LibreOffice Impress: Slide Layouts and AutoLayout Text Boxes


We have spent several tutorials on graphics, including the Themes and the Gallery, and that is all to the good since Impress is a graphical program to some degree. But it also is a way of presenting text content, and it worth a little time to develop that further. Impress does some things with text that resemble other programs like Writer, but it also does some things differently so it is worth a moment to discuss these specifics.

AutoLayout Text Boxes

The first thing you notice working with text in Impress is that all text has to be inside of some kind of container. That means that before you can enter text you need something to hold it. In many cases these containers come with the slide type you choose, and these are called AutoLayout Text Boxes. They are what you see when you insert a new slide and see a message “Click to add Title” or “Click to add text”

AutoLayout Text Boxes

AutoLayout Text Boxes








This is the most common type of slide, and it has one AutoLayout Text box for the Slide title, and one for the Slide Body. These boxes, like all of the AutoLayout Text Boxes, are controlled by the Presentation Styles. So if you want to change the appearance for all of the slides in your presentation, you would do it by modifying the Presentation Styles. Open the Styles and Formatting window on the right, and Presentation Styles will be the second icon. The Title of the slide is governed by the Title style, which is pretty clear, but the body is governed by the Outline style. The reason for this is that the default for most people most of the time is to use bullet points and sub-points, and these are best controlled through a hierarchical Outline style. The major exception to this rule is the very first slide, which is the called the Title Slide. In this slide you also have a slide title, which would be the title of your presentation, but instead of a body you have a subtitle, and of course that is controlled by the Subtitle style. For our discussion here they are the only three Presentation Styles we need.

Slide Layouts

If you look at the slide types you can see that they are primarily concerned with the arrangement of AutoLayout Text Boxes, When you open the Properties window on the right, you will see Layouts, and when you mouse-over each layout you can see what it is called.

Slide Layouts

Slide Layouts








In order, they are:

  1. Blank slide – This has no AutoLayout Text Boxes at all.
  2. Title Slide – This has a Title box on top and a Subtitle box below.
  3. Title, Content – This is the one that is most used. It has a Title box on top, and a body section preconfigured for bullet points below.
  4. Title and 2 Content – This has a Title box, and under it 2 content boxes side by side. Each of the content boxes is preconfigured for bullet points.
  5. Title only – Just a Title box on top, then blank
  6. Centered text – This has no Title box at all, just a body box, and in this case it is not preconfigured as bullet points. It has text set up as centered. The style that controls this box is the Subtitle style. You can see this when you click on the box to add text and check the Styles and Formatting Window. You will see the Subtitle style highlighted, which is your indicator.
  7. Title, 2 Content and Content – This has a Title box on top, 2 content boxes stacked on the left, and one full content box on the right.
  8. Title, Content and 2 Content – Just the mirror image of the previous, with the full content box on the left and the stacked boxes on the right.
  9. Title, 2 Content over Content – Title box on top, then 2 side-by-side content boxes, then a full width content box beneath them. All content boxes preconfigured to use bullet points.
  10. Title, Content over Content – Title box, then a full width content box, then another full width content box beneath that. Content boxes are preconfigured for bullet points.
  11. Title, 4 Content – Title box, 2 side-by-side content boxes, then 2 more side-by-side content boxes beneath them. Content boxes are preconfigured for bullet points.
  12. Title, 6 Content – Title box, 3 side-by-side content boxes, then 3 more side-by-side content boxes beneath them. Content boxes are preconfigured for bullet points.

Now, one thing to keep in mind is the the fact that boxes are preconfigured for bullet points does not mean you are limited to only using bullet point text. First of all, in the center of each of the content boxes are the icons we looked at previously to insert a Table, a Chart, an Image, or a Movie. So you can do that in any of these of these boxes instead of text. The other option you have is turn off the bullets and manually control your text in an AutoLayout box. It would have to be manual because there is no style for text that is not “Outline” in the Presentation styles, and you cannot add a style here either. For a “one-off” change it is fine to do it manually, but if you wanted to do a lot of it you probably would prefer to use a Text box, as we discuss in the next tutorial, to achieve uniformity in your text.

One last note here is that AutoLayout Text Boxes are placed into each slide type automatically, and there is no way to manually insert one. You can delete one easily enough: Just click on the border so that it is selected, and your cursor changes to something like a hand, or a four-headed arrow (this is a function of the operating system, not LibreOffice). You will see the border with 8 “handles”, and at this point pressing the Delete key will remove the box. But if you change your mind, there is not a way to insert another AutoLayout box. You either have to use a Text Box, or start the slide over. If I want the uniformity of the Presentation Styles, I just start the slide over.

Note that there are two slides specifically set up for using Text boxes and other content in place of the AutoLayout boxes. They are the Blank slide and the Title Only slide. When we get to Text Boxes in our next tutorial we will use these.

Using Layouts

The advantage of using AutoLayout boxes is that they make it easy to quickly add content and have a uniform appearance. And you have a lot of options. For example, you could use the Title, 2 Content and Content slide to have a small table on top of a chart of that data, and then on the right have the bullet points for discussing that data. Or you could have a slide at the end where you you thank your team, and use the Title, 4 Content or Title, 6 Content, with each of the content boxes holding a photo of one of the team members (suitable for small teams only, of course).

Of course, the AutoLayout boxes may not exactly fit your needs. Still, you can make several adjustments. First, you can move the boxes around on the slide. Just click on the border until it is highlighted, the 8 “handles” appear, and your cursor becomes something like hand or a four-headed arrow. You can then click and drag the box to a different location. Or if you prefer, you can use the arrow keys to move the box gradually. I find the arrow keys give me better control than the mouse.

And you can resize the boxes. Just click on the border until it is highlighted and the 8 “handles” appear. Move your cursor over one of the handles  until the cursor changes. If the handles is in the middle of a side, the cursor will become a two-headed arrow, and you can click-and-drag to pull that side in or out as needed. On the corner handles the cursor may turn into a two headed arrow, or a small corner with an arrow pointed into it, depending on the operating system. In either case, can click and drag the corner to resize both the height and width of the box  simultaneously. But if you want to keep the same proportions (particularly important for images, movies, and charts) make sure you press the Shift key first then click-and-drag. And make sure you release the mouse button before you release the Shift key.

Another option is to use the Position and Size Dialog. As before, select the box until the border is highlighted and the 8 “handles” appear. But then Go to Format–>Position and Size, or press the F4 shortcut key, to bring up the Dialog:

Position and Size

Position and Size










This Dialog has 3 tabs:

  • Position and Size
  • Rotation
  • Slant and Corner Radius

There is also a simplified version on the right sidebar. If you have your box selected as above, when you click on the Properties icon on the right you will see it.

Position and Size on Sidebar

Position and Size on Sidebar








Note: Many options in the right side-bar only appear when you have something selected or are in the correct area to turn them on.

Now, to understand how this works in the more complete F4 version of the Dialog, there is a base point on each slide that corresponds to one of the corners, the middle of each side, or the center of the slide. By default the base point is the tip left corner, but you can change it and see how the measurements change. The Position X is the horizontal distance from the left side, and Position Y is the vertical distance from the top. Or put another way, it measures the displacement from the top left corner of the slide.

The advantage to using this Dialog it that it lets you make very fine adjustments, down to one-hundredth of an inch in the U.S., and a similar amount in Metric for people in civilized countries. ☺ The size section gives you similarly fine control over resizing, and by default has Keep ratio checked, which will preserve the aspect ratio, and does the same as holding down the Shift key when using the mouse.

The Rotation tab lets you rotate the text box, and thus the text inside. A pivot point for the rotation is specified, and by default will be the center of the box. But you can pivot around another point, like one of the corners, if you prefer. You can rotate using mouse to click-and-drag around the dial, but for finer control you can type in the number of degrees of rotation in the Rotation Angle box.

The third tab, Slant and Corner Radius, is really more applicable to Drawing objects, not to Text boxes. But as we have discussed, LibreOffice likes to reuse its menus and dialogs as much as possible, so it appears here even though it is not useful for Content boxes.

So, the standard slides with the AutoLayout boxes give you a lot of possibilities, particularly when you can move, resize, or rotate the boxes as needed. It is worth taking the time to get to know all of them, and to experiment with their use. But sometimes you just need to get out of the AutoLayout box, and that is where our next Tutorial will take us.

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