Formatting a document: direct formatting, styles and templates

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In Apache OpenOffice, you can apply formatting to documents in two different ways. You can do so directly using menus and toolbars, or you can use styles and templates.

To a new user, it may seem easier to format a document directly, applying formatting only as needed. However, this can be repetitive, and problematic when working with longer documents. You can save yourself a lot of time and trouble by using styles and templates, which cause your document to follow predefined formatting rules. While this may seem complex at first glance, it is actually an easy-to-learn tool that affords a great deal of flexibility and consistency when authoring documents.

Styles can be used in all Apache OpenOffice programs with the exception of Apache Math.

Benefits of Styles Over Direct Formatting

Suppose we've written a long report that is divided into chapters, each marked by a heading. We need these headings to be displayed in a particular sans serif font. We also need these headings to be displayed in large, bold text, and centered on the page. To apply this formatting manually, we would need to set up the following formatting for each heading individually:

  • "Liberation Sans, 16 point, bold, centered..."

At the same time, we want the rest of our text to be displayed in a smaller, serif font, as follows:

  • "Liberation Serif, 11 points, justified..."

While it is possible to accomplish this with direct formatting, two problems arise: consistency (remembering to use the exact same font size, font face, and alignment each time) and maintenance. What happens if you decide you need the body of your report to be displayed in a different font, or that you need your chapter headings to be slightly smaller? If you've applied the formatting directly, you'll need to do a lot of work to fix this.

This is where styles come in. Suppose that instead of setting each chapter heading's formatting individually, as shown above, we predefine all these rules in a style named "Heading 1". This way, each time we come across text we want to make into a chapter heading, we can simply select "Heading 1" as its formatting.

Likewise, we can predefine the body formatting in a style named "Body Text" and apply this style to the body text of the document as necessary. In this way, the administration of document becomes much simpler. For example, to change the font used for all chapter headings, we only need to modify the definition of "Heading 1". The change will then be reflected throughout our document.

Beyond this, styles can provide a lot more than just consistency and ease of administration. They permit the creation of an automatic table of contents, numbered chapters, the setting of colors, insertion of symbols, and more.

Adding Styles to Your Document

You can create, edit, and apply styles to your document through the 'Styles and Formatting' panel. This panel is accessed through one of the following methods:

AOO StylesandFormatting.PNG

Method 1:

  • Format → Styles and Formatting

Method 2:

  • Press  F11 
  • The 'Styles and Formatting' panel will appear

Method 3:

  • Open the 'Styles and Formatting' panel as an option through the Sidebar[1]

Once the panel is open:

  • Right click anywhere inside the 'Styles and Formatting' panel
  • Select “New” or “Modify”

You will then be presented with a large selection of options. The best way to learn is to experiment and set up a style according to your own preferences.

See also: Styles on Apache OpenOffice Writer [[2]]


Once a style has been defined, it can be saved in a file called a "Template" for future use in additional documents. This allows for easy consistency across documents or projects.

File → Templates → Save will save a copy of the current document as a template. We can use this template for a new document by selecting File → New → Templates and documents → Templates and double clicking on the needed template.

Documentation note.png Note that both the styles AND the content of that document will be saved in the template

It is possible to go further and set our preferred template as the default template for all documents. To do so:

  • File → Templates → Organize
    • Double-click "My Templates"
    • Select the required template
    • Click the  Commands  button
    • Select "Set as Default Template"

Tip.png Right-clicking on the template in the list will also provide this option

To modify an existing template:

  • File → Templates → Edit
    • Double click template file

Alternate method:

  • File → Templates → Organize
    • Double-click My Templates
    • Select template from list
    • Select Edit under  Commands 

Once the changes are ready, save the document as a normal document.

Documentation note.png Once a template is edited, if you open a document based on that template Apache OpenOffice will ask if you want to update the styles. Note that currently, if you say "no," the association of the document with that template will be lost. For more information, see this bug report Issue 52783 - change templates for a document-
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