OOo Off the Wall: It's Numbering, but Not as We Know It
Like any word processor, OpenOffice.org's Writer automatically adds numbers and bullets to paragraphs for you. Unlike typical word processors, however, Writer does not make lists a part of paragraph styles. Instead, lists have styles of their own. These styles are called numbering styles. It's a rather misleading term, though, because it refers to both numbered and bulleted lists, but never mind.
By splitting lists and paragraphs, Writer gains several advantages. First, the split removes many users' confusion regarding whether they are configuring lists or paragraphs. Second, it is more economical, because one list style can be applied to multiple paragraph styles instead of defining the same format separately for each paragraph. Third, and most important of all, separating list styles from paragraph styles gives list options more room for custom settings without burying them deep in the menus.
In addition, Writer's numbering styles are more dependable. Unlike other word processors, Writer places bullets and numbers in fields, which is why they display in a gray backgrounds in your document (select File -> Page Preview to see how they'll look when you print). One of the uses of fields is for variable information. So, by using fields for lists, Writer makes its lists more or less immune to corruption. For example, if you want to:
interrupt list items with unnumbered lines or styles
place one type of list between two items in another list (for example, bullets between numbered items)
move a numbered item to another place in the list
you usually can do so without problems. In fact, Writer encourages you to do so by offering a custom tool bar for lists.
Accessible in several ways, Writer's numbering styles are both highly convenient and highly customizable. Not only do they give you the tools to create several types of lists, but you also can use the same tools for a time-saving trick or two.
You can use automatic lists in several ways:
Manual application: Select Format -> Numbering/Bullets from the menu or the Numbering On/Off button in the Object tool bar. This method is suitable mainly for short documents and default settings. If you use an elaborate setup, you'll either have to recreate it or copy and paste each time you use it.
Autocorrection: Type the first number or bullet and add contents. When you press the Enter key for the next paragraph, Writer recognizes that you are making a list. The number or bullet in the first paragraph is placed in a field, and one is added to the next paragraph automatically. If this feature does not work, check that Tools -> AutoCorrect/AutoFormat -> Options -> Apply numbering - symbol: * is turned on.
Semi-automatic application: Create a numbering style and then apply it to paragraphs as you choose.
Automatic application: Associate the numbering style with a paragraph style on the paragraph style's Numbering tab. Whenever the paragraph is used, it is numbered unless you turn off numbering with the numbering tool bar. Give both the numbering and paragraph style the same name, so that you can see at a glance that they're associated.
For your own convenience, automatic application is recommended.
Numbering styles support three different types of lists:
Numbered Lists: lists in which the order matters, such as a recipe, or the steps in a technical manual.
Bulleted Lists: lists in which the order is unimportant. For example, in the list you're reading now, the order in which you read the list items doesn't matter. You won't lose data or suffer grievous bodily harm if you don't read them in order.
-Outline Numbering: an outlining method that uses a single paragraph style. I call this method single-style outlining to differentiate it from the type of outline numbering available in Tools -> Outline numbering, which is something quite different.
In addition, you can use numbering lists for a couple of tricks that do not directly involve lists.
Bulleted and numbered lists each have five numbering styles pre-defined. For bullets, they're called List, while for ordered lists they're called Numbering. These styles are useful as examples and have corresponding paragraph styles pre-defined to which they can be assigned. However, descriptive names, such as lower case letters in blue, are much more convenient.
Each of the three types of lists has at least one tab in the numbering styles window from which you can choose a pre-defined design. In addition, bullets have the Graphics tab. If you want to customize styles, however, your main concerns are the Position and the Options tabs. The Position tab includes similar settings for all types of lists.
However, if you want to customize your lists, the Options tab is the one that matters. Its available options change with the type of list you're making.
-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)
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