OOo Off the Wall: Setting Up Page Styles in OOo Writer

A little planning ahead will make your word processing tasks easier and keep your documents looking consistent as they grow.

Page styles are one of's strongest innovations. Together with text frames and integration with Draw, these features nudge OOo Writer out of the word processor category and into the lower reaches of desktop publishing.

Unfortunately, page styles also are one of the hardest features for new users to master. Users of other word processors may be familiar with paragraph and character styles but probably do not know page styles. If they are used to master pages in FrameMaker or PageMaker, users are only slightly better off, because page styles take a different approach to layout than do master pages. And, to make matters worse,'s version 1.1 on-line help barely goes beyond a description of the fields in the Page Style window.

To use page styles effectively, users need a specific combination of knowledge. To start with, they need a basic knowledge of design elements. Equally important, however, they need to know where the tools are located throughout Writer that let users apply this knowledge.

What follows is a summary of the design elements in Writer and the tools to apply them. It explains the planning you need to do beforehand and how to design the general page and individual elements, such as headers, footers, footnotes and reoccurring graphics. Finally, it explains how to automate the application of page styles for greater convenience as you write.

Planning the Styles You Need

Before you build styles, ask yourself what styles you are going to need. Many of the pages you need may already exist in

In typography, the basic page is the right one, because when a book is bound, the first page you see after the inside cover is a right-hand page. If you are planning a simple document, modify the Right Page style for your purposes.

If you are designing a document that will be bound, however, or if you simply are a fan of traditional design, you probably want to use the Left Page style as well. Generally, the left page mirrors the right page, so refer to File→Page Preview frequently to check that you are keeping the two pages symmetrical.

Left and right pages are mirror images for at least two good reasons. First, when a book is bound, the margin closest to the center of the book needs to be wider than the outside margin to accommodate the stitches or the glue. This is the right margin on the left page, and the left margin on the right page. Second, regardless of whether the page number is in the header or footer, designers usually prefer to put it on the outside margin of the page to make it easier to read.

For a letter with its sender's address and mailing address, or for a chapter of a longer work, you should design the First Page style so readers can distinguish it at a glance. The first page usually is a modified right page. Its modifications can include a large chapter number, a graphic, a start farther down the page, a drop capital for the first letter or word and a different header.

Figure 1. Designing the First Page

Other page styles depend on your needs. A two-column Index page style can save space, and you may want to create an Index First Page for it. If you need the occasional landscape page for diagrams, you also may want to create that style. Other page styles depend on your needs. If you plan all of your page styles at the same time, though, you can ensure that they look the same and are not a jumble of improvisations.

Setting Up the Basic Design

Creating a new page style is a simple process. Begin by activating the Stylist floating palette by pressing the F11 key. Then, select the fourth icon from the left on the top of the Stylist. Right-click an entry in the Stylist and select New or Modify. If you select New, the new style is based automatically on the existing style that you click.

Start with the basic formatting listed in Table 1; we revisit other selections later.

Table 1. Basic Formatting for Page Styles

FieldSuggested Settings
Page→FormatLetter in North America, A4 anywhere else. The most common reason for a different size is using envelops of varying sizes.
OrientationPortrait for most text-based documents, landscape for diagrams.
MarginsUsually .7 to 1.0 inches. Don't be afraid to be generous with the margins; narrow margins make the entire page cramped. In traditional design for bound books, make the side closest to the center of the book at least .25 inches wider than the outside margin to allow room for binding.
Page→Page LayoutSets up mirrored pages for styles other than Left Page and Right Page.
BackgroundFor most purposes, leave the background white. If you do use color, test that the text is readable against the background. The heyday of Wired is long past.
BordersFor most purposes, none. Borders around text often are a sign of design insecurity. At times, though, a border may help to group text or contribute to a complex design.
ColumnsFor most purposes, use one column. If you select landscape for a text document, plan on at least two columns or the lines will be too long for easy reading. Too short of a column for the font size may result in too many hyphens.

Figure 2. Changing the Background and Borders


-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)


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How to remove the header from the other pages

Anonymous's picture


I found difficulties in removing the header from other pages. I just want the header shown on the first page, but once I set the header, it shows on all pages. Would you help me to remove the header from other pages, please?
Looking forward for your response.
Thank You very much.



Re: OOo Off the Wall: Setting Up Page Styles in OOo Writer

Anonymous's picture

Reoccurring Elements (on a page)

Another possibility for adding reoccurring objects is to use drawing elements and place these in the header (anchored to paragraph). Drawing Elements are not limited to the frame area but can extend outside of it. This method allows text/ graphics in the page margins which the others do not.

For Text Only this is simple as creating a graphics object (eg. Rectangle) and inserting text by double clicking the object. Then set the line and area properties to invisible or other as appropriate.

Graphics can be changed to Drawing Objects by copying the graphic and pasting into Draw. Then copy the graphic from Draw and paste it into the header. By default (at least on my set-up) it is pasted as a ?Drawing Format?object, but otherwise Edit> Paste Special> Drawing Format will do it.

As with all workarounds the downside: Text wrap will not work for text outside the Header Frame . Therefore this solution is good for objects outside of text areas such as in the side margins. Also if you are sharing files with Microsoft users expect some challenges, since Microsoft is more limited in their handling of text in graphics.

Page Number Field problem :S

Anonymous's picture

I have 2 problems in OO:

1) Insertng Page Number Field, where a there is a large document (+1Mb, due to images/OLE objects), fails to display/print the page number over a value greater than 32; the page number field remains, but no page number is displayed/print from then on (apply page preview to verify this).

2) The same occurs with page number fields when applying an offset, if the offset makes the page number field to be greater than 32, then the page number field does not display/print any number and appears empty after displaying page number 32 (again, apply page preview to verify this).

Is there a way around this ???

Manual and automated page breaks

ursacol02's picture

as a longtime user of OOo i would suggest everyone that they try to automate the page breaks (Next style setting) as much as possible. sometimes, when you have the Next style defined and you use Manual page break instead, you will get additional page breaks, which can mess up you page numbering and print empty pages.


Re: OOo Off the Wall: Setting Up Page Styles in OOo Writer

Anonymous's picture

"Spacing: The amount of space between the footer and the bottom of the page or the header and the top of the page." This is, at best, imprecise. It's actually the amount of space between the header/footer and the text that appears in the body of the page. The way it's phrased here makes it sound as if it's the space between the header/footer and the top or bottom edge of the sheet of paper the header/footer will appear on. In the same section, it should be made clearer that items found in other tabs (than header/footer tabs) are being discussed in addition.

Re: OOo Off the Wall: Setting Up Page Styles in OOo Writer

Anonymous's picture

One of the things I like about SO/OOo is that the page formatting menu is much easier to find and use that MS-Word. It does help to have had exposure to some sort of DTP package to get one's mind out of the automated typewriter model of most word processing programs.