LibreOffice Impress: Working With Text Boxes


Text Boxes are considered graphical objects, actually, so they are controlled by the Drawing Object Styles. These can be a little bit confusing because they are shared among different LibreOffice modules, so some of the things you see aren’t really meant for Impress. For example, there are three Title styles, but none of them are meant for putting titles on slides. They are actually meant for putting titles on drawings, such as engineering drawings. If you you wanted to have a slide title but use Text boxes, you should select the Title Only slide layout. The Title would be controlled by the Title Presentation Style.

The idea of text boxes is to make it easier to present content that does not lend itself to bullet points, and still have uniformity through the use of the Drawing Object Styles. You have several styles to choose from here:

  • First Line Indent – I don’t know why they have this for Impress, but not for Writer. In Writer I have to create my Paragraph style from scratch whenever I do a new setup of the program. But this would let you do what is standard practice and have paragraphs where the first line is indented.
  • Heading, Heading 1, Heading 2 – This gives you three levels of headings in descending size as written, though you can also modify them, or even create additional styles if you wish. They are used like Headings in Writer.
  • Text, Text Body, and Text Justified – These styles correspond to the Text styles in Writer and serve a similar purpose. Again, they may be modified if you like, or you can create additional styles as needed.

Adding Text Boxes

There are two ways to add text boxes. First, you do it from the Drawing toolbar, which is usually open and docked at the bottom of the screen. Just look for an icon of a capital T and click on it, then draw a box on the slide. You don’t need to worry about the size of the box, it will expand to fit the text you place in it. The other way is to add the Text toolbar by going to View–>Toolbars, and place a check mark in the Text box. This may appear as a floating toolbar, but you can drag it to the side or drag it to another toolbar as an addition. This gives you a few more options than the simple Text tool on the Drawing toolbar, so it is worth knowing about. For instance, you can use the Fit Text To Frame icon to draw a box where the text will resize to fit the box, instead of the box resizing to fit the text, which is the normal approach. That can give you an interesting graphical effect for your text.

You can add as many text boxes as you need to add, and when you go down this path you may need to use a few. You see, one of the interesting rules is that you can only have one style per text box. So if you want a heading, then some body, that is two text boxes right there.  Add another heading and some more body, that is two more right there. Now, you won’t have a large number of these because slides can only hold so much. My rule of thumb is if the font size changes on me, the slide is overloaded and I should look at splitting it up into two or more slides instead.

Working With Text Styles

To get going with Styles, click on the Styles and formatting icon on the far right to open this in the sidebar. Remember that you need to be looking at the Drawing Object styles when working with Text boxes. You can always tell which style is controlling a text box by selecting the text box and looking to see which style is highlighted. To change the style in use, just double-click on the new style you want and it will take over.

To modify a style, just right-click and select Modify. Or to create a new Style, just right-click and select New. In either case, the Properties window you get will look like this:

Drawing Object Style Properties

Drawing Object Style Properties








As we have observed before, LibreOffice reuses things extensively. In this case, there is a single Properties window for all Drawing Objects, and it has both Graphical and Text related tabs available. Here we are only concerned with the tabs relevant to Text.

  • Organizer – As with Writer, this lets us set up an inheritance relationship, and by default all styles are linked to the Default style, though you can change this. For the built-in styles you cannot change the name, but for new styles you can name it and put it into a category.
  • Font – This is the standard Font selector you should be used to by now. You can select the Font Family, Style, and Size here.
  • Font Effect – You can choose a font color here, overlining, strikethrough, underlining, outline, and shadow.
  • Indents & Spacing – This is just like the Writer tab, and controls indents before, after, and first line, as well as space before and after paragraphs
  • Text – This is where it starts to get different because Text boxes are not like Writer documents. They are somewhat similar to Frames in Writer, though, and you even see Fit Text To Frame as a button on the Text toolbar. On this tab, you first get the option to fit the width and/or height of the text box to the text. This is pretty normal, and both of these boxes are checked by default in the built-in styles, and in the Default style they are all based on. If you remove these two check marks, though, you can check the box Fit to Frame. This would let you draw the box exactly where you want it, and the text would expand in all directions to fill the frame. The other options in the top section are for text fit into Drawing objects of some kind, and involve fitting the text to a shape, so they are not relevant to this discussion.
    Beneath this you have Spacing to Borders, which is similar to a margin on a page. It specifies how much space needs to come between the edge of the text box and the actual text. Unlike a page margin, though, the space is usually fairly small. In the U.S. it is generally a tenth of an inch on the sides and half that on the top and bottom. I discussed this in my Writer tutorial where I create a brochure in both American and European measurements and paper sizes (See A Brochure Project), but if you need to know where the setting is for this go to Tools–>Options–>LibreOffice Impress–>General, and in the Settings area change the measurement unit to Millimeter (or whatever).
    Finally, there is the Text Anchor point for how the text is anchored within the text box. If you have already checked the boxes for fitting the width and height to the text, this won’t do much for you since there is no room in the box to move anything. But if you remove the checkmarks and make the box a bit larger than the text it contains, you can move the text within the box to match the anchor.
  • Text Effects – If you have No Effect selected, the rest of this tab is greyed out. But if you select an effect you will see options become available as needed. For instance, if you select scroll the arrows will come to life to specify the direction of the scroll. If not overused, this can be effective, but be careful not to overdo it.
  • Alignment – This is pretty much the same as in Writer. You can have Left, Right, Centered, and Justified.
  • Tabs – Again, this is the same as in Writer. You can set the position of the tabs, whether left, right, or centered, and the fill character if any.

The other tabs in this window really apply to graphical objects so are not really relevant to our discussion here.

Working With Text Boxes

We saw above that you can insert a text box by drawing one using the Text box icon form either the Drawing Toolbar or from the Text toolbar. If you want this to be on a slide with a title, though, it makes sense to use the Title Only slide from the sidebar, put in your Title, and let it be controlled by the appropriate Presentation style for slide titles. That gives you uniformity of appearance, and that is important. I know I have emphasized that in these tutorials, but you really want to have a professional appearance, and uniformity is one of the keys, and easy to achieve if you just take a little care.

So, when would this make sense? One example I have used is when I am using quotes in a presentation. If I only want a single one-off quote I could just do that manually, but if I am going to use multiple quotes I would create a style for that purpose. And that means I really have to be using text boxes since I cannot create styles for AutoLayout boxes. For a couple of small quotes I could use the Title only slide, then draw a couple of text boxes to put the quotes into. If I had several larger quotes I might use the same slide multiple times, with a different quote on each slide. Then again, maybe the quotes stand alone without needing a title at all, and in that case the Blank slide is the perfect choice.

Of course, everything we said in the last tutorial about moving and resizing boxes applies here as well. You select the boxes in the same way, and can move or resize by using the mouse, the arrow keys, or the Position and Size Dialog.

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