you write is letters to Aunt Matilda, however, you may not have much need for this material.

Note: This is where you should open your default template for editing.

The Heading 1 Style

For this style we can go back to our Style window, and in this case there is already a style called Heading 1, so in this case we can right-click on the style and select Modify. This brings up the same configuration window as we saw for the Paragraph style. But we will make some different choices this time because headings function differently from paragraphs in most writing.

On the Organizer tab we see the name is already filled in and we don’t have an option to change it. If we wanted to create a new variation there is a an option called Create New Style from Selection that we can use by selecting the style then clicking on the button in the upper-right part of the Styles window. In this case, I am fine with just modifying the existing Heading 1 to suit my needs. Again, I make doubly-certain that Auto Update is not checked. But when I get to Next style I see that Text Body is already filled in. That is not a bad choice. What this means is that after you type your Heading 1, and press Enter, it will automatically go to a style called Text Body. In many cases that might be good, but the way I create my documents suggests something different. I am going to make my next style Heading 2. This means that right after I type the title of my document I plan to type the heading of the first major section. If this does not fit your work flow, of course you should change it. Perhaps you might want to use the Paragraph style we created previously. Please note that this only governs what Writer will do automatically when you press the Enter key. You can always over-ride that using the Style selector box on the Formatting toolbar.Then for Linked with I am again going to set it to None. The reason, as I explained previously, is break any inheritance problem I might have with linked styles.

For Indents and Spacing I like to have no indent at all, but again I insert a blank line after (about .18″). Then for Alignment I like to have mine Centered. Remember, Heading 1 is the title of the document as I use it, and centering makes sense to me.

For Text flow the situation is different here. Headings in general are not supposed to be long pieces of text. Even if my Heading 1 does go to a second line, it is centered, so I don’t need any hyphenation. If I were using Heading 1 as a chapter title in a longer document/book, however, putting a page break first would make good sense. As for the last section, Options, one would hope that Widow and Orphan control would not come up! But Keep with next paragraph is something I usually check for headings. Granted, on a Heading 1 the need probably does not come up. But when typing a long document I might create a Heading 2 or Heading 3 and then go to a paragraph. If the paragraph is on the next page from the Heading, that just doesn’t make sense, and checking this box means the heading will automatically move to the next page along with the following text.

For Font, I like to use Sans Serif for my Headings. Now, I am not a graphic designer, and my preferences may make a real designer shudder. The main point with headers is that they are generally Bold, and Larger. I set my Heading 1 to use Liberation Sans Bold at 145%. And I do not use any Font effects.

I do not use any of the other tabs to configure my Heading 1.

The Heading 2 Style

This works much the same as Heading 1, but with a few differences. You begin by selecting Heading 2, right-clicking, then Modify, just as before. The first difference comes with Next Style. For me, the next style should be the Paragraph style I created earlier. When I create my documents I will generally start typing paragraphs right after my first Heading 2.

For Indents and Spacing, I again prefer no indents at all and a blank line (.18″) after the heading.

For Alignment I use Left.

For Text Flow I do not generally put in a page break before a Heading 2, but I do consider it essential to check Keep with next paragraph.

For font, I would stick with the font you selected for Heading 1. Mixing fonts is an invitation to disaster unless you know very well what you are doing. And as I said, I am not a graphic designer and I don’t like to take chances. Other than that, sticking with Bold for headings always works. Because there is a hierarchy to headings, it is a good idea to make your Heading 2 somewhat smaller than Heading 1. I made mine Liberation Sans Bold Italic 16pt.

I do not use any of the other tabs for Headings.

Heading 3 and Beyond

If you don’t need them, you can skip this, but as I said I do a lot of technical writing and documentation where this comes in handy. Heading 3 and the others are pretty much the same as Heading 2. I set the next style for Paragraph, break any linkage, align to the left, and make sure I check Keep with next paragraph on all of them. The main difference is with Font. You want to make sure that it is clear which Heading is which. One way is to make them progressively smaller, but there is a flaw in that once you go beyond a couple of levels. At some point you either have fonts that are so close in size that you cannot clearly distinguish them (14pt. and 15pt. are not all that far apart really), or you get to where the Heading font is smaller than your Paragraph font, when everything we expect about headings is that they should be larger than the paragraphs. This is where you employ various tricks like mixing which ones are italic and which ones are not.

Note: Now save your default template and your heading styles will be available to you in all of your new blank documents.

The Payoff

Now let’s get back to our workflow and see what we have accomplished. If I open a document I select Heading 1 to put in a title (If you recall I did this my default template as shown in this tutorial). After I type the title, I press Enter, and it goes to Heading 2 automatically. I type in the first major section Heading, then press Enter. I automatically get a Paragraph style set up and ready to go. I type my paragraph, then hit Enter, and get another paragraph ready to go. When I want to put in a new Heading I need to do that manually from the Style Selector Box, but even then it comes with all of the formatting already built in. We are already saving a lot of effort just from implementing a few simple styles.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 LibreOffice Writer Heading Styles by Kevin O'Brien is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.