Paragraph and Character Styles

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Editing.png This page is in a DRAFT stage.

Preliminary Note

The differences between character and paragraph styles are not big. The most important point is that paragraph styles apply to whole paragraphs while character styles only apply to selected portions of text.

It is important to note that Writer defines a "paragraph" as the text separated by the use of the  ↵ Enter  key.
Documentation caution.png The line breaks obtained with  ⇧ Shift  +  ↵ Enter  do not provide new paragraphs. In fact, using line breaks could cause problems because in Writer paragraphs are limited to 216 (i.e., about 65K) characters

Editing Paragraph and Character Styles

By right clicking on a paragraph or character style and selecting "Modify", it is possible to see that both kinds of styles share several characteristics, as shown on the following screenshot


The menu presented during the editing or creation of a style is separated into several tabs where it is possible to define all the characteristics, including font, indent, spacing, aligning or language.

Organizer Tab

On this tab it is possible to indicate not only the style name but also the option "Linked with". Linking styles allows the user to have several styles "depend" on one style, inheriting selected characteristics. For example, all the Heading 1 to Heading 10 paragraph styles are linked with the Heading style, so by editing Heading changes made will automatically apply to the linked styles.

Another very important characteristic on this tab is the "Next style" option.

This is really important: it is possible to define a "sequence" of styles so one is automatically applied after the other. For example, applying the Heading 1 paragraph style, an  ↵ Enter  the style will be automatically changed to Text body. When a new style is created (this cannot be changed in the predefined styles) it is possible to choose a Category: if the new style is a text style, a heading style, a list style, etc.

When a style is linked with another one, the section "Contains" on this tab shows the differences with the parent style.

Font Tab

On this tab, identical for both paragraph and character styles, it is possible to select the typeface used by the style, its type (bold, italic...), its size and the language for the text.

When two styles are linked it is possible to set the linked style with a font size that is proportional to the parent style. This is set by default on the Heading 1 to Heading 10 styles that have a font size proportional to that of the Heading style. In the font size bot, this can be seen as a percentage, such as 150%. To break the dependency, delete that percentage and write the size in points, such as 18pt. To change from absolute sizes to relative sizes, one simply deletes the size in points and types the desired percentage.

Font Effects Tab

It is possible to choose the font color, the underlining, the "effects" (small caps...)

Position Tab

Set different characteristics for sub and super index, changing the vertical position and the font size. It is also possible to change the distance between two adjacent characters and rotate the text.

Background Tab

Select the character background. This tab is different for paragraph or character styles; in the character styles it is only possible to select a color background while the paragraph styles offers the possibility to set a picture as background.

Indents and Spacing Tab

This tab and the following ones apply only to paragraph styles. Here it is possible to define the spacing on the paragraph limits (top, bottom, left, right) as well as the indent and the line spacing.

Line Spacing

The drop down menu offers several line spacing options.

  • Single: The default distance between two lines of text. This value is not under the control of Writer, it is defined by the typeface: there are different parameters that define "how big a font is", not only the "size" configured on the Font tab. For all this, the line "single spacing" value will depend on the selected typeface.
  • 1.5 lines and Double: Based on "Single", they give a separation of one and a half and two times the single spacing, respectively.
  • Proportional: A percentage, selected by the user, of the single spacing. Percentages can be either greater than 100 % (for more spaced lines) or lower than 100 % (for more compact lines)
  • At least: Minimum value for the line spacing.
  • Leading: Add the indicated value to the single line spacing.
  • Fixed: Fix the distance between two lines of text to the value indicated, independently of any other parameter from the font.


This option will be discussed when talking about page styles.

Alignment Tab

Define if the paragraph text must be aligned to the left, right, centered or justified. It is also possible to select a different alignment for the last line on the paragraph to obtain, for example, a justified paragraph with the last line centered.

The option "Text to text" refers to the behavior when text of different sizes are in the same paragraph, changing the vertical alignment for the "alien" element.

Text Flow Tab

In addition to defining the hyphenation and the behavior of the paragraph when arriving at the end of the page (if it moves to the following page as a block, if it needs to be maintained together with the following paragraph, adjust the widow and orphan lines) it is possible to assign automatic page breaks. We will come back to this when discussing page styles

Outline & Numbering Tab

Here it is possible to associate the paragraph with a list style and an outline level. We will come back to this topic on the section about numbering chapters.

Tabs Tab

Tabs are format characters that, while useful, must be used with care. Basically, the tabs define "imaginary columns", pushing the text after them to the next column.

If no tabs are defined here, Writer will use the default tabstop values defined on Tools → Options → OpenOffice Writer → General.

To the tabs defined on a paragraph style it is possible to assign different alignments: left, right or centered refers to the position indicated by the tabstop. For example, if we define a tab as "right" and set it to two centimeters, when pressing  Tab ⇆  at the beginning of a paragraph the cursor will move two centimetres to the right with the text being completely to the left of that position.

The decimal tabstop aligns the numbers to the selected decimal separator.

Drop Caps Tab

Here it is possible to set the first character or even the first word in the paragraph to be greater than the normal text.

It is possible to assign a character style to this first character or first word.

Borders Tab

Draw borders and shadows around a paragraph. The option "Merge with next paragraph" makes the consecutive paragraphs of the same style use the same line as a block and not as single paragraphs.

Condition Tab

To work with conditional styles. A conditional style varies according the context of that style: it is possible to define a conditional style that works like "Text Body" when on the text area or as "Table content" inside a table. This way the same style will show different formatting in different circumstances.
Documentation caution.png Even if it is possible to convert a normal style to conditional style, it is not possible to go on the opposite direction: once defined as conditional, the style remains conditional. It is only possible to change the condition, not the fact that it is conditioned.
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