LibreOffice Writer: A Bullet Style Deconstructed

Note: We will be talking about how you can change the settings on styles. If you want to keep your original styles intact while experimenting, I recommend you go the very last icon on row 2 of the Styles and Formatting window, which lets you create a new style based on the selection. Select the style you want to play with, then go this icon and click it to get a copy you can play with. That way your original is preserved.

Previously we looked at List styles in general, and noted that there are two kinds: Bullet lists and Numbered lists. Each one has a number of options, but they are not necessarily the same options. so in this lesson we will take one of the built-in bullet styles, take it apart, and see what makes it behave.  Just for fun let’s take take List 4 as our example. With the Styles and Formatting window open and docked, as it always is for me, I click on the List Styles tab, find List 4, and right click on it. then I will select Modify… to open the window that controls all of this. As we have seen, the first tab is mostly greyed out since this is a built-in style  and these are not configurable options for built-in styles. The second tab, Bullets, is useful though:

The second tab on the List 4 settings window, Bullets

What you see here are some Bullets that you can select. These all come from the Fonts that are installed, so they are literally characters that you could have typed in. You can change the character used by just clicking in the appropriate box. That box will then get a thick black border that tells you it has been selected. If these are not enough options for you, you can go to the Graphics tab and make a different selection.

The List 4 style window with the Graphics Tab selected.

The first thing you may notice is that these are all in color. The way this happens is that these are not characters from a Font, they are actual Graphics. There are quite a few of them here, but unless you are going to print your document on a color printer you will probably be better off to stick to the Bullets tab. For List 4 it is clear that they chose the second option on the bottom row of the Bullets tab.

Generally you don’t try to do Outlining with bulleted lists, so the Outline tab is not anything we will spend time on. But on the last tab, Options, there is a little feature kind of buried that lets you use your own graphics for your bullets if you wish to use something special.

How to use your own graphics for bullet lists

Take a look at the top drop-down labelled “Numbering”. If you are in a Bullet style it will have Bullet selected, but you can select Graphics instead. This will make three more options appear: Graphics, Width, and Height. And you then click Select on the Graphics drop-down, you will get a choice From file…, which will let you insert a graphic from a file on your computer.

This leaves the Position tab, which is important for all lists, both bullet lists and numbered lists. It is fairly detailed and gives you control of over the precise position of every part of the list, from bullets (or numbers) to how much space is before the text. We’ll cover this in detail now for bullets. Look at the first item, which reads Numbering followed by. List 4 as it comes has this set for Space, which means there is one space between the bullet and the following text. But if you click the drop-down, you can also choose Nothing, which means there will be no space at all. But the third option, Tab stop, gives you additional control. If you select this you then get the option to set where the stop goes. On my American installation the option is given in fractions of an inch, and if I set this for .3 inches it will move the text over to the .3″ mark on the page.

Now, to understand the positioning options it helps to know that every measurement is made from the left margin. That means that the tab stop I set was .3″ from the left margin, not from where the bullet is.

Next is the numbering alignment. You have three options, Left, Center, and Right, and also an Aligned at setting. These work together to set where the bullet will appear. If you leave Aligned at set to 0.0″, that aligns it at the margin of the page. If you then choose Left for your Alignment, that means that the left side of the bullet will line up precisely at the margin. This is the most normal setting, of courser, so it is the default. But you choose Center, the bullet will be centered on the margin, which will very slightly shift the bullet to the left. And if you choose Right as your alignment, that means the right edge of the bullet will line up with them margin, which will shift the bullet even further to the left. This puzzles people who stumble on this, because they think choosing Right should move the bullet to the right, and not to the left. The last option is Indent at. This sets what happens to the text if your bullet point is more than one line long. If you have a different indent than your Tab stop the first line will not line up with subsequent lines. Generally, you want them to be the same.

Here is a look at what these options do:

Illustration of how the different options on the Position tab affect the display of your text in a bullet list

So now you have the elements of mastery for Bullet lists. But these are the easier lists to master. Next we need to look at Numbered lists.

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