We have looked at some of the essential settings that control how a list is presented on the page, but so far we have only looked at simple lists that have one level. LibreOffice Writer has the capability of having up to 10 levels, and that means we need to look into Nested Lists. Nested Lists are the source of more frustration in using word processing programs than probably any other feature, at least n my experience. This is one of those cases where we wish we had the Telepathy Interface, so the $%&(# computer would just do what we want! And of course the computer can only do what we tell it to do, and we have to learn its language. If you learn how to use nested lists properly you can tame many (but not all, perhaps) of the problems you face. As the name implies, a nested list is one in which each list item can hold a list of its own. An example of a nested list is this:
- Main List Item 1
- Nested list Item 1
- Nested list Item 2
- Main List Item 2
And a nested list can have another list nested inside of it, and so on, up to 10 levels. Of course, a 10 level nested list is rarely a good idea in most documents, but there can be cases in certain Outlines where it makes sense, perhaps. Yet the use of nested lists 2,3 or 4 levels deep is not uncommon and LibreOffice Writer gives you a good deal of control over the nesting.
And controlling this means we need to look at the Bullets and Numbering Bar. To display this, go to View –> Toolbars and put a checkmark next to Bullets and Numbering. You should see something like this:
Now on my Linux box with LibreOffice 3.6.2 this is docked at the bottom, but on my Windows box with 3.5 It is a floating window. Wherever you find it you will need to get familiar with this toolbar if you want to work with nested lists. Note that this will also appear any time you have your insertion mark within a list item of any kind, and will go away once you leave the list.
The first button is a toggle that turns bullet lists on and off. The second toggles numbered lists on or off. And the third one turns off numbering and closes the toolbar. But if you are going to use styles to control your numbering (and you should), you won’t use any of these three buttons. The better way to do this is to apply a style. For example, place your insertion mark where you want to begin a list, then click the List styles tab in the Styles and Formatting window. Then double-click on a style and it will be applied. So the real reason you want to use this toolbar is for the other buttons.
The next two buttons are for Promote one level and Demote one level. These resemble the buttons up top for Decrease Indent and Increase Indent, but they are importantly different. Recall that we have made a great distinction between appearance and function in this series. Using the “indent” buttons moves items left or right, but does not change their function. If you indent a Level 1 list item by one click, it will move to the right, but it will still be a Level 1 item. This is crucially important in mastering nested lists. You really need to use the Promote/Demote buttons on the toolbar to actually change the levels.
The next two buttons do even more. By the nature of nested lists, any list item can contain a nested list within it. LibreOffice Writer refers to these as subpoints. And you can move any list item along with its subpoints using these buttons. And when you do, all of the items change levels together. So if you have a Level 2 list item with 3 Level 3 items below it, clicking the Promote One Level With Subpoints just once will turn your Level 2 item into a Level 1 item, and will also turn all three Level 3 items into Level 2 items. And the Demote One Level With Subpoints would do just the opposite, of course.
The next button is Insert Unnumbered Entry. This will move down the same amount as if you were creating a new item, but it will be unnumbered. The way I use this is for when I have to add a second paragraph without changing the list item. Normally if you press enter like you do after each paragraph you would get the next numbered item, but by using this button you can add a paragraph without affecting your numbering at all. This is very handy when you need it.
The next buttons are for moving items up and down in the list, and can be done with the associated subpoints. When you do this the item numbers should also change. For example if you take item #2 in a list and move it up, it will become Item #1, and what was Item #1 will become Item #2. And if you do this with the subpoints they will go along for the ride, though of course they will not be renumbered.
The next button is Restart Numbering, and this is very important in numbered lists. What sometimes happens is that you have a 3 item sublist, for example 3 Level 2 items under a Level 1 item. Then you create another Level 1 item, and want to place a Level 2 sublist under it. And instead of beginning at #1 (or the equivalent in alpha characters), it begins with #4, as if it was continuing the previous sublist. You can fix that with this button, which tells LibreOffice Writer to begin a new list with new numbers.
The last button brings up a Bullets and Numbering properties window which looks exactly like the properties window you would see for any of the List styles, except that it lacks the first tab, the Organizer tab.
So, what does a nest list look like if you do it correctly in LibreOffice Writer? It looks like this:
Listen to the audio version of this post on Hacker Public Radio!