LibreOffice Calc: Styles and Templates Introduced

Version 4.1.6.2

When we were looking at Writer we saw that Styles and Templates are key concepts to using any word processor. They are not quite as central in spreadsheet use, and one can be a proficient user without resort to them, but they do give you control over the appearance of your spreadsheets, and can give the sheets you create uniform appearance. We discussed these ideas in great detail in our Writer tutorials, so I am going to hope that some of that knowledge has carried over here. Still, let’s get to some basic concepts:

What is a Template?

A Template is a model that is used to create a new spreadsheet. Calc comes with a built-in Template that it uses as a default if you do not specify anything, so what you see when you open a new spreadsheet “out-of-the-box” is a copy of the default Template. You are free to keep using this, but you may wish to have a default that has settings more to your liking. You can create a new Template, save it, then set it as the default. And then if you change your mind you can set it back to the original default setting. The thing to keep in mind is that Templates are essentially containers. They allow you to create various settings, apply styles, and add graphics, and then have all of them appear when you create a new spreadsheet based on the Template. This is another application of the concept of objects, and Templates are objects that contain other objects. You can find some Templates online which you can download. One source, of course, is LibreOffice.org itself. You can find Templates for Calc at http://templates.libreoffice.org/template-center. And another source is http://www.vertex42.com/blog/news/templates-for-openoffice-and-libreoffice.html. Basically, if you want to build up your Template library with downloads, do a little searching online and you will find Templates for Calc, as well as other LibreOffice modules. Of course, the other option for making things work exactly the way you want is to either customize an existing Template, or create one from scratch. You can do either in Calc, but just as with Writer one of the main things you would want to do with your Template is to store Styles, so we need to address that topic next.

What is a Style?

A style is essentially a set of formats that you apply to some element. As we saw with Writer, you can have multiple formats applied as part of a single style. Among the choices you have are to choose a font family, choose a font size, and add character formatting. For example, the out-of-the-box setting I have on this particular machine says that when I create a new spreadsheet my font is Arial 10pt. That is a default style, but I could change it if I wished to something like Euphemia 11 Bold. That would be applying a style. You can do it manually, of course, by selecting each of those settings one a time in a new spreadsheet, but if it were a change I wanted to make often, creating a Style, and saving that style in a Template, makes my work much easier. Remember: If you create a Style and want to use it again, it must be saved inside of a Template. Otherwise it is lost. In Calc things are a little simpler. Instead of the 5 kinds of styles we had with Writer, in Calc there are only two kinds of styles: Page Styles, and Cell Styles. You can access them in the same way as with Writer. Go to the Format menu and select Styles and Formatting, or you can use the hot key F11. Either one will open the Styles and Formatting window, just as with Writer:

Styles and Formatting Window

Styles and Formatting Window

This initially appears as a floating window, but you can anchor it to the left side of the screen by holding down the Ctrl key and double-clicking on the bar that holds the icons, just under the title Styles and Formatting. Note:The behavior of this window, like much that is in LibreOffice, is actually set for the entire suite. If you had anchored your Styles and Formatting window to the left side in Writer, as I recommended, it will also be anchored in Calc when you open it. And if you close it in Calc, it will be closed next time you open Writer. Whether this is a good or bad thing may depend on how integrated you think office suites should be, but you probably want to know about this behavior. And you probably won’t be surprised to learn that it will show up again in Impress, in Draw, and so on. I think that if you use all of the modules of LibreOffice with some frequency, you should probably get used to having it anchored. But if all you ever do is spreadsheet work, you may not need it on the screen at all times, and might prefer to open it when required. But do get used to what it can do. Even in spreadsheets I hope to show it is useful. The Styles and formatting window has 5 icons/buttons. If you hover your mouse over each of them you will get a brief description.

  • Cell Styles – This lets you apply styles to a cell or group of cells within a sheet
  • Page Styles – This lets you apply styles to an entire sheet
  • Fill Format Mode – This lets you select a Cell style and apply it to a cell or group of cells. The main use is to make a group of scattered cells identical in format.
  • New Style from Selection – This lets you create a new style using an existing style as a starting point. This is good if you want to make a different style that is only different in one or two respects from the existing one, rather than recreating it all from scratch.
  • Update Style – This lets you change a style definition by applying what you have done to a specific cell

Page Styles

A Page Style is a style applied to a sheet in Calc. Please note that a sheet may cover many pages when printed, but the page style applies to the entire sheet. Within a spreadsheet file you can have multiple sheets, and each sheet can have its own page style if you desire. You can see which page style is applied to a sheet by looking at the bottom Status Bar.

Calc Page Style indicated on Status Bar

Calc Page Style indicated on Status Bar

In the second section of the Status Bar we can see that it says “Default”, which indicates that it is the default page style that is applied here. If you have the Styles and Formatting window open and go the Page Styles tab, you can see that this is one of two styles available to you. The other is the Report Style. As in Writer, you can open the Properties window for a style by right-clicking on the style’s name in the Styles and Formatting window and selecting Modify from the pop-up menu.

Page Style Properties window

Page Style Properties window

You can set the properties for the page style here, so if the Default style is not what you want, modify it here to reflect what you need it to be. If you would rather leave this as it is and instead make a new one based on this style, click on the style name in the Styles and Formatting window, and then go to the New Style from Selection button, give it a name, and then modify the new style in the same manner as above. Note that you cannot change the name of any built-in style. If you want a style that has a different name, either create a new style from the existing style, or create a new one from scratch.

Cell Styles

Cell styles apply formatting to a specific cells or groups of cells. The best analogy for a proficient user of Writer is that they are very similar to Paragraph styles in that module. The out-of-the-box options for Cell Styles are pretty limited. You get Headings and Results. As with Page styles, though, you can create your own, wither by modifying an existing one or creating a new one from scratch. Right-click on a Style name in the Styles and Formatting window to bring up the Properties window.

Calc Cell Style Properties window

Calc Cell Style Properties window

As you would expect the properties options are a little different here since Cells and Pages are two different objects, in fact, two different levels of object. In general, everything we said about Page Styles applies to Cell styles as well. From here we will go into the specifics of using Styles and Templates, and I will make some suggestions as to how you can use all of these to simplify your workflow. But if you want some added reading material to help with this, try the document Using Styles and Templates in Calc

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