Off-the-Wall: ToCs, Indexes and Bibliographies in OOo Writer

A new way of thinking about and tagging a document's table of contents and other supporting features makes sense and is more convenient.

Indexes and tables is the phrase that Writer uses for tables of contents (ToCs), indexes and bibliographies. The term also covers ToC variants, such as lists of illustrations or tables. At first, the need for the phrase seems momentarily puzzling. If you're like most people, you probably are used to thinking of ToCs, indexes and bibliographies as separate pieces with no relation to one another. That's how most word processors treat them. Roughly half the time, that's how the Writer interface treats them, too.

However, the term exists because Writer doesn't distinguish between these pieces of contents. Lists of figures, tables of contents, indexes, bibliographies--in Writer, all indexes and tables are treated as variations on the same structure. No matter what particular type you are creating, the procedure is identical:

  • Tag contents in the body of a document for inclusion.

  • Format the index or table.

  • Move the cursor to the position for the index or table and create it.

Each step has variations, depending on the type you are creating and, at times, your own preferences. But in each case, the basic procedure is the same.

Tagging Contents

The first step in creating an index or table in an OOo Writer document is to tag its content in the body of the document. The includes titles that appear in a ToC, the words that appear in an index or the scholarly references that appear in the bibliography. In each case, entries can be tagged automatically or manually.

If a document uses styles throughout, then tagging contents for a ToC is easy. By default, Writer ToCs treat all of the outline levels defined in Tools -> Outline Numbering as tagged content. You can select additional styles to be tagged automatically on the Styles tab of Insert -> Indexes and Tables -> Indexes and Tables. Lists of figures and similar ToC variants also have options on the Index/Table tab, many of which also also based on styles. As always, Writer pays dividends to those who use styles. You don't have to use styles to create a ToC, but doing so is by far the simplest choice.

If a document doesn't use styles or if you have a particular style you want to use for a List of Figures or Tables, ToC entries can be tagged manually by selecting Insert -> Indexes and Tables -> Entry. This is the same technique used to add words manually to an index. The main difference is the type you select from the Index field of the dialogue box. Whether you're doing the grunt work for a ToC or an index, you still need to provide the text for the entry, which is the text in the actual body of the document. This entry can be added by selecting text before opening the dialogue box or by typing within the box. You also can select the level of the entry and whether all entries with the same text also should be tagged.

For index tags, you can make the entry a sub-entry. For example, if you already had tagged GNU/Linux, you could make Debian a subentry beneath GNU/Linux. Index contents also can be automated by selecting Alphabetical Index as the Type when you select Insert -> Indexes and Tables -> Indexes and Tables -> Index/Table. From there, select the Concordance file option. A concordance is a list of key words to tag automatically. Setting up a concordance in a manner that is useful takes more planning than you might think at first, but it is an ideal way to index a long project.

Bibliographical entries are added by selecting Insert -> Indexes and Tables -> Bibliography Entry. A bibliographical entry, however, is the citation that appears in the text. For instance, in the APA citation style, the entry in the body of the document might be (Smith: 1999). Unfortunately, the sample bibliographical database that comes with Writer offers misleading examples, but this citation is the short name for the item. Other information can be filled in according to the citation style and whether the source is a book, journal item or some other medium. You don't need to use--and in many cases, can't use--all the fields available for a bibliographical entry. This information can be stored within the document or within a separate bibliographical database.


-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)


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Reopen the file........... all changes gone

faisal's picture

i craated a ToC with a level upto 3
The ToC get updated
Now i saved the document
But when re opened the same
again the ToC is been evaluavted upto level 9
Why this?

multiple indexes?

Anonymous's picture

If i add one index, and the an index for images only, i get everything messed up. as soon as i edit the second index, the first one gets shitted all over.

i tried creating one of "user specific" type instead of "table of content", but then, i'd need at least three user specific categories, since i have images, tables and graphics. and OO only fives me one.

deleting entries

David Paenson's picture

I find your explanations very helpful.
I do however have a question: Is there a way of deleting all the entries in the text body itself in one go?
Plaese help.

For a better write up on OOo Writer

Ed Matthews's picture

To read a book written by a writer for writers, check out a resources page by Jean Hollis Weber, of Australia. Her book on OOo Writer gives you a great how-to on using the advanced features of OOo described in this article.

Just wanted to clarify "bette

Ed Matthews's picture

Just wanted to clarify "better".
First, I'm very glad to see an article about these features in something besides MS Office Word, b/c while there are a lot of features in MS Word, they are pretty darn kludgy.

Jean's book is just that, a book, a bit more complete and structured than the article. My use of "Better" just means more in depth, a good jumping off place if this article has piqued your interest. Thanks for helping spread the word about OOo.

cheers. no offense meant.


Anonymous's picture

I love these OpenOffice articles to death, and hope they keep coming, but this one needed some serious proofreading something fierce.

pretty unhelpful

Anonymous's picture

As someone with experience beyond the beginner's level using computers and word processors, I would never guess I could find an article on using a word processor so confusing. Is this an example of the notion that *any* documentation is better than none, regardless of how unhelpful it may be? Too bad the apparently useful features of this program cannot be better disambiguated than this. I really, really need to learn better how to use OOo Writer and its advanced features, but articles like this make me just throw up my hands in exasperation. It's almost as if I read nothing at all.

pretty unhelpful: How, specifically?

Randy Kramer's picture

I found the article quite readable but possibly because I was very familiar with the (very) similar features in Word (97 for example).

You would do a lot of us a service if you could go into more detail about what was difficult to understand, and, if possible, why.

Aside: Some articles I find difficult to understand because a lot of time is spent on the details without enough time on the overall pieces and how they fit together. I thought this author did an adequate overview in the first section of the article.

Besides: If you have specific things you don't understand, maybe someone can help you.

Just for the heck of it, here's how I'd summarize a few of the high spots of the article:

* OOWriter can create TOCs, indexes, tables of figures, etc.
* The approach is to go through the document and tag what you want to be included in those tables, then do some processing to create the tables. (Except that headings can automatically be included in the TOC (did it say or am I guessing:) by virtue of an attribute in the styles for various level headings.
* There are no built-in styles for the resulting tables--you have to do some amount of formatting of the tables, especially if you want a result different than the default.

Then there are some detailed instructions of how to do at least some of those steps in the document.

What more could you want?

Try the other way

Anonymous's picture

If you complain about the explaination that someone FOR FREE gives you, and you're not forced to read it, then I suggest you to try the other way: learn it by yourself and write a bettere article... :)
Then you'll acquire the right to complain, but NOT before... :)

Terrible response

Anonymous's picture

That is the most ludicrous, bullshit reasoning I think I've ever heard. If something is crap, then it's crap. Free has nothing to do with it. If your logic is that if you think the article is shit then you should write a better one defeats both the language of criticism and the fact if you don't know how to do something just how are you going to write it? What your saying is that because something is free negates criticism is the key reason free software will never be taken seriously.

I thought it was me, but afte

Anonymous's picture

I thought it was me, but after I read you response, I felt much better.
The author just learned this OOo powerful feature and wanted to let everybody know about it. What he forgot is that they might want to understand it and learn how to use it. He could have structured the article a little better to make it a littler more clear.


Anonymous's picture

Is that like having it be a little clearer?

This is not a How-To

Janet Swisher's picture

This article describes what the ToC, etc., features can do, but it mostly doesn't tell you how to do it. So if you were looking for a how-to, you will be disappointed in this article.

There is a chapter on ToC's, Indexes, and Bibliographies in the OOoAuthors Writer Guide:

It provides a much more step-by-step description of using these features.