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.

Unlike some word processors, Writer does not include any autoformats for indexes or tables. However, it does include options for formatting indexes and tables in almost any way you can imagine. Most of these options are available from Insert -> Indexes and Tables -> Indexes and Tables or Edit Index/Table on an index or on a table's right-click menu. The Columns and Background tab sets the look of the index or table in general ways, but the most important formatting options are available on the Entries tab.

The most important part of the Entries tab is the Structure diagram at the top. The rest of the tab contains options appropriate for whatever type of index or table you are producing, but the Structure diagram is where individual entries are laid out. For those familiar with FrameMaker, the Structure diagram is analogous to the TOC entries on the Reference pages of the document.

The Structure diagram consists of building blocks that you arrange to form an entry. For example, the building blocks for a ToC include the Entry text, Page number and Tab stop. Buttons for the building blocks available for a particular type are arranged below it. You can add building blocks to the Structure diagram in any order by placing the mouse cursor in a vacant spot in the diagram and then clicking the button. Most buttons are grayed out once they are added in order to keep you from using them again. If you want to delete a building block, select it and then press the Delete key.

Many building blocks also offer formatting options. Character styles, for example, can be used to format the Entry text differently from the rest of the entry. You also can choose the fill character to use in a Tab stop. By default, this fill character is set to a period to produce the leader dots that MS Word has conditioned everyone to consider the norm. In fact, leader dots between a ToC entry and its page number is proof of poor design and easily can be replaced by a design that places the page number a few spaces before the text entry.

If the document is intended for on-line use, you can use the Hyperlink building block to place a link start (LS) and link end (LE) button in the structure. By default, adding either of these buttons formats the link using the Internet link character style, formatting text in blue with an underline. If you prefer, however, you can set the character style to default, while still having the links.

Entries for different levels can be structured differently. More likely, though, you want to select the All button on the right side of the Structure diagram to give all levels the same structure. Some indexes and tables also have other options below the Structure diagram that you can use.

In addition, all levels of an index or table have their own paragraph style. These styles have obvious names. Content styles, for example, are used for standard ToCs, and Illustration Indexes are used for lists of graphics. If an index or table has levels, separate styles exist for each level, such as Bibliography 1 or Index 3. Each type also has a Heading style. Unfortunately, all the styles for all types of indexes and tables are children of the single Index style. You easily could create a template, however, in which all Content styles, for example, are subordinate to Content 1 for convenience. Do so by using the Linked With field on the Organizer tab of Content 2-10. All of these paragraph styles appear in the Automatic view the first time that a table or index is created.

Creating the Index or Table

When all contents is tagged, creating a basic index or table a is straightforward task:

  • Place the mouse where you want to position the index or table. If you are using a master document, the index or table can be in the master document rather than being a separate sub-document.

  • Select Insert -> Indexes and Tables -> Indexes and Tables -> Index and Table.

  • Select the Type from the drop-down list.

  • To prevent casual editing, select the Protected Against Manual Changes box. This option means that the index or table can be changed only by using the current dialogue box and not from within the body of the document.

  • Select any other options. The available options depend on the type of index or table selected. However, most choices have to do with the contents included.

  • Select the OK button to create the index or table. The index or table is a field, so it appears in a gray background.

If you want to edit the index or table later, place the mouse cursor anywhere in the index or table. Then, use the right-click menu to update, delete or revise it. If the index or table uses hyperlinks, place the cursor in the heading.


-- 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.