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All formatting magic in LO Writer is based on styles as you guessed, even more than with other word processors.

For that to work, your paragraphs must be adequately "typed". That's the purpose of the paragraph styles. You give a "paragraph style" to your paragraph either with the paragraph menu in the top tool bar -- single click -- or through the style panel (Format->Styles & Formatting... or F11) -- double click.

Once your paragraph have a specific style, you can change their appearance simultaneously by changing the style definition. The easiest way is right-click on the style name in the style panel, then Modify... in the contextual menu.

Lists can be numbered (Numbering x family of styles) or unnumbered aka. bulleted (List x family of styles).

But, beware, for an obscure reason, List x and Numbering x styles are not associated by default with bullets or numbers. As such, they are just equivalent to Standard style. To get the list property, change the style definition:

  1. Open the style definition,
  2. Go to the Outline & Numbering tab,
  3. Select one of the numbering/bulleting option you'd like (List 1 for bullets will do for any paragraph style and Numbering 1 the same for numbers)
  4. Click OK

List x is the base style for bulleted list. List x Start can be configured if you want different appearance (like more space above) for the first item, likewise List x End for the last one. List 1 Cont. would be used for non-bulleted items related to the previous bulleted one.

Note that the semantics proposed here is only a personal interpretation and you are free to give a different interpretation to the style names.

There are many parameters to customise your lists. The paragraph style will act on spacing above/below, font, stylistic variations, background and borders (but never try to change the left and right spacing otherwise you'll create a real mess -- there is a bug in LO about this property in lists). The numbering style (the fifth icon from the left in the style panel, the rightmost one for style category selection) will allow you to tune left indentation, bullet symbol, automatic insertion and many more.

An important last caveat:

Always refrain from adjusting the appearance from the buttons in the toolbars (such as bold, bullets, indents, ...). This is called direct formatting and takes precedence over the styles. This means that a style change might not be reflected in the document if you applied a conflicting direct formatting.

Possibilities are nearly infinite but it is tricky to master it from the beginning. You are strongly encouraged to read to Writer guide which contains an introduction to styles, though you'll need to experiment to really squeeze LO to get what you want.

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