A Brochure Project

Sometimes it is good to have a project to put into practice the techniques you have learned and cement them in your mind. So I want to now do a simple brochure to illustrate how this works, and as a subject I have decided to do a brochure for Hacker Public Radio since I record my shows there and it is an awesome community. I thought that way we could wind up with a useful brochure instead of just a random example. So, let’s get started.

The first thing to do is to have an idea of how you want the brochure to look. I want something that will be simple and easy for anyone to print. We frequently have people from HPR go to conferences like FOSDEM and LinuxCon with a table to promote the network, and it would be handy if they could print up a batch of these to give out and not have too much trouble with it. So I will use normal size paper. But knowing I have both American and European uses, I will actually do it in two different paper sizes, 8.5×11 for the US, and A4 for the rest of the world. For my overall layout, I will use the common Tri-fold brochure. This the kind that has the paper in Landscape orientation, and folded twice into thirds. You have seen this kind of brochure many times, so you know it is very common.

Page Style

This is the first step. You need to select the Page Style before you do anything else. This is the fourth button from the left in your Styles and Formatting Window. When I select this, I note that there does not seem to be a style for Brochure. So I will create one! I do see Landscape, which I know will be part of what I want to do, so I click on the Landscape style to select it, then go to the button on the top right that let’s me create a New Style from Selection…

And then I stop to think. Styles live inside of Templates, and I might want to actually use this style again. In fact, the more I think about it, maybe I want to create a Template for making brochures, and save my style inside of that Template. You can make an argument for saving a style inside of the Default Template, or you can create a new Template and save it there, but the point is that if you don’t save it in a Template you’ll have to do it from scratch the next time you need a brochure. I myself decided to create a Brochure Template, so that is what I will illustrate.

Brochure Template

So my next step is actually to save this new document as a Template. I go to File–>Save As Template. In the window that opens up I select My Templates, then click Save, and give it a name. Now I go To File–>New–>Templates, select the Tri-Fold Brochure template, and click the Edit button so that I can edit the Template. I check the Title bar up top, and it now reads “Tri-Fold Brochure.ott”, which is just what I wanted to see. I can make any changes I want, and when I save the document it will save everything to my Template. Now I go back to what I started before with the Page style, I select Landscape, then New Style from Selection, and name my style Tri-fold Brochure. then I right-click on my new Page style, select Modify, and my properties window opens up.

On Organizer the next page will also be a Tri-fold Brochure page, which is fine. These are generally two-page documents, which depending on your printer get printed on both sides, or more often you print one side, reverse the paper, and print the other side.

On the Page tab, my format says “Letter” right now, but this is where I would change it to get A4 instead. But I will want to change my orientation to Landscape here. and I want to reduce my left and right margins. When this brochure is done I will have three columns on each side, and to be good looking I want the columns to have symmetric margins. I am going to reduce my left and right margins to .5 inches here. Again, if you are not using the old-fashioned units of measurement you would see this in millimeters instead and adjust appropriately.

I don’t need to use Backgrounds, Headers, Footers, or Borders, s o I will skip those tabs. But I will use Columns. I select the Three-column format, and then I add Spacing between the columns. I set mine to 1″ between columns. Imagine that the fold runs right down the middle of this space, and I already had a .5″ margin on the page. With the fold through the 1″ spacer, then puts .5″ on each side of the fold, so the result is symmetric. But I don’t need to have any printed separators, so I leave that at None.

That is all I want to do with this Style, so I click OK. Then, to apply this style to my document I just double-click on the style in the Styles and Formatting window, and my page flips to Landscape mode, and I can see faintly on the page registration marks that show me my columns. they are in a faint grey, but they are there. That completes my Template. so I click the Save button.

To test my work so far, I go to File–>New–>Templates, double-click on the Tri-fold Brochure button, and I see a new document that is in Landscape mode, has my three columns and the appropriate margins and spacing. Success!

Page Layout with Frames

Now I need to start laying out my brochure and adding content. The first problem I encounter is that Columns are designed for continuous text, but that is not exactly what I want to do here. My brochure consists of two pages, each divided into three columns. But my document does not begin in the first column of the first page. It actually begins in the third column of the first page, then goes to the first column of Page 2. It then goes through the rest of Page 2, then jumps back to the first column of page 1, and ends in the second column of page 1. If you have trouble picturing this, I suggest taking a piece of paper and folding it into thirds to see how this works. This would be very difficult to do just with columns, but is a piece of cake with Frames. In fact, what I have done is layout the columns simply as guides for placing my Frames on the page. I won’t actually use them as columns of text at all!

Now I need to put in some content, and I will get that all from the Hacker Public Radio web site. First I copied the HPR Logo, an image, and paste that. But it goes into the first column, which is not what I want. But if I change the anchor setting to anchor it to the page, I can drag-and-drop it wherever I want. So I drag it to the third column. I also increased the size slightly, but not too much because bitmaps get wonky if you blow them up too much. Then I center it in the column.

Under that I insert a Frame for text, and copy some text from the site. By default, the frame has a border around it, but I go to the Borders tab of the Frame properties window and set it to none, which I will do for all frames in this document. I now want to go the second page and start work there, because that is what you go to when you open the brochure. To do that I put my insertion mark back at the beginning of column 1, page 1, and the insert a Page break. This give me a new page, but the two frames I added to column three of page 1 have not moved because they were anchored to the page. Good, now to more content!

Frames and Linking

Now on Page 2 we need to employ some more techniques. I placed a text frame in the first column of Page 2, and copied in some text. And it was way to big for the space. I need to do a little math to set the frame proportions properly, but I also needed a place for the text to “overflow” to. So I named the frame in column 1 of page 2 “About_HPR_1”, then created a frame in column 2 of page two and named it “About_HPR_2”. Then I linked those frames in the Options tab. If you are in the second frame, place the name of the first frame in the “previous link”, if you are in the first frame place the name of the second frame in the “next link”. It doesn’t matter which end you work from. You will then see a dashed line going from the bottom of the first frame to the top of the second frame. Now I need to do the arithmetic to set the dimensions. My page is 11″ wide. But I have .5″ margin on either side of the page, plus 1″ separator between the columns. So my actual text area is 8″, and is divided into thirds for the three columns. So my column width should be 8/3 inches, or 2.66″. For my height, I have a page that is 8.5″ high, and I have margins of .79″ top and bottom. So I need to make my frame height 8.5-.79-.79 inches, or 6.92″. I set that as the height of my frame in column 1 of page 2. For the frame at the top of column 2 that got the overflow, I also set the width to 2.66″, but left the height to AutoSize so it would fit the rest of the text I copied. I then added more Frames and more text to fill out the page, just as I did here. But as I got to the end of column 3 of page 2, I created another link, this time to column 1 of page 1. If any text overflowed from the last column on page 2, it would continue in the first column of page 1, which is what I wanted of course.

I then filled out the rest of the brochure with more content.


The next step is to test how well this worked. I printed a copy of page 1, flipped it over, and then printed page 2 on the back. It may take a couple of tries to figure out which way it needs to go because of how the paper feeds into the printer, but it should work just fine for you.

European Format

My first document was done using American units. My paper was 8.5×11 inches, and all of my measurements were in inches. But creating a version for my European friends is not at all difficult. I just needed to change the paper type and redo some measurements. I saved my original with a suffix of “US”, then saved another copy with a suffix of “EU”

The corresponding paper size for European users is called A4, it measures 8.3×11.7 inches, but we really should do this in millimeters, so the measurements there are 297×210 mm. But I have a problem in that my computer is all set up to use inches. So I go to Tools–>Options–>LibreOffice writer–>General, and in the Settings area I change my measurement unit to Millimeter. Now I am ready to make my changes.

So in my EU version, I first go to my Page style of Tri-Fold Brochure, right-click, select Modify, and for Format I select A4. My units now show a width of 297, and a height of 210. (Remember I already had set this to Landscape in my previous document, which I am now modifying.) As soon as I click OK, I see my nicely placed frames are out of kilter. They were anchored to the page, but now the page itself has different dimensions, and I need to adjust. Looking at my margins, left and right are now 12.70mm, and top and bottom are 20mm. I hang on to that information and jump to the Columns tab where I see that the space between the columns is 25.40mm, which is exactly twice the margin. Excellent. All I need to do now is adjust my sizes on my Frames, re-position them slightly, and I have my European version.

Again, a little math. My page is 297mm wide, I have left and right margins of 12.7mm, two column separators of 25.4mm, so my horinzontal content area totals 297-12.7-12.7-25.4-25.4= 220.8mm. To get three columns I divide by 3 and get 73.6mm. That needs to be the width of each of my frames. And for height, I need to keep it to 210-20-20=170mm in any given column. So I first need to make those dimension changes in the Frame properties for each frame. Once I have adjusted all of the frame dimensions, I just fix up the positioning with a little drag-and-drop of the frames and it looks lovely.

You can download the two files I created for this tutorial here:

Listen to the audio version of this post on Hacker Public Radio!

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