LibreOffice Writer Frames: Introduction and the Type Tab

The third of the Style tabs in the Styles and Formatting window is for Frames. Frames are containers that can hold text, graphics or other objects, and let you control how they look on the page. For instance, if you want to do a newsletter layout that includes pictures, graphical images, and text, Frames is what you need. You can position the frames on the page precisely, and control how text flows around the frames. So they are extremely useful. But Frames are not the type of object that can be completely examined in the context of styles, so while we will get to controlling them with Styles it is worth getting to know them first as objects in themselves, which also contain other objects.

Frames are containers. They contain objects, which can be any number of things, but it is important to remember that you have separate control over the frame and the object. Both of them have properties and can be manipulated and edited in various ways. The word frame is a clue that if you wanted to change a picture, editing the frame would not get you there. But if you wanted to position it on the page and control your page layout, a frame is indeed the answer.

To place a frame in your document, you either go to Insert–>Frame, or you can simply insert something on the page that requires a frame and the frame come along with it. To see how this works, make sure your Styles and Formatting window is docked on the left side of your LibreOffice window as discussed previously, and make sure you have Frame Styles selected. You should see something like this:

Styles and Formatting window with Frame Styles open.

Styles and Formatting window with Frame Styles open.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That is the third icon from the left. Now go to Insert–>Picture, and put a picture into your document. If you now look to the left you will see that the Graphics frame style is highlighted.  This shows you that LibreOffice Writer has automatically placed the picture within the appropriate frame.

Frame Styles with Graphics selected.

Frame Styles with Graphics selected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, pictures and graphics are only example of what you can do with Frames. But to explore this further we should take a look at the Properties that a Frame can have. So in a document go to Insert–>Frame, and you will get the Properties window:

Properties window for a Frame.

Properties window for a Frame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is like many other Properties windows we have seen in LibreOffice Writer. It has a series of tabs with different settings you can make. The first of these is the Type tab, which is to me a slightly misleading name. What this tab does is control the size and positioning on the page. And you can get an extreme degree of precision here if you want. This might get a little bit detailed, but let’s see where we can get with it.

NOTE: what follows is largely what I have been able to work out through experimentation. Most of it is not covered anywhere I can find in the documentation, and I may have been off slightly in some subtle points. But I tihnk the infoirmaiton is mostly accurate and should be helpful to the user.

The Type Tab

Size

First, note that there is a display on the right side that shows you what you are doing. You should pay attention to this as you make your selections since it will help you see what your choices mean. The first group of settings says Size.  You can specify the size of the window  here.  Of course, you can also resize any frame using your mouse when in the document by clicking on any one of the usual eight handles and then dragging, but that tends to be somewhat imprecise. Doing it here lets you be more precise about your sizing if you need to be that precise. It really depends on the design requirements you have. If you would rather just “eyeball” the sizing, use the mouse.

The width and height dimensions are usually set in inches or centimeters, as the case may be, which is an absolute setting. That means that any subsequent change to the page, such as a change in the margins, would have no effect on the dimensions of the frame, they are “set in stone”. The alternative is relative dimensions, which set the dimensions as percentages of the page dimensions. Each has its place. If you are inserting a picture or other graphic object, absolute dimensions are the only way to go. And for a small text box, it also makes sense to go with absolute. But one of the things you can do with Frames is to link them in such a way that text on page 2 is “continued on page 8″ as you often see in newspapers and magazines. In this case, relative dimensions may well work better.

The other setting is called Automatic (for Width) and AutoSize (for Height). This is what allows the frame to expand as you type in it. If you didn’t select this, you might find most of your text is hidden because the frame is not big enough to display it. If you accidently make this mistake, and wonder why most of your text is not being shown, don’t worry. Your text is still there, so just open up the Properties window by double-clicking anywhere inside the frame, and place check marks on those two boxes, and all of your text will reappear.

The last setting in this section is the Keep Ratio check box. If this is checked any change to one dimension will automatically make a proportional change in the other dimension, keeping the aspect ratio constant.

Anchors

Anchors tie your frame to a specific object. You have four choices here.

  1. To page – This anchors your frame to the margins of the page so that it will not move no matter what else on the page changes. This is very useful when you want a small text box or graphic to be in a fixed place with text flowing around it. If you select this option, the Anchor symbol will appear in the upper-left corner of the page in your document. This does not mean that the frame itself will be in the upper-left corner, though. That is controlled below on this tab. It just shows you that you have a page-anchored frame.
  2. To paragraph – This anchors your frame to the paragraph where the anchor symbol appears. Your paragraph of text to which it is linked will flow around the frame. If you later go back and add a block of text above this paragraph it will be pushed down, of course, and the frame that is anchored will move down with it.
  3. To character – This anchors your frame to a character, but in practice is hard to distinguish from anchoring to a paragraph.
  4. As character – This treats your frame as an inline object in your text. If you insert text in front of it the frame will move to the right by the number of text spaces inserted just like any character would. This would be excellent if you were placing a graphic of an icon in the middle of a line or paragraph of text. Note how the example display on the right changes if you select this as your anchor.

You can replace the anchor point by first double-clicking the frame so that the Anchor symbol appears. Then click-and-drag the Anchor symbol to a new location. For example, you may decide to insert a paragraph, and then decide you want your frame linked to the new paragraph. Just drag the anchor symbol to that paragraph and it will now be linked there.

Positioning

The last section is for the positioning of the frame. Note that the place where the anchor appears on the page has little to do with this (except for anchoring “As character”). You have positioning options which vary according the how your object is anchored.

Anchored To Page

If you have a frame anchored to a page that means that is positioned on the page relative to the page edges. In the first dropdown, for Horizontal, you have four choices:

  1. Left – This positions your frame on the very left, relative to whatever you choose in the second dropdown.
  2. Right – This positions your frame on the very right, again relative to your second choice.
  3. Center – This centers your frame, relative to your second choice.
  4. From left – This lets you set a specific position measuring from the left, again relative to your second choice.

Now, the second dropdown finishes the horizontal positioning. You have four choices here as well, and if you look at the page display above this you can see how it works:

  1. Left page border – This is the space between the edge of the piece of paper and the margin you set for the text area. So if you set a 1″ margin on the left, it would be the first 1″ of the piece of paper. So you could place your frame within this 1″ strip if you chose. And if chose to center the frame in the first dropdown and then selected this for the second, your frame would be centered within this 1″ strip.
  2. Right page border – Just the opposite side of the page.
  3. Entire page – This lets you set the position to align according to the actual edge of the paper, and ignores margins altogether.
  4. Page text area – This pays attention to the margins and sets your position relative to the margin, not the edge of the paper.

So, if you selected From left in the first dropdown, then specified 1″ as the distance, and finally selected Entire page in the second dropdown, that would give you exactly the same result as selecting Left in the first dropdown, then Page text area on a page with a 1″ margin.

One additional thing to mention in the Horizontal settings is the option to check Mirror on even pages. This is useful if you are doing odd and even mirrored pages, which we discussed as part of Page styles here. If you do this, Left becomes Inside, and Right becomes Outside. This lets you have pages that are different depending on whether they are odd or even. Review the Page Styles if this is not clear.

Below this is the Vertical section. It is similar. The first dropdown gives you four choices:

  1. Top
  2. Bottom
  3. Center
  4. From top

These should be clear if you followed the Horizontal choices, they work the same way. The second dropdown only has two choices, though:

  1. Entire page
  2. Page text area

You don’t have any Top border area or Bottom border area. The reason is probably hat this where Headers and Footers reside, and you should use those options if you need to put anything in those areas.

Anchored to Paragraph

This makes a few changes to your choices. The essential difference is adding choices to the second dropdown to reflect the possibility that your paragraph style may have shifted your paragraph relative to the page margins. On the horizontal positioning the added choices are left paragraph border and right paragraph border, which is potentially the space between the page margin and where the paragraph is if you indented the margins of the paragraph (try this with a paragraph formatted with the Quotation style, which indents from both sides to see what I mean). Similarly, if you go to the Vertical you find a couple of added options, Margin and Paragraph text area. A good example of the difference is if you added space before the the paragraph in your paragraph style. If you anchored the frame to the top of the paragraph and selected Paragraph text area, the frame would align to the top of the actual text. But if you selected Margin it would align to the top of the added space before. This seems pretty much the same thing as with the horizontal spacing. But if you go to vertical and select Bottom there is no difference I can find between Margin and Paragraph text area, even with added space at the bottom. IS this a bug, or a misunderstanding on my part? I don’t know right now, but perhaps I will find the answer.

Anchored to Character

This is also puzzling to me. The documentation says that this is very similar to anchoring to paragraph, and in my testing I have not found a difference yet.

Anchored as character

This creates a frame that functions just as if it was another character in the sentence. As such, there is no meaningful way to talk about horizontal positioning, so that is grayed out. But there is a vertical positioning issue to potentially address. Lines of type typically have a baseline, which is the line on which the majority of letters sit. If you select baseline the frame will align with the baseline. But some letters can project below this baseline, such as the lower-case “p”. Frankly,I would probably just adjust the location with the mouse because I am not an expert in typography.