OOo Off the Wall: It's Numbering, but Not as We Know It
To create an outline numbering style, select one of the pre-defined formats on the Outline tab. If you only need three to five outline levels, one of the pre-defined formats may be all you need. However, if you need more, move directly to the Options tab. There, your choices are the same as for a numbering style. The difference is that you can make the choices for each outline level, selecting the one to work on from the list on the left of the window. If you want, you also can set the options in the Positioning tab separately for each outline level.
By default, each outline level starts at the number set in the Start at field. However, if you want numbering to continue from level to level, you can select All levels -> Consecutive numbering instead.
As an alternative to defining each outline level separately, select 1-10 as the level and define the style once. Then, associate it with a new paragraph style, and use the Condition tab of the paragraph style to format each outline level with an existing paragraph style, such as the Headings 1-10. This alternative usually is much faster to do than formatting each outline level separately.
No matter how you apply numbering styles, as soon as you start a list, Writer switches to list mode. List mode is marked by its own tool bar that slides out from the blue arrow on the right of the Object tool bar. This tool can get lost if you are placing a list in a table, which has its own tool bar, but keep clicking on the blue arrow, and you'll get to it.
List mode's tool bar contains the functions you need for managing lists. Many of the buttons on the tool bar are for single-style outline numbering. These tools are similar to those for headings on the Navigator, allowing you to change the level of the current paragraph and reposition it. Frankly, though, they're not as well organized on the tool bar. Moreover, outline numbering usually is easier to manage using the Tab key to descend an outline level and Shift+Tab to ascend a level.
Interspersed with the outline numbering buttons are three basic buttons:
Numbering On/Off (first button from left): turns numbering off entirely. If you're using numbering styles attached to paragraph styles, you don't need this button. Instead, change paragraph styles to one that doesn't use numbering.
Insert Unnumbered Entry (fifth button from left): turns numbering off for the current paragraph only. The start of the current paragraph is aligned with the text of other list items. This tool removes the necessity of creating a paragraph style subordinate to a numbered paragraph style, but without the numbering.
Restart numbering (second button from right): resets the current paragraph to the start of the numbering sequence. Usually, the start is one, but you can set the numbering style to start at any point on the Options tab.
Armed with these buttons, you can wrangle any list that you care to create.
Outline numbering can be used for more than lists. A bullet style with a graphic can be used as any sort of recurring graphic, such as a Warning in technical documentation. The graphic can be placed beside text or in a separate paragraph above it. However, if it's placed in a separate paragraph, leave a space after it. Otherwise, Writer detects the paragraph as blank and, unhelpfully, deletes the graphic. Numbering styles also can be used as an alternative to autotext. Set the Numbering on the Options tab to None, and enter up to fifty characters of text in each of the Before and After fields. As with a recurring graphic, you need to add a space each time you use the paragraph style to which the autotext is assigned.
Occasionally, you may notice a momentary stumble in OpenOffice.org's handling of lists. An especially common one seems to occur when changing from one list style to another. However, these stumbles always correct themselves after two or three presses of the return key. In the worst cases, applying another style then reapplying the numbering style corrects any problem. Far more frequently, the lists are trouble-free.
This robustness is one of Writer's main advantages over MS Word, whose lists inevitably become hopelessly jumbled if you do any of these tasks. In fact, the way to overcome these problems in MS Word is to forget about automatic lists and manually place bullets and numbers in fields. With OpenOffice.org Writer, however, you have the convenience of automatic lists and the stability of fields automatically. If you're a compulsive list-maker, like me, you'll be surprised at the time you save because of this single difference.
Bruce Byfield was a manager at Stormix Technologies and Progeny Linux Systems and a Contributing Editor at Maximum Linux. Away from his desktop, he listens to punk-folk music, raises parrots and runs long, painful distances of his own free will. He currently is writing a book on OpenOffice.org.
-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)
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