OOo Off the Wall: Paragraph Styles, Part II

Writer offers a bag of tricks for when you want to do a bit more than the normal with paragraph styles and formatting.

So, you've chosen the fonts for your paragraph style and its positioning. What next? In many cases, nothing is next. Font and positioning choices are the basics of paragraph styles in Writer. Often, you need nothing more. But, when you do need more, Writer's paragraph styles have a grab bag of tricks waiting for you. These tricks include:

  • Assigning a paragraph style to a numbering style

  • Including or excluding a style from line numbering and resetting the numbering

  • Making the formatting depend upon conditions

  • Adding drop capitals to the start of the paragraph

Except for conditional formatting and drop capitals, all these options are available from Format -> Paragraph if you are formatting manually. They also are available from the window for each paragraph style. Because conditional formatting requires consistency of styles, it is unavailable when you format manually. Learning these tricks now not only readies you for future needs, but it give you some ideas to try.

By the Numbers

Unlike most word processors, Writer does not make bulleted or numbered lists part of the paragraph style. Instead, both ordered and unordered lists have a style of their own called numbered lists. Paragraph styles can be associated with a numbered list style for adding numbers automatically.

This division of lists and paragraphs has several advantages. To start with, it reduces confusion by separating the two different functions of setting up lists and formatting paragraphs. More than one MS Word user has complained of not knowing which they were editing, but with Ooo Writer, this confusion is eliminated. Equally as important, by separating lists and paragraphs, Writer not only gains the interface space for giving lists a complete set of options, it also avoids burying the options deep in the menu structure. Moreover, because lists are separate, they can be used by more than one paragraph style, which saves users time. For instance, if you want two paragraph styles to use Roman numerals, you need to set up the numbering only once. Changing a paragraph's numbering style is equally easy. This is the economy of effort that all styles are intended to provide.

Paragraph and line numbering can be added from the Numbering tab. Paragraph numbering associates a numbering style with the paragraph style. Line numbering is set in Tools -> Line numbering.

If you set the view in the Stylist to List Styles, you should notice that Writer's pre-defined paragraph styles contain styles called List 1 through 5 and Numbering 1 through 5. The List styles are meant to correspond to the pre-defined number styles called List and are intended for bullet lists. Similarly, the Numbering styles are meant to correspond to the pre-defined number styles called Numbering and are intended for numbered lists. No doubt, matching paragraph styles to the numbering styles they link to helps you to see the relations between them more easily. Still, I personally prefer to define custom styles for both paragraph and numbering that describe the type of numbering, such as Arabic Numerals Red. These style names are even more convenient.

OOo Writer comes with pre-defined list styles. However, you are better off designing your own styles with descriptive names.

Both the List and Numbering paragraph styles also include special styles for the start and end of a list and for lists continued at the top of new pages. Such styles can be useful for adding extra space above the top or bottom of the list or for adding a continuation message. However, if you give enough thought to design, you usually can do without these styles.

The Numbering tab also includes options for including the paragraph style when Tools -> Line Numbering is turned on and for restarting or changing line numbers with each instance of the style. Unfortunately, paragraph numbering does not include a similar restart option, the way that FrameMaker does. Instead, you have to use the Restart Numbering button on the Function tool bar that becomes available when the mouse cursor is in a list. Click the blue arrow on the right if this button isn't visible second from the right on the tool bar.


-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)


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Number of Fonts

Daniella S.'s picture

Really its a great opportunity to grab a spot definition like this which has given me a full support to complete my project. Thanks a lot, Bruce.
But I want to ask for some more clarification on linked styles. I am sure the readers will also be thankful. I personally tried to find some solutions from articles on OOo at but I really need some more advise. For example, when I open the Paragraph Style dialog box for the Heading style (right-click > Modify), I have to select the Font tab. But the number of the fonts enlisted is not sufficient, I suppose. Can I install more fonts from some source?

Hi, Bruce. Your articles

Merlin Web's picture

Hi, Bruce. Your articles about OOo are so good for me to learn OOo. Thank you much.

I want to see the first part of this article, 'OOo Off the Wall: Paragraph Styles, Part II'. Then I tried to search it but I failed. Could you tell me where I can get it?

Paragraph Styles/List Styles?

Anonymous's picture

I'm a new user of OOo and as a regular user of MS applications, I've had some difficulties to learn 'on my own'... Thanks to mr Byfield's articles though, I've learned the basics and I'm very happy for that!
But... I don't understand the point of the list styles that exists in the category Paragraph Styles, since I haven't noticed any connection whatsoever to the 'corresponding' styles in the category Numbering Styles? Am I missing something here?