posted by Christian Paratschek on Fri 10th Sep 2004 05:18 UTC
IconBefore I start, let me tell you the little story, how I got the idea for writing this article. When I wrote my first article for OSNews, one of the screenshots I included showed my diploma thesis. I merely wanted to show that OpenOffice.org in Fedora Core 2 features native icons, nothing more.

Click for a larger view So, just because I wanted to show off a little, I loaded my diploma thesis, which was then already 130 pages long and took the screenie. I am a moron, I admit it... So, the funny thing was, when that article went live, I got an email from a crazy german who told me that I was not formatting my diploma correctly. He specified various mistakes and, to my amazement, he was right on every single issue he mentioned. O.K., it probably wasn't THAT difficult because I just used no automatic formatting at all, still I just couldn't believe that he could tell all that with nothing more than a simple screenshot. I emailed back, asking some innocent questions and basically got overwhelmed by his long and detailed responses. A few days and emails later, my diploma was a lot easier to work with.

Click for a larger view I was puzzled. I have worked with text processors since 1995 now and even though I have never been interested in the features of Microsoft Word and OpenOffice.org Writer, I thought that I, at least, knew something about them. As it turned out, I was wrong. Now that I am done with my diploma, I feel that all this knowledge should not go to waste. So I decided to write an article about text formatting. This is not really osnews-typical stuff, but I think that there are some people here who can benefit greatly from this article, just as I did. This article is to a great extent based on what Christoph wrote in his emails to me.

Click for a larger view Basically, whenever I wrote something with a text processor in the last decade, I just fired it up, wrote the title, selected the title with the mouse, made it 16 points large and bold, hit enter 2 times, set the text to 12 points and normal weight and started off. This is O.K. for all the small documents, up to, let's say 20 pages or so. Beyond that, this becomes a nightmare. I was struggling throughout my academical career with the same issues over and over:

  • I hated adding a table of content after I was done with my text, hand-editing all the page numbers into it.
  • I hated editing all the headings, losing track if they were 12 or 13 points, bold, underlined or whatever.
  • I hated having to look through my entire document when I changed something, just because everything after my change could be formatted badly again.
    Well, surprise, it's 2004, it does not have to be this way :-)
Click for a larger view So how do we start? Hmm... we open OpenOffice.org Writer and type... STOP. No, this time we're not going to do it this way.

Click for a larger view First of all, we want to give our document a title. Let's call it "Text formatting with OpenOffice.org Writer" :-) We click "File" - "Properties" - "Description". Let's fill in a title here. Why? Because we can do fancy stuff with this information later. Notice that OpenOffice.org now calls the document by its title instead of "Untitled1" in the title bar. Now let's have a look at the Stylist. The Stylist handles all our formatting tasks. With the Stylist we can edit Page Styles, Paragraph Styles, Character Styles and so forth. Think CSS if you are a webdesigner. Yeah, it works exactly the same way. If you aren't a webdesigner and don't know what CSS is: well, basically, instead of highlighting text and assigning “Bitstream Vera Serif”, size “16”, and “Bold” to it, we just “tell” OpenOffice.org Writer, via the Stylist, what kind of text this is: a heading, a quotation, normal text body, whatever. Why do we do this? Because it is far easier to control the layout and design of our document when we use a central layouting device. and that's exactly what the Stylist is!

Click for a larger view Now, we want a real "First Page", and it should later display our documents freshly chosen title and other information. We click "Page Style" in the Stylist and look what is highlighted: it's "Default". Double-click "First Page". Cool, we have just promoted the empty page to being the "First Page" of our document. Now, what comes next? Well, the next thing we definitely want is an index (even though we haven't even written a single word yet!): we click "Insert" - "Manual Break" - (chose style: "Index" and activate "Change Page number", starting with "1") - "Ok". Now we see that our document got another page. We click somewhere on this page and notice that the "Page Style" changes to "Index" in the Stylist. O.K., nice, we add another "Manual Break", now choosing "Default", activating "Change page number" again. Now we got the basic structure of our document: first page, index and space for our actual text.

Click for a larger view Now let's have a look at the properties of our "First Page": we right-click "First Page" in the Stylist and chose "Modify".

Click for a larger view Here we can see that the properties are grouped in eight tabs. "Organizer" tells us in the "Contains"-section all the settings that are chosen. We click on the "Page"-tab to change the paper format, set margins and so forth. Disable/Enable Header and Footer, if we like. You get the basic idea. Everything you change here just applies to the first page of the document. Now let's do "Insert" - "Header" - "All". We notice that OpenOffice.org now lets us choose where to insert the header: on the "First Page", the "Index", "Default" or on all pages. We click somewhere in the header and then "Insert" - "Fields" - "Title". Woah, here it is, our document name. We repeat that for the other two sections. Let's "Insert" - "Footer" only for "Index" and "Default", because we don't want page numbers on the first page. We click into the footer of the index, "Insert" - "Fields" - "Page Number", do the same in the footer for "Default". Voilà, here we have page numbers. Now, we'll do some magic: Right-click to modify "Index" in the Stylist, change to the "Page"-tab, and chose roman letters. Our index gets Roman page numbers, and our default text stays at Arabian numbers. Cool, eh?

Table of contents
  1. "OOo Writer Formatting, Page 1/2"
  2. "OOo Writer Formatting, Page 2/2"
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