LibreOffice Writer Page Styles Introduced

Page Styles are how LibreOffice Writer controls the page layout options. This includes determining which elements should appear on each page (e.g. page numbers, headers, footers), where they appear, the margins, and so on. Using Page Styles let’s you apply more advanced techniques such as having a first page that looks different from all subsequent pages. And one of my favorite tricks in a corporate environment where documents tend to be stored on network drives is to add an item to the footer that gives the path to the document. That way anyone  who needs an electronic copy knows exactly where to look.

Page Styles is the fourth tab in the Styles and Formatting Window. When you go there you will see the Page Styles that come pre-defined in LibreOffice Writer. Getting to know these is a good start in using Page Styles, so let’s see what they give us:

  • Default – This is page style you will get when you open a document, and every page will be in this format if you never choose a different one. In the example I gave above, I would probably turn on footers for all pages and then insert the path to the document as a standard in my template.
  • Endnote and Footnote – These are two options for academic papers or any document where you need to provide additional information without breaking the flow of the main text.
  • Envelope – This lets you define a special page the size of your usual envelope and print envelopes directly from LibreOffice Writer.
  • First Page – This let’s you specify one layout for the first page that is different from the subsequent pages. For instance, the first page might contain a logo at the top (this is often true for letters), while the subsequent pages have no logo. And many documents will have page numbers, but not on the first page.
  • HTML – This lets you create pages specifically for Web sites.
  • Index – In longer documents such as books it is common to have pages of index at the end.
  • Landscape – This flips the orientation of the page to be wider than it is tall.
  • Left Page and Right Page – This lets you create books, but can be used for any multi-page document where you want different features for odd and even pages.

Now these are just the options you get out-of-the-box, so to speak, and they are fairly general. When you get used to using Page Styles you will probably want to modify some of these and create others as needed.

You should also note that some of these styles, although they are Page Styles, do not control the entire page. For example, Footnotes are commonly placed on the bottom of the page, and are usually in a different font size from the main text. LibreOffice Writer lets you write your text, create footnotes as needed, and it will handle the layout automatically using the settings you give it. You can control how much space the footnote area can have on each page, for instance, so that your page won’t look like one line of text with the rest all footnotes. (Though note that automatic settings can only do so much. If your footnotes are that extensive, maybe you should switch to Endnotes so that your main text remains readable.)

One thing that puzzles new users to LibreOffice that come from a different office suite, such as the one produced in Redmond, Washington, U.S.A., is that if they look in the File menu and see Properties, they don’t find any of the things they are used to finding, like setting margins or setting the page orientation. That is a big difference. When we learned Paragraph styles and Character styles we emphasized that you should use styles, but you could actually apply formatting directly and bypass styles if you really wanted to. But with Page styles there is no such thing as direct formatting. You really must work with the Styles to get where you are going. If you start clicking through the menus looking for any other option you might stumble upon Format –> Page but clicking this will only bring up…the Default Page Style Properties.

Page Style Properties

Once again I will assume that you have your Styles and Formatting window anchored the left side of your screen. To take a look at what you can do with a page style, select the fourth button, Page Styles. Then highlight the first entry, Default, right-click on it, and select Modify to open the Properties window. By now this should feel very familiar since we have done the exact same thing with Paragraph styles, Character Styles, and List styles. You should see this window:

This is the Properties window for Page Styles

This is the Properties window for Page Styles

Starting with the first tab, Organizer, you again see something familiar. The Default page style has an option to define the next style.  With Paragraph styles we saw that this would specify which paragraph style would follow when you pressed the Enter key. Here, it is similar. This says that when I finish this page the very next page should be be in the Default page style as well. Other options are grayed out or unavailable because it is the Default style, but if you created a style of your own you would have these additional options.

The second tab, Page, has the stuff you might have been looking for if you were trying to find Page Properties in the File menu:

This is the Page Properties tab

Page properties

Note that you can select the Format, which has both American and European paper types, envelope types, etc. And then you can specify the precise dimensions. As I am in the U.S., mine says Letter and uses 8.5″ x 11″. Orientation is specified here as well. Then you can set all four margins independently, though in general you might be well advised to keep them consistent unless you have a particular need. Page Layout might be new to some people. If you have Right and Left selected, that essentially means that every page will have the same margins no matter what the page. Mirrored, on the other hand, would be a good choice if you were going to bind the printed output. If you select Mirrored, the Left margin becomes the Inner margin, and the Right margin becomes the Outer margin. Make the inner margin a bit larger and create space for the binding while still having readable pages. The only left and only right are special cases where you can have different formatting. As an example, consider a document where screen shots are always in the left side, and explanatory text is always on the right side, as in a book that is open in front of you. You independently format those pages, but you need to be careful about using the Next Style option on the Organizer tab to alternate the styles. And Format is for the page numbering.

The Background tab lets you select a color with the standard color picker, or use a graphic for your background. And the Border tab lets you apply a border to the text area, either all around or specifying which sides get a border.

Header and Footer tabs are pretty similar, and let you turn on the Header or Footer area, determine if you want them the same for Left and Right pages, make an exception for the first page, draw a border around the header or footer, and so on.

Columns lets you turn on Columns for the page, decide whether you want one column, two, or three, determine the width of each column, decide if you want a divider line between columns, and how heavy the divider line should be.

Footnote lets you decide if you want a Footnote area on each page. Note that this is different from a footer. A footer lives at the very bottom and is “outside” the page margin. Footers are where Page Numbers would go, for instance. A Footnote area lives within the page margin, and is generally separated from the main text in some way. This tab lets you control how much of the page can be devoted to the footnote area. It can take up the entire page area, or you can limit the space it can take up. If you have extensive and lengthy footnotes you might want to consider using an Endnote page instead.

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