OpenOffice Writer FAQ – Formatting Text

  • My spell-checker does not seem to work?
  • How do I change the default font?
  • How do I create a hanging indent in my document?
  • I want to insert special characters with keyboard shortcuts. How do I do this?
  • How do I insert a trademark symbol?
  • How do I create a simple outline-style numbered list?
  • How do I remove a large number of hard returns from text that were pasted into my document?
  • I change the font color, but it still looks black. Why?
  • How do I insert a special character?
  • The space between the letters in a word seems just a bit too wide. It would look better if that space is being reduced. How can I achieve this?
  • How do I protect (lock) a section of text so that the content cannot be changed?
  • How do I insert a ‘Euro’ character?
  • How to select multiple parts of the text?
  • How do I insert an unbreakable space?
  • Is there something like a Format Painter feature that copies the formats of one part of the text to other parts?
  • How do I setup the spell-checker to be the correct default for my language?
  • How do I insert a line break or soft return in a cell?

My spell-checker does not seem to work?

 

There are several options to check:

  • Tools>Options>Language Settings>Writing Aids and check that the Hunspell SpellChecker is ticked, otherwise when you run the spell checker it will not pick up any mistakes.

 

  • Tools>Options>Language Settings>Languages and select the dictionary you want. If the dictionary is not installed, download it from Dictionaries or go to the OpenOffice Welcome Screen and selectTools>Extension Manager>Get More Extensions online. Once you’ve downloaded the files you need, in the Extension Manager click Add, find the downloaded files. If you are doing multiple downloads select one file at a time and click Open. On the next screen select whether it is for all users or just yourself, read and accept the licence agreement and the file will then be added to your installation.

 

  • Check Format>Paragraph>Font tab and Format>Character>Font tab to make sure there is the little ABC✓ check mark in front of the language (which means that the dictionary is installed). If the dictionary is not installed, download it from Dictionaries or go to the OpenOffice Welcome Screen and selectTools>Extension Manager>Get More Extensions online. Once you’ve downloaded the files you need, in the Extension Manager click Add, find the downloaded files. If you are doing multiple downloads select one file at a time and click Open. On the next screen select whether it is for all users or just yourself, read and accept the licence agreement and the file will then be added to your installation.

How do I change the default font?

 

You can set the default font and its size in Tools > Options > OpenOffice.org Writer > Basic Fonts (Western).

ALTERNATIVE METHOD: Choose Format > Styles and Formatting, right click on Default and chooseModify > Font.

How do I create a hanging indent in my document?

 

Set a hanging indent using Styles and Formatting, and (optionally) adjust the offset using the Paragraph window, as follows:
To Use a pre-defined style:

  1. Open the Styles and Formatting window (select: Format > Styles and Formatting from the pulldown menu). Place the text cursor in the text that you want to format as hanging indent (or have the cursor in an empty text style and enter the text later)
  2. Double-click on the Hanging Indent choice in the Styles and Formatting window. This default style has a hanging indent – but it also has a left margin offset of .19 inches.

(OPTION) To change the indent offset:

  1. After performing the above two steps, close the Styles and Formatting window.
  2. Place your cursor in the paragraph with the hanging indent.
  3. Choose Format > Paragraph
  4. Select the Indents & Spacing tab in the Paragraph window
  5. Click on the up and down arrows to adjust the Before text and First line measurements to adjust the offset of the hanging indent.

OR

To create your own style:

 

  1. Choose Format > Styles and Formatting
  2. Select one of the “generic” styles such as Default
  3. Right click (in the Styles and Formatting window) to get the context menu and select New.
  4. In the dialog that appears, enter a new name for the style
  5. Click on the Indents & Spacing tab. For a .25 inch hanging style, enter “.25” in the Before text field. Then enter “-.25” in the First Line field Click OK. The new style will be available in the Styles and Formatting window list.

I want to insert special characters with keyboard shortcuts. How do I do this?

 

From OpenOffice.org Version 1.1 on you can use the built in macro recorder. To assign a character to a key:

  • Select Tools > Macros > Record Macro to start the recording process.
  • Click Insert > Special Character and choose the character you want,

then insert it and close the special character dialog.

  • Click on “Stop recording” in the small macro recorder dialog. A dialog appears asking you to save the macro with a name.

Be sure to save it under Standard, not in the tree for the document currently open. That way you’ll be able to use the macro in any OOo Writer document.

Now that you have recorded the macro, you’ll need to assign it to a keystroke.

The way to assign a keystroke has changed in newer versions of OpenOffice.org. The easy way to tell whether you have an old or new version is to try to follow the menu path Tools > Macro > Macros. In a newer version, that path isn’t there any more, so use the new instructions.

For older versions of OpenOffice.org:

  • Select Tools > Macro > Macros > Assign.
  • Now follow > Keyboard > Functions and find your macro using the Category tree.

Your macro will appear in the Function window when you’ve found the right module.

  • Select a keystroke in the Shortcut Keys list, and click Modify.

The key you have selected will appear in the Keys window.

For newer versions (checked under V3.1), a nicely-illustrated version of the following procedure can be found in this How_To. Here is the short narrative:

  • Select Tools > Customize > Keyboard.
  • In the Category pane at the lower left, open the tree OpenOffice.org Macros. If you have followed the saving instructions above, the path you want is user > Standard > Module1. Your macro will appear in the center Function pane when you’ve found the right module.
  • If your macro name is not highlighted, click on the name to select it.
  • Select a keystroke in the Shortcut Keys list at the top left, and click Modify.

The key you have selected will appear in the Keys pane at the lower right.

  • Click OK to save your change.

How do I insert a trademark symbol?

 

This symbol is only available in certain fonts. On Solaris platforms, the symbol is available in the ‘Symbols’, ‘Serif’ and San-Serif’ font. To insert:

  1. Place the cursor in the location where you want the symbol to appear.
  2. On the Insert menu select Special Character.
  3. In the dialog that appears, choose Symbol from the Font list.The trademark symbol is available in a Seriffont (character 212) or in a San-Serif font (character 228). Click on the desired symbol .
  4. Click OK.

How do I create a simple outline-style numbered list?

 
The instructions below show how to create a subject outline such as this one
I. Hound Group (First -Level Heading)

A. Beagle (Second -Level Heading)

  1. 13 inch variety (Third -Level Heading)
  2. 15-inch variety (Third -Level Heading)
B. Greyhound (Second- Level Heading)

II. Toy Group (First -Level Heading)

A. Chihuahua (Second -Level Heading)
B. Toy Poodle (Second -Level Heading)

 

  • Place the cursor where you want your outline to start.
  • Select Format > Bullets and Numbering. The Bullets and Numbering dialog box is displayed.
  • Click on the Outline tab in the dialog box.
  • Click on the preferred outline format. Click OK. A floating context menu appears.
  • Click on the right hand side of the floating context menu to choose Bullets and Numbering again.
  • Click on the Numbering type tab in the dialog box.
  • Choose and click on the preferred numbering type (in a traditional outline, choose the roman numeral format, which is the fourth choice on the top row of numbering type choices)

The roman numeral “I.” now appears at the insertion point. To create the outline:

 

  1. Type the first First-level Heading text of your outline at the insertion point. Press Enter
  2. The second First-level Heading number appears. To turn this into a Second-Level Heading, press the right arrow in the floating context menu.
  3. Type your first Second-Level Heading text. Press Enter
  4. The second Second-Level Heading will appear. To turn this into a Third-Level Heading, press the right arrow in the floating context menu twice.
  5. Type your first Third-Level Heading text. Press “Enter
  6. Continue as in steps 1 – 5, using the right and left arrows to promote or demote headings to the desired levels.

 

Image:Tip.png Using the Backspace or Enter to change the formatting of the outline can lead to trouble. Instead, to format the list further, use Format > Bullets and Numbering. In the dialog box, you can use thePosition tab to vary the space between the letter or number and the text. Use Format > Paragraph to vary the space between lines.

How do I remove a large number of hard returns from text that were pasted into my document (for example, from an email message)?

 

Follow these steps:

  1. Select Edit -> Find & Replace.
  2. Click on the More Options button to open the full dialog.
  3. Near the bottom left of the dialog, select the Regular Expressions check box.
  4. In the Search for field, type:
    ^$
    This regular expression says to search for a paragraph marker ‘$’ at the beginning of a paragraph – programmer terms for an empty paragraph. ^$ finds empty paragraphs, i.e., a carriage return with no text, i.e., the second of two consecutive returns with no intervening text. Use
    $
    (without the caret) to find hard returns, common in plain text documents, emails, etc.
  5. Click on the Find button.
  6. To replace the hard return with a space character, type a space in the Replace with field, then click theReplace button.
  7. To replace the hard return with nothing (remove the character), click the Replace button (without entering anything in the Replace with field).
  8. If you have many hard returns to replace, you can also use the Replace All button. It is wise to save your document prior to using this option, in case it behaves unexpectedly.

I change the font color, but it still looks black. Why?

 
The Accessibility option is probably set to display the font in one particular color on your screen. To change this,

  1. Choose Tools > Options
  2. In the Accessibility window, click OpenOffice.org
  3. Click Accessibility.
  4. Click on the checkbox to remove the checkmark beside Use automatic font color for screen display
  5. Click OK to close the Accessibility window.
  6. Save the document and re-open it.

How do I insert a special character?

 

The simplest method for inserting special characters is to select them from the special character dialog.

To insert a special character:

  1. On the Insert menu select Special Character. In the dialog that appears, all the available characters in the current fonts will be displayed.
  2. Select a character by clicking on it. If you do not see the desired character, it may not be available in the current font. If it is not there, try changing fonts.
  3. After selecting one or more characters, click OK to insert the characters at the location of the text cursor.

On certain platforms, OpenOffice.org does not have certain characters available in any font, including emdash and curly double quote characters.

To insert characters used in mathematical formulas:

  1. On the Insert menu select Object>Formula.
  2. In the Command window, hold down the right mouse button to access the context menu. The available formula operators can be found in this menu.
  3. Click outside the formula box (anywhere else in the document) to close it.

Formulas, graphical objects and characters inserted using this method may not convert well to other applications. OpenOffice.org also supports entry of certain characters (accented characters, ligatures, monetary symbols, etc.) via compose (keyboard) sequences.

The space between the letters in a word seems just a bit too wide. It would look better if that space were reduced. How can I achieve this?

 

What you need to enable is “Kerning”. Kerning is part of the typesetting process, where the space between letters is adjusted to the appearance of the letter and its neighbour. For example, when a V is followed by an A, the shape of the letters would result in a little too much space between them, and this just doesn’t look nice. TheA should be moved a little towards the V.

This text is not kerned:
Image:lvat1.jpg
As you can see, the space between the letters is just too wide. This text is kerned:
Image:lvat2.jpg

So how do you enable kerning?

If you need kerning only for selected parts of your text, follow these steps:

  • Highlight the passages of your text for which kerning needs to be enabled.
  • Select Format > Character.
  • Select the Position tab. In the “Spacing” section, check the check box Pair kerning.

If you need the whole text to be kerned, modify the styles, as follows:

  • Press F11 to open the Styles and Formatting window (or choose Format > Styles and Formatting).
  • Click the paragraph styles icon to open the list of paragraph styles.
  • Right-click on each paragraph style that’s being used. Select Modify… on the context menu.
  • Select the Position tab. In the Spacing section, check the check box Pair kerning.

Note that kerning is controlled by information in the font data (in particular the font metrics). Fonts that do not need such precise corrections, like fixed width fonts, will not be subject to kerning.

How do I protect (lock) a section of text so that the content cannot be changed?

 

Follow these steps to protect a section of text:

  • Write or otherwise insert the desired text
  • Select the text to be protected
  • From the pull down menus, choose Insert > Section
  • Select the box next to Protected
  • Give the section a name (or take the default name assigned)
  • Click Insert
  • You may also want to create a password on the section. This will keep anyone without the password from removing the protection set on the section.

To insert a password on a protected section:

  • From the pull down menus, choose Format > Sections
  • Select the name of the desired section (if, applicable)
  • Click on the box next to Password protected
  • In the dialog that appears, enter a password and confirm the password
  • Click OK (in the password dialog)
  • Click OK (in the format section dialog)

Follow these steps to modify a section that you have previously protected:

  • From the pull down menus, select Format > Sections
  • Enter your password in the dialog that appears (only appears if password protected); Click OK
  • Select the name of the desired section (if, applicable)
  • Click the Remove button
  • Click OK
  • Make the desired changes
  • Follow steps in the “protect a section of text” instructions, above, to re-apply the section protection

Note:Once you put a password on a section, you will be prompted for that password before receiving anydialog that might have a chance to access that section of text.

How do I insert a ‘euro’ character?

 

To insert a euro character:

  1. From the main menu, choose Insert > Special Character.
  2. Select Currency Symbols in the Subset field at the top of the dialog.
  3. The euro character should appear as U+20AC. It may not be available in all fonts.
  4. Click on the euro character (€).
  5. Click OK to insert.
In Microsoft Windows, you can also type Alt+0128 to quickly insert the Euro character

How do I select multiple parts of the text?

 

Copy, cut, format, delete parts of the text in different areas of the document:

  1. Hold Ctrl while making the selection in the usual way.
  2. Release all keys
  3. Place cursor at the beginning of the next desired selection.
  4. Hold Ctrl while making the selection in the usual way.
  5. Release all keys.

Repeat steps 3 – 5 until all desired parts of text are selected.

How do I insert an unbreakable space?

 

To insert an unbreakable space:

OpenOffice.org up to 2.4

Hold down the control key while you type a space. Ctrl+Space

OpenOffice.org 3

Hold down the shift+control keys while you type a space. Shift+Ctrl+Space

You can find this and other keyboard shortcuts in the Help. Open Help and click the Shortcut Keys link at the home page of the current module. There are different lists and tables for each of the modules Writer, Calc, Impress & Draw, as well as a common list of shortcuts that work everywhere.

Is there something like a Format Painter feature that copies the formats of one part of the text to other parts?

 

OpenOffice.org 2 and later:

Yes, use the Format Paintbrush icon in the Standard toolbar.

OpenOffice.org 1:

There are two possibilities within OOo Writer.

For the first, follow these steps:

  • Make the changes that you want, then, with the cursor still in the paragraph, open the Stylist and then you can either
    • Highlight a portion of the text, hold down the left mouse button and drag the text over the style name then release the mouse button, or
    • Left click on the very far right icon in the Stylist header. This icon is called Update Style.
  • Now, if the changes you have made haven’t been transferred already to the other relevant parts of your text, click on the Fill Format icon in the Stylist, which is the third from the right. The button is a toggle – so click once to turn the feature on, and click again to turn it off.
  • Once it is on, select the style from the list to which you’ve just made the changes, then click into the text area that you want to change.

Another solution would be to actually add a button that acts like a format painter: It’s an unofficial, but excellent addon written by the Francophone project. It adds two paintbrush icons to the tool bar, which copy and paint styles.

How do I setup the spell-checker to be the correct default for my language?

 
Go to Tools->Options->Language Settings->Languages to set the default language.

If you use a custom template, the setting above is overridden by the Default paragraph style setting (in theFonts tab).
In fact, spell check management is mostly done by the paragraph style. This is the first place to look at. NB: beware of the direct formatting (done through Format>Characters). It may lead to problems because if later you apply the Default formatting (from context menu for example), it will reset the language to the paragraph style setting. Therefore, if it has not been changed in the paragraph style, you will lose your language setting.

  • Language is set up in the menu Tools>Options>Language Settings>Languages. But this setting is overridden by
  • Language set up in the Font tab of a Paragraph style. Which is also overridden by
  • Language set up in the Font tab of Character style. Which is also overridden by
  • Language set up by direct formatting (Font tab in Format>Characters or context menu>Characters)

How do I insert a line break or a soft return in a cell?

 

Use the key combination of Ctrl-Enter.