Getting started with professional text composition in Writer

    From The Document Foundation Wiki
    Other languages:

    This page is in work!


    The video shows an introduction on how to "Work professionally in Writer in LibreOffice" and links to this page here, which provides further information and details.

    This description is not intended to be a step-by-step guide.

    It is intended to show the interaction of the important tools in Writer in order to make it possible to work as professionally as possible.

    This wiki page is of course only a short introduction to help you get started with Writer.

    For more information, read the manuals of the LibreOffice community.

    Link to the Video

    Link to the Video (in German [DE]):

    Einstieg zur professionelle Textgestaltung in Writer – LibreOffice

    Direct (hard) formatting

    There is the formatting that is mainly done using the Formatting toolbar icons, the sidebar at "Properties" - "Character Styles" and "Paragraph Styles" or using the menu Format ▸ Character or  ▸ Paragraph. This is called direct (hard) formatting.

    For simple and short documents, it is usually enough to format what is written directly.

    This is the modification of text or other objects, such as frames or tables, by assigning various properties, such as "Bold", "Italic" or "Spacing" and "Font sizes".

    These formattings are done via the "Formattings" toolbar or via the sidebar ( Ctrl + F5 ) at "Properties". 7603DEWriterSymbolEigenschaften.png

    This type of formatting is strongly not recommended for large documents, such as novels, long letters, documentation, or the like.

    Delete Direct Formatting

    You can remove direct formatting from your document by selecting all the text ( menu Edit ▸ Select All, Ctrl + A ) and then choosing Format ▸ Clear Direct Formatting, ( Ctrl + M ) from the menu.

    Indirect (soft) formatting

    An important second way, is the indirect (soft) formatting with styles.

    These are located in the sidebar at "Styles", in the toolbar "Formatting" on the far left as "Set paragraph style" or in the menu Styles as a selection.

    Indirect formatting is not applied directly to the text, but is specified in the styles.

    The big advantage is that when you change a style, you change all the objects (such as paragraphs, borders, and so on) to which you have assigned that style.

    To create good documents and work as quickly as possible, you should take enough time to create the necessary styles.

    These are, for example, Paragraph styles for Headings and Bodytext paragraphs.

    See also Advantages of styles in Writer.

    What does professional work mean here?

    The meaning here lies in the use of the tools provided by Writer.

    These tools are basically the Styles.

    The most important Styles

    A good analysis of the advantages of Styles vs. Direct Formatting can be found in this answer.

    The meaning of Styles

    Using Styles means that you do not apply the formatting to the text, but define it in the Styles and then assign it to the text.

    In a Style/Paragraph Style, you can adapt several properties to your needs at the same time.

    For example, font, font size and color and much more.

    It is a whole package of properties.

    This allows you to assign many properties to a paragraph at once.

    You can use and assign the paragraph Styles as often as you like.

    With the help of Style, documents are quickly brought into the best possible form, giving you good-looking documents.

    All paragraphs that you provide with Styles adopt the properties defined in the paragraph Style.

    At a later stage, you remember that you want to change the text color.

    Then change the text color in the assigned Paragraph STyle and all assigned paragraphs will immediately adopt the new color.

    Styles and others in the sidebar

    Paragraph Styles

    To: What is a paragraph?

    Paragraph Styles, as the name suggests, are applied to paragraphs in text.

    In a Paragraph Style, as an example "Body Text", they set, or take over, the properties.

    These are the font, font effects, alignment, indents and spacing and some other properties.

    If you want to explore the properties of a Paragraph Style, right-click on the Paragraph Style "Body Text" in the sidebar at "Styles/Paragraph Styles" and choose Edit Style….

    You will find in a Paragraph Style there 15 tabs where you can explore the properties.

    If possible, avoid too many different formattings of paragraphs.

    Character Styles

    Character Styles are used to format letters, groups of letters, words or paragraph parts differently than specified by the Paragraph Style.

    For example, the Character Style "Strong Emphasis" (bold), is used to display the formatting in bold.

    Again, you can look up what properties are associated with a Character Style.

    Right-click on the "Strong Emphasis" Character Style and choose Edit Style….

    There are six tabs: "Organizer", "Font", "Font Effects", "Position", "Highlighting", and "Borders".


    For example, you can use the "Emphasis" character style to italicize individual words. This is much better than using direct formatting with Ctrl + I because you can replace the italic formatting with the bold at will: Just change the character style sheet and all italic words will become bold for example, without the need to manually track all occurrences.


    The "No Character Style" Character Style is the top Style in the hierarchy, from which all other Character Styles were once derived. You cannot change or delete the "No character Style" Character Style.

    The Meaning of the styles you want to apply is entirely up to you.

    You can determine your ideas about how your document should look with the use of styles.

    A very important appearance is created by the selected font and font size, for example, of the Bodytext.

    So think beforehand how you want your document to look and set up the styles accordingly.

    Note pin.svg

    The "Text Body" paragraph style has been renamed to "Body Text" as of version 7.6. So if you open a document that you created in an older version, you will see "Body Text" in your document if you used the "Text Body" paragraph style before.

    Unformatted text

    The basis when writing should initially be unformatted text or, for example, the paragraph style should be assigned to "Body Text".

    When copying blocks of text from other sources, be sure to paste the text into Writer unformatted.

    You can do this using the Edit ▸ Paste Special ▸ Paste Unformatted Text menu, ( Ctrl + Alt + ⇧ Shift + V ).

    If the paragraph style "Body Text" prevails in the document for the paragraphs, an unformatted text inserted there will take over the "Body Text" paragraph style.

    See also Writer Manual Chapters 3 and 4 - Text].

    The most important styles

    The styles can be found in the sidebar.

    If the sidebar is not visible, select the View ▸ Sidebar menu ( Ctrl + F5 ).

    In the sidebar under styles, you will find the ones that are important for text formatting:

    • Paragraph Styles are applied to paragraphs in the text - What is a paragraph?
    • Character Styles are applied to individual characters, words, or parts of text.
    Styles in the Sidebar

    To format the unformatted text you create as quickly as possible to make it easy to read, use paragraph and character styles.

    LibreOffice already comes with paragraph and character styles for the most common use cases.

    These are, for example, the paragraph styles "Body Text" and "Heading n" and the character styles "Emphasis" and "Strong Emphasis", for italics and bold.

    You can also customize the existing styles.

    Or create styles for your own purposes (Create your own styles) or modify existing styles.


    Don't change the paragraph style "Default Paragraph Style" under any circumstances, all other paragraph styles depend on it. If you basically want to change the font for all styles, choose Tools ▸ Options ▸ LibreOffice-Writer ▸ Basic Fonts (Western).

    Note pin.svg

    All other paragraph styles are derived from the "Default Paragraph Style". You can also derive other paragraph styles from existing paragraph styles, such as "Body Text". Paragraph styles are hierarchical and follow inheritance theory. Inheritance means that in a derived style, all settings are initially adopted from the predecessor. Only the manually changed settings are different from the predecessor.

    Note pin.svg

    Example - deriving a new paragraph style
    To derive a new paragraph style from the "Default Paragraph Style" one, right-click on the "Default Paragraph Style" and choose New… In the "Paragraph Style: xxxxx" dialog, enter a desired name in the "Organize" tab. In all other tabs you can make changes for your requirements. Click OK. Rightclick on the new paragraph style and select Edit Style… to customize the paragraph style at any time


    At the bottom of the sidebar / Styles is a drop-down list for viewing the styles. See the example Paragraph styles drop-down list.

    If you want to recognize the styles hirarchy, select Hirarchical there.

    Paragraph styles view in the sidebar below

    Derive your own styles from the standard ones or modify existing ones.

    Create your own styles

    As an example, open the "Styles" sidebar and click on the "Paragraph Styles" icon.

    Rightclick on the "Default Paragraph Style" and choose New…

    Click on the "Organize" tab.

    Enter a name for the new paragraph style there.

    If you want to write several paragraphs in a row with this paragraph style, enter the same name as "Next style".

    Otherwise, think about which paragraph style should follow.

    Change the desired settings in the other tabs and click OK.

    Assigning styles to text

    Styles are paragraph styles, character styles and others.

    To assign styles to the text, select the corresponding text or place the cursor there.

    Now doubleclick the desired style.

    For paragraph styles, it is sufficient to place the cursor in the desired text before doubleclicking in the paragraph, so that the cursor flashes within this text.

    For character styles, you must select the desired text before doubleclicking on the character style, such as a group of letters, a word, a part of a sentence.

    See the Writer manual Chapters 8 and 9 - Styles.

    Removing character styles from the text

    To remove character styles assigned in the text, select the text you want to handle.

    And doubleclick on the character style "No Character Style".

    Changing the character style of a text

    To change assigned character styles for a text, select the text you want to change.

    And doubleclick on another desired character style.

    To change the paragraph style of a paragraph

    To change assigned paragraph styles for a paragraph, place the cursor in the desired paragraph you want to change.

    Double-click on the other desired paragraph style.

    Advantages of styles in Writer

    With the help of styles you can quickly create good looking documents.

    Since in one style /paragraph style you can adjust several properties at the same time for your needs.

    For example, font type, size and color and many others.

    When you apply styles to all paragraphs, you apply the properties set in the paragraph style.

    Now, at a later time, you remember that you want to change the text color.

    Then you change the text color in the assigned paragraph style and all paragraphs immediately adopt the new color.

    How can I recognize which formatting is present?

    It is not easy to see which formatting has been assigned to the text in a document.

    Some tools have been provided in Writer to solve this problem.

    A simple test

    A simple test can be carried out by placing the cursor in the text to be examined.

    For example, the Paragraph and Character Styles are then highlighted in the sidebar.

    The Style Inspector

    You will also find the Style Inspector in the sidebar.

    If you click on the Style Inspector, Styles and formatting are displayed.

    The Spotlight

    Another option is to switch on "Spotlight" at the bottom of the sidebar for the Paragraph and Character Styles.

    This can be done separately for Paragraph and Character Styles.

    If you have ticked the "Spotlight", all Styles in the sidebar will be highlighted in color with an assigned number.

    The number can change depending on the Styles view.

    In the text itself, these colored markers are displayed in the left margin or in the text according to the Styles and also direct formatting.

    Example: Spotlight

    Create Document Template

    That is, prepare a document (this can be a blank page) in which you create all the required styles if possible.

    Then save your document as a Document Template and give it a catchy name.

    The Document Template with the styles you have created, you can now open again and again via the menu File ▸ New ▸ Templates… for new documents and assign the styles for your text there.

    See the manual Chapter 10 - Document Templates.

    Remember to save your new document.

    - To the top -

    Some question and answers

    Mix direct formatting and styles?

    Right off the bat, don't do it.

    Some people talk about formatting hell in this case.

    You can't tell from the text whether it was formatted "soft" or "hard".

    If you now want to change something there is of course always the danger that a formatting was used, which stands over the formatting style desired by you, see Does the upper sting the lower?.

    Which style is assigned to the text?

    To see which style is assigned to the text, place the cursor in the text to be examined.

    In the sidebar at "Styles" select "Paragraph Styles" or "Character Styles" to see which style is selected and thus assigned.

    Or select the "Style Inspector" for a more detailed view.

    What does the "Style Inspector" do?

    The sidebar contains a selection icon for "Style Inspector".

    If you place the cursor anywhere in the text, the "Style Inspector" will show you what formatting has been done at that location.

    Or look in the "Formatting" toolbar on the far left in the "Set Paragraph Style" field.

    Does the upper sting the lower?

    The sentence "Upper trumps lower", is known from playing cards.

    Here it means, which formatting has which priority:

    • Text of a paragraph style can be formatted differently by a character style.
    • Text of a paragraph style and/or character style can be formatted differently by the direct formatting.

    Conversely, it means:

    • Paragraph style cannot format text differently that has been handled by a character style or direct formatting.
    • Similarly, a character style cannot format text that has been treated with direct formatting.

    Order, which formatting is above which?

    • Direct formatting (above)
    • Character styles
    • Paragraph styles (bottom)

    What is a paragraph?

    To: Paragraph Styles

    A paragraph is always created when the ↵ Enter key is pressed while writing in the word processor.

    The end of the paragraph is represented by the character ¶ ("pilcrow" = translated "mushroom head").

    The end of a paragraph is also the beginning of a new paragraph.

    If the formatting characters are not visible, click on the symbol (Pilcrow) "Toggle Formatting Marks" ( Ctrl + F10 ) in the "Standard" toolbar.

    So a paragraph (text) is delimited by a pilcrow at the beginning and at the end.

    When you open Writer with an empty document, the first thing you see is a pilcrow, which is the end character of a paragraph.

    A heading is also just a paragraph.

    So, for example, if you see a pilcrow at the end of the line above a heading and at the end of the heading, that heading in a line represents its own paragraph.

    Note pin.svg

    Paragraph switching with ↵ Enter
    Line feed with ⇧ Shift + ↵ Enter

    Further Informations

    Where can I find good documents for inspiration?

    Samples for good documents are the manuals of LibreOffice

    English documentation

    Save newly created documents

    Always save documents created in Writer in ODF (ODT) format.

    See also:

    How do I open files from MS-Office 2007 or 2010 (.DOCX, .XLSX, ...)?

    The interpretation of a paragraph

    Another aspect is the interpretation of a paragraph.

    Take a very simple book, e.g. a detective novel.

    This is mostly divided into paragraphs.

    So what should a paragraph contain?

    One describes a certain situation or a certain thought or a highlight.

    When this thought ends or branches out, it usually makes sense to start a new paragraph.

    But this interpretation of a paragraph has nothing to do with LibreOffice.

    It is one of the main tasks of every author to think about it and make determinations.

    Used files

    Bauernbrot_DF.odt File is directly formatted

    Bauernbrot_FF.odt File is formatted with styles

    Die wichtigsten Formatvorlagen DE.png Chart Styles

    Documentation / Manuals

    Here you will find the Documentation / Manuals:

    Documentation / Manuals

    Any questions?

    For questions on this topic go to:


    Get Involved

    Join us today and help us to make it even better!

    Get Involved

    LibreOffice is Free Software and is made available free of charge.

    Your donation, which is purely optional, supports our worldwide community.

    If you like the software, please consider a Donation.