LibreOffice Impress: The Gallery and Themes


In the last tutorial we looked at pictures and how they can be used in Impress. But I left out one area because the tutorial was already running a bit long, and I wanted to give the Gallery and Themes the full attention they deserve. I think this is something a lot of people have missed when working with Impress, at least I have not seen these elements includes much in people’s presentations. But they are a wonderful addition to your toolkit, and well-worth some attention.  Note that the Gallery is a common feature of all LibreOffice applications, and is available in applications like Writer and Calc, though there is less need for it there. It is when you get to applications like Impress and Draw that you really discover how useful it can be.

To begin with, on the right-hand side there is the sidebar, and it is controlled by icons the far right. One of those icons is for Gallery, and it opens up in the Sidebar:











If you prefer, though, you can go to Tools–>Gallery, and it will open above your Workspace instead of on the Sidebar. I prefer the Sidebar, but I do have a wide-screen monitor with 1920×1080 native resolution, which gives me a 16:9 aspect ratio. I think most laptops are also configured this way, so using space on the side makes more sense than using up the vertical space. Still, it is your choice, and in any case you may see screen shots that have it above the Workspace. Also, whether you have it on top or on the side, can make use of the Show/Hide button. It is really hard to see, but there is a divider between any two spaces in the Impress desktop area, and in the middle of the divider there is a very small button:

Show/Hide Button for spaces







If you click this button it will hide the space if it is open, or reopen the space if it is hidden.


What you are looking at is a built-in library of clip art that you can use in your presentations (among other things). The Clip Art is gathered into packages called Themes, and these are what you see in the upper window. They are:

  • Backgrounds – Images you could use as backgrounds for an individual slide or a whole slide show. You may recall I went looking online for a background image when I did the Hacker Public Radio Template. That was because none of these fit what I was trying to do. And when you consider that this Gallery is intended to serve all of LibreOffice, it is not clear that any of these were specifically intended to be Presentation backgrounds. They look like really hideous Web page backgrounds from the 1990s.
  • Bullets – This is where you can see the common relationship Gallery has to all of LibreOffice. We saw in Writer that you could use alternative images for Bullets, and here they are again. Since Impress uses a lot of bullets, you might want to make use of these images. Note that they are images, not font characters.
  • Computers – These are images that might relate to computers or offices, it is kind of both really. That probably says something about modern workplaces.
  • Diagrams –  Kind of a grab bag of spheres, cubes, stylized people, circles in circles, and so on. I think the idea is that a lot of these might find their way into a certain kind of process diagram.
  • Environment – Green leaves, light bulbs, recycle symbols, even a polar bear on a shrinking ice flow. Perfect for an environmentally conscious presentation.
  • Finance – ATM machines, bags of money, charts of profits going up or down, etc. But also some scales that might be useful in a legal presentation.
  • Homepage – Cast your mind back to the good old days of the 1990s when we hand-coded web sites in HTML. I remember using these kinds of buttons a lot. Fortunately WordPress has made them unnecessary for me, but if you want to put in arrows and buttons manually go for it. They even have a guy with a shovel and a pile of dirt for the “Under Construction” we used to use before we all agreed that every site is always under construction.
  • My Theme – This will be blank because you haven’t created one yet, I am assuming.
  • People – Cartoon people, including doctors, policemen, nurses, cooks, and vacationers with cameras.
  • School and University – Blackboard, books, microscope, test tubes.
  • Sounds – I’m going to skip over this for now. These are short sound clips that can be embedded in a slide show, but that is a whole topic in itself.
  • Symbols -Another grab bag of stuff, including smiley faces, flags, locks, keys, floppy disks, and so on.
  • Text Shapes – Circles, hexagons, rectangles and so on. mostly filled in with color. I think the idea is that you might use these as backgrounds for text, though any image can have text overlayed.
  • Transportation – Trains, planes, and automobiles.

The thing you have to understand is that each of these themes is provided as is, and you cannot change them in any way. But if you create your own themes you can add new ones, delete things, rename them, and so on. You can tell that you are looking at a built-in theme because when you right-click on it all you get is a Properties pop-up, and when you click on it you get something like this:

Gallery Theme Properties







All this tells you is the name of this theme (grayed out because you cannot rename it), the location on your hard drive, and how many objects are inside. In this case, it is located at /usr/lib/libreoffice/share/gallery/transportation.sdg. And it contains 14 objects, which happen to be PNG graphics files.

Now, what about creating your own Themes? This makes a lot of sense if you have images you will reuse a lot, such as corporate logos, or images specific to your profession. This is not difficult. Open the Gallery, and click the New Theme button on top.

New Theme Properties








Here you see that the name field is editable since this is your own creation. And it tells you that the Theme file will be in your home directory (in Linux) instead of /usr/lib like the built-in ones, because this is your  theme. The built-in ones are shared by all users of the computer (as Linux shows its multi-user Unix roots). However, the location of the *.sdg file is not necessarily the same thing as the location of the actual elements of the theme. They can be anywhere on your hard drive. To add files to the theme, go to the second tab, Files, and use the usual File manager to locate the images, or whatever, that you want to include. And these can be varied.The file types allowed include most image files, many sound files, and even some movie files. So you can have a lot of variety if you want. Now suppose you use the file manager to find the images you want use. This is where it gets very confusing, because nothing works the way you expect. If you click the Find Files button nothing seems to show up. And if you click the Add button files show up, but clicking Open does not seem to do anything. Then if you open the new theme in the gallery you will see that your images were indeed added. I think this may be a bug.

Once you have the new theme created you can go back and add additional images, or delete images, as you wish. And if you want you can rename the theme: Just right-click on the theme name, and select Rename from the pop-up window. And you can go back to the Properties window at any time. If you want to, you can even delete the theme altogether.

One last thing you might see is the Update selection on the pop-up window. When you create a theme, the *.sdg files is essentially an index of files and the path to them. They can be all over your hard drive. So the developers of LibreOffice recommend that from time to time you update the theme to make sure everything is where the theme expects it. And if something disappears when you do this, chances are the file got moved or renamed, so you need to re-establish the connection.

That covers the basics of the Gallery, and you should now have another tool in your toolkit. Next we will look at Draw objects and similar graphics.

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

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