OOo Off-the-Wall: Back to School with Bibliographies

Setting up a bibliography is hard enough, but misleading OOo examples don't help the process. Learn how to do it the right way.
Creating the Bibliography

Broadly speaking, bibliographies are structured in the same way as other indexes and tables. The major differences are that more code buttons are available for bibliographies and a sorting order is available.

To structure a bibliography:

1. Do one of the following:

  • If you are creating a new bibliography, select Insert > Indexes and Tables > Indexes and Tables > Entries.

  • If you are editing an existing bibliography, select Edit Index/Table from its right-click index. Then, select the Entries tab.

In either case, the Insert Index/Table screen opens.

2. Set the title for the bibliography.

Tip: You may want to re-title the bibliography Works Cited if you are using the MLA style or Reference List if you are using the APA style--or if you simply prefer these alternatives.

3. Select the type of bibliography item from the Type pane. The types include five User-Defined items.

4. If you haven't already, begin structuring the entry (or entries) by selecting code buttons from the drop-down list below and to the left of the structure line. (see below)

Tip: The structure line can be confusing at first. The easiest way to design the entry is to delete everything and then add the building blocks in the order that you want.

For each code button, you can set the character style from the list of pre-defined styles.

5. Select the sort order for entries. Bibliography entries can be sorted by Document position, the order in which they appear in the document, or by Content, alphanumeric order.

If Content is chosen for the sort order, then you also can choose up to three sorting keys. The options for sorting keys are the same as for code buttons.

You also can select whether, within the key, entries are sorted in ascending (A-Z, 1-9) or descending order (Z-A, 9-1) by selecting one of the two buttons beside each key.

If no key is selected, entries are sorted in the order in which they appear in the bibliography's data source.

6. Once you have structured the entries, formatting a bibliography continues in the same way as for any other index or table.

Note: If you are using the APA style, edit the Bibliography 1 paragraph style so that there is a half-inch indent before the text and a negative half-inch indent for the first line on the Indents and Spacing tab. These settings give all lines except the first line an automatic indentation.

7. If you choose, set the number of columns in which the bibliography displays from the Column tab and the background color or graphic from the Background tab.

8. Select the OK button to add the bibliography at the current mouse position.

9. If you choose, you can edit the Bibliography Heading and Bibliography paragraph styles to change the look. These styles are not listed in the Automatic view of the Styles and Formatting window until they are used by Writer to create a bibliography.

10. To edit or update the bibliography, right-click and select the appropriate item.

Formatting Citations

Unlike other entry markers, bibliography entries are formatted as you create the bibliography:

1. Select Insert > Indexes and Tables > Indexes/Tables > Index/Table > Type > Bibliography.

The Insert Index/Table screen opens. The options for bibliographies display.

2. If you want to use numbers as text citations, select the Number entries box.

This choice sets up an informal but widely used alternative to the Chicago, MLA and APA styles. In this style, citations in the body of the document are numbered, and the numbers correspond to the order of items in the bibliography.

3. Select the type of brackets, if any, that you want to use around bibliography entries.

Each style has its own methods of citations. The type you prefer to use affects which brackets you use or whether you use any at all.

Note: The formats you have chosen are applied when you add the Bibliography to the document.


-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)


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Anonymous's picture

Is 1.2 the last version ?


filim's picture

Bibus is alive and very well - now works with both OOo and MsWord - latest release ver 1.2

Is possible Re-use bibliography for other style?

mauri's picture

Hi!, I have some questions.
- Is possible Re-use the bibliography for other styles? To complete a bibliographyc daba dase is a hard work for me. If I want use this bibliography for other journal, for example, I want to introduce:
Author(s): Borges Jose Luis, Garcia Juan.

Ok, then I'd want the reference will show for one journal
[1] Borges J. et al
and for other journal
[1] Borges Jose Luis, Garcia Juan
Is this possible? How?
In LaTeX, BitTex, the data needed is selected in the data base filtering with style selecting. In the first example, only the first letter "J" of de author name is selecting and "et al" is added, but the data base has all the name "Jose" and there are all author names "Borges Jose Luis Garcia Juan".

Thanks for your time and I'm sorry for my poor english.

Reference List

ajondo's picture

The part about setting the title for the bibliography was great help.

i did not know about how to re-title the bibliography Works if you are using the MLA style or Reference List.


APA - Psychologist, not Psychiatrist

Magnus Larsson's picture

Great HOWTO!

But as references concern details, and I am a psychologist, there is one detail that I want to comment on: To my knowledge, and according to the APA style manuals, APA stand for American Psychological Association, not American Psychiatric Association......


Magnus Larsson

Aren't the Short Names supposed to be meaningless in the Samples

Anonymous's picture

After all they are SAMPLES waiting for you to put in the Real Content.

Re: Aren't the Short Names supposed to be meaningless in the Sam

Bruce_Byfield's picture

My assumption is that a sample is meant to show you how to do something.

The sample database uses no recognized bibliographical style, and misuses the fields as well. In my book, that makes it useless as a sample.

A lot of people -- including me -- puzzled over the sample for some time before realizing how to use the database.

Title limits

Anonymous's picture

I tried to insert a book with a long title and it won't accept it. Do you know a solution for this?

ERROR MSG: The string 'EPA's Problems with Collection and Management of Scientific Data and Its Efforts To Address Them.' cannot be converted because it exceeds max length '50

Great article

Anonymous's picture

I just wrote a 20 page report not too long ago and having this article then would of been great. I hope in the future, OpenOffice will have a complete template setup for IEEE style for us Computer Students!

I could create one, but that would be too much work/time for me that I can currently afford.

If I do create one, is there a file a could backup and transfer to other pc's to provide my template to everyone ??




Stephan's picture

Well, let's face it - the current bibliography support in OpenOffice is a pain in the neck.
But wait - there is hope:
Check out Bibus. This Python program solved many of my referencing problems in OOo.

Isn't bibus outdated?

Anonymous's picture

Isn't bibus outdated? I heard that it isn't updated for some time now.

New Bibus release

Anonymous's picture

Bibus is alive and very well - now works with both OOo and MsWord - latest release ver 1.2


Anonymous's picture

Is 1.2 the last version ?

Yes, I think that the

TIMBaER's picture

Yes, I think that the current version (1.2) is the last version.

Distributing templates

Bruce_Byfield's picture


You could post your template to:

But check first. There may already be a template for the citation style you need.

Thank you!

Scriptics's picture

Hi Bruce,

thanks for the link!