LibreOffice Impress: Formatting Text


I know we have focused a lot on using Styles to control the formatting of text, and there is a reason for that. As I have said so often, uniformity of appearance is an important part of a professional-looking presentation, and that is best done by using the Presentation and Drawing Object styles appropriately. But there is a place for all of the other tools Impress has, and I want to go over some of them now before we move on to other topics.

You can add text by typing it in, of course, and in many cases you will want to use the Styles that are available to you. To do this, just open your Styles & Formatting window in the right-hand Sidebar by clicking the appropriate icon in the far-right column. If you are typing into a slide using AutoLayout boxes, the styles are already applied to the contents of those boxes. But on a blank slide you can add a Text Box and use the Drawing Object Styles. Just type in the text you want to use, select it, and double-click on the style you want to apply. It is as simple as that. And changing styles is just double-clicking on a different style to replace what you had with the new style.

But often you will want to paste in text from another source instead of typing it in, and this is where you need to think about what you are doing. Text that comes from another source may already have all kinds of formatting applied to it. This is particularly true of text copied from a Web page, which will have HTML formatting applied to it. In general, the formatting it brings with it is not what you want. You could deal with this in several ways, but I think the simplest is to lose the formatting altogether and reduce it to plain text which you can then apply your own formatting to. To do this, if you like to use keyboard shortcuts, you may know that the paste command is generally Control+V (in Windows and Linux) or Command+V (in Macintosh). To get your paste to remove all formatting just add in the Shift key, as in Control+Shift+V to get unformatted text in your paste. You can also get there through the graphical interface if you prefer by going to the Edit menu and selecting Paste Special, and if you do this you will see that the keyboard equivalent in simply Control+Shift+V. Finally, on the Standard toolbar there is a Paste icon which looks like a clipboard with a sheet of paper coming off of it. If you have text on your clipboard that has formatting, you will get a drop-down next to the Paste icon that will give you the option of pasting unformatted text, or instead pasting it with all of its formatting intact. But note that if you don’t have any formatted text on the clipboard you won’t see the dropdown, so if you have Impress open to follow along, take a moment to copy some text from a web page first before you investigate this option.

The Text Formatting Toolbar

Next we want to take a look at the Text Formatting Toolbar. If it is not displayed on the screen,  you will need to enable it first. Deciding which toolbars you want to have open is a personal choice, and each one takes up some real estate on the screen. If you do most of your presentations by typing in text into slides with AutoLayout boxes (and that is probably 90% of what I do), you may think you really don’t need to have this toolbar displayed all of the time. But when you need it it can come in handy. To enable the display, go to View–>Toolbars, and put a checkmark in Text Formatting. It may appear to the right of one of the toolbars you already have, but you can click-and-drag all toolbars to new positions as you desire.

Text Formatting Toolbar for LibreOffice Impress



This is pretty standard. First there is the Font selector, followed by the Size selector. Then you have the usual Bold, Italic, and Underline, and then a button for Shadow. You would not see this in Writer because there is very little call for it there (in Writer you would need to select the text, and the go to the font Effects to add it). In a graphical program like Impress, though, it is something you would naturally use often enough to make putting a button there useful. Then you have the usual text alignment buttons for Left, Centered, Right, and Justified, followed by a button to turn on Bullets. They are on by default in most AutoLayout boxes, but if you are in a Text box you need to be able to turn them on.

Next are some extremely useful buttons for working with Outlines, and if you recall from our earlier discussion Impress uses bullet lists that are essentially structured as Outlines. In fact, you can create an outline in Writer and generate an Impress presentation from it, and the Presentation styles for bullet lists in AutoLayout boxes are called Outline styles. And this makes these buttons very useful indeed, both for working with bullet lists in AutoLayout boxes and in Text boxes. They let you Promote, Demote, and Move your lists. First you have the arrows that point to the left or to the right. These are the Promote and Demote buttons. These arrows are grayed out in general, but when you have selected a bullet point an arrow will become more visible if there is something you can do. For instance, if you have a “top-level” bullet point there is no way to Promote it to a higher level, so when you select it only the Demote arrow (pointing to the right) will become more visible. But select a second- or third-level bullet point and both arrows will be more visible because you can do either a Promote or a Demote.

The Up and Down arrows help you to move bullet points up or down. Just select a bullet point and click the Up arrow and it will move up a space. As before, only the available options will appear, so if you are already at the top only the Down arrow will become more visible. But if you are in the middle of the list both the Up and Down arrows will be more visible. You can also use arrows to move  groups of bullet points together. For example, you have a bullet point, and several sub-points under it, and you decide they need to be moved up. Just select all of them as a group, and click the appropriate arrow. These arrows are handy both when creating slides and when editing and refining slides.

Next are the Increase and Decrease Font buttons. These change your sizes by one “notch” as defined in the Font Size selector. If you look at this, you might see that your slide Title is set to 40 points by default (this is controlled by the Presentation style in most cases). But in the Font selector you can see that one notch lower is 36, and one notch higher is 44. So if you select the Title and click the Increase button once, it will go to 44 since that is the next available size. This is slightly faster than using the Font Size selector.

The next three Buttons are for Character, Paragraph, and Bullets and Numbering Properties, which we will examine in the following sections, and finally, a Font Color button. As we discussed previously, in a graphical program like Impress font colors become important in a way they never would in a program like Writer.

Character Properties

Clicking the Character icon opens a Properties window:

Character Properties Window in LibreOffice Impress

Character Properties Window in LibreOffice Impress








This should look fairly familiar to anyone who has been following these tutorials from the beginning. As I have stated previously, LibreOffice uses standard windows over and over, and the developers are loathe to reinvent the wheel. The thing you need to understand is that this window is used to set properties for the characters in your text. A different set of properties is available in the Paragraph properties.  This window has three tabs: Font, Font Effects, and Position. The first tab is something you have seen over and over, and lets you select your Font Family, Style, and Size. The second tab, Font Effects, lets you add things like Relief, Shadow, Outlining, and Strikethrough. The last tab, Position, lets you raise the character to a Superscript, lower it to a subscript, rotate it, or change the spacing (this is known technically as kerning, and is really a topic for an extended discussion of typography, but it means the spacing between letters.) In Writer some of these settings are in the Paragraph-level properties, but in Impress they are separated and placed in Character properties.

Paragraph Properties

When we talk of Paragraphs in this context, we don’t mean what is technically a paragraph as your language teacher might have taught you in school. We mean a paragraph-level object, and we discussed this in some detail previously in the tutorial LibreOffice Writer Paragraph Styles – What is a paragraph?. So if you are not clear on this, please read that article for more information. Here, we mean objects like Titles, Sub-titles, Bullet Points, and occasionally even actual paragraphs, to name a few. Clicking on the Paragraph button brings up its own Properties window:

Paragraph Properties Window in LibreOffice Impress








Again, we have three tabs. The first, Indents and Spacing, is the usual place for putting in an indent (including a first-line indent for actual paragraphs), for putting in space above or below the paragraph object, or for adjusting the line spacing (single-spaced, double-spaced, etc.). The second tab is called Tabs and is for setting the properties for a tab, such as position, left or right alignment, and which fill character if any you want to use. The last tab, Alignment, is the usual setting for Left, Right, Center, and Justified, as well as vertical alignment of text.

Bullets and Numbering

This window lets you set the properties for bullet and number lists, and has four tabs:

Bullets and Numbering Properties Window in LibreOffice Impress









The first lets you select a character to use for your bullets in your bullet lists. the second lets you use an image instead of a font character. The third, Position, lets you set the position of each level in your bullet lists, while the fourth, Customize, lets you do things like make each level different (you could, for instance, use this to put a numbered list under a bullet, or vice-versa).

And where are the Numbering options? By default you don’t see them because most of the time people are working with Bullet lists in Impress. But if you go to the Format menu and select Bullets and Numbering, you get a five tab window that includes Numbering. And if you use this to start a numbered list by clicking on a selection in the Numbering tab, that fifth tab will then be available from the button. It is like you needed to first tell Impress that this would be a feature you would be using before Impress would make it available.

Final notes on Text Formatting

A few things to note here. First, our description of the possible formatting options was not in-depth, because we have discussed all of this previously in our tutorials on Writer.  LibreOffice is a unified suite, which means that features introduced in one program will be borrowed for other programs as needed instead of redone from scratch. As we saw previously, the graphical components of Impress are mostly taken from Draw, while the text formatting options are quite reasonably taken from Writer, which is the main program for manipulating text. So if you want to see more details on Character, Paragraph, and Bullet and Numbering options, you should refer to the appropriate tutorials in the Writer section. I have written detailed descriptions of Paragraph styles, Tab styles, Character styles, Bullet styles, and Numbered styles that cover all of this in great depth, and I don’t want to repeat myself any more than the LibreOffice developers want to.

Second, the techniques discussed here are for those occasions when you are not controlling your text via the Presentation styles or the Drawing Object styles. If I plan to use the same settings again, I generally find it worth while to take the time to create a style and save it in an appropriate template. In the long run this saves me time and effort, even if it involves a little more up front.

So, with that, we move on to our next topic, Multimedia!

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