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Make it easier to format pages in Writer

asked 2017-08-15 22:59:58 +0200

Joe Jobs gravatar image

updated 2017-08-17 16:27:43 +0200

When using Writer, it should be much easier for the user to format the pages and to add page numbers than it is today. Because when you edit a book, you don't want page numbers for all the pages in the document. Also you want to chose different formatting for the odd (or left) and even (or right) pages.

The user should be able to define page ranges (subsets of the document) and to apply a certain formatting to each range. Say for example Range A starts at page 1 and ends at page 5. Then Range B starts at page 6 and ends at page 30. And so on. Then you chose to apply page numbers only for the pages in the Range B if you want to.

It should also be much easier to define the margins of the page. If you edit a book then you just want the same margins but mirrored by the left and right pages - the program should take care of it, instead of you trying to convince the program to apply one format to the left pages and another one for the right pages.

I am editing a book for a friend and I had to add page numbers for all the document (from page 1 to the last page) simply because it's so complicated to start the page numbers at page 5. Also defining the margins separately, for the left and right pages didn't work. I had to define the same value (2 cm), for the left and right margins, for all the pages, simply because it's such a mess to make it work.

It should not be such a pain for the user to be able to do such basic things.

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I totally agree with you. Word is a mess in this regard. If only they did that as robust and flexible as in LibreOffice Writer!...

Mike Kaganski gravatar imageMike Kaganski ( 2017-08-15 23:13:47 +0200 )edit

You can do all of this things in Writer and Word. You just need to build your document the right way from the beginning respecting the product you're using. There is no better or worse way of doing things as long as you respect the intended way of using that tool. Wrong use of a tool is worse then not having a tool. Read relevant documentation (Writer or Word).

Kruno gravatar imageKruno ( 2017-08-16 09:37:53 +0200 )edit

@Kruno In times of UX concerns, there is another truth: If the program doesn't do what the user intents to do intuitively, then the programmer should improve that program.

blaggacao gravatar imageblaggacao ( 2017-09-22 03:56:43 +0200 )edit

Which user? The one who shouts louder? Do you have evidence that majority is speaking?

Mike Kaganski gravatar imageMike Kaganski ( 2017-09-22 05:47:57 +0200 )edit

@blaggacao: I do agree on that, but that was not the issue: people often come to LO with mind set locked on that other word processor and they are using that ways as proof that LO is doing it wrong. It can't work that way, at least not constructively. It's like saying that word processing/typesetting in LaTex should be done as it is in LO, in LO as is in Word and both like is in Scribus or InDesign. Different tools, different intentions, different needs. Styles are LO's distinct feature.

Kruno gravatar imageKruno ( 2017-09-22 11:45:24 +0200 )edit

LO has quite a few weak points but that's for another debate. You need to know tool you're using. I argue that it's not hard to do what OP needs, an contrary. What some users lack is discipline and planing, styles oriented word processor will bite you in the a*s if you expect from them something they simply were not design to deliver. I see this as error in logic. Again: yes, LO has quite a few rough edges but styles as concept/paradigm are not one of them :)

Kruno gravatar imageKruno ( 2017-09-22 11:54:45 +0200 )edit

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answered 2017-08-16 09:28:35 +0200

ajlittoz gravatar image

What is your question? Does it apply to M$ Word or to LO Writer?

Anyway, your thoughts emphasize a very important aspect of document writing: structure. Every document, be it a simple letter, exhibits clearly different significant parts (I don't write "section" because this word has a special technical meaning in Writer) and it is good practice to mark up them accordingly.

First example: a letter

  • initial ancillary information (logo or identification), place and date, et al.
  • formal address (Sir, To whoever is concerned, or even Hi!)
  • content paragraphs
  • formal leave (regards, truly yours, etc.)
  • final ancillary information (logo afain, legalese, postal data,...)

Second example: a book

  • cover
  • legalese
  • toc
  • preface
  • chapters with heading and content of various semantic components
  • annexes
  • indexes
  • back cover

Before starting to write the document, you must plan ahead and deeply think about the parts. This does not mean you already define their visual cues (though you can if you have a clear idea of the whole) but you mentally split your future intended content into semantic categories. These categories will translate into styles.

LO Writer has a wealth of styles forming a hierarchy: page, paragraph, character, frame, list and now table.

IMHO, M$ Word takes the problem from the wrong side. After having written a range of pages, you format them. In LO Writer, you first set the page style and then write your text not really caring if it uses 3 or 15 pages. As long as you don't cause a page break (whether explict or implicit from the page style definition), the sequence of pages will share common visual attributes and adding or removing text will keep document consistency. Should you need to change page appearance, you know you can do that from a single location: the page style dialog.

However, editing an existing book can be a real pain when the original author has not correctly "marked up" the document with styles. I see too frequently people using direct formatting, thinking it is the same as styling because visual results are identical, since there is insufficient training or communication on the underlying effect and long term benefit of styling. Restyling an unstyled document is really like writing it again.

I know that designing a well balanced, elegant, minimal set of styles is difficult and people prefer immediately pouring in their ideas into a document instead of thinking ahead and seemingly losing a precious time. But a cleverly crafted set is not specific to a single document and can be reused. Here, you dramatically spare your precious time. Reuse comes in two forms under LO Writer: style import is the simplest though I dont find it "elegant"; template is the other one with all the benefits of automatic update though it might need extra planning (e.g. because a letter and a book will not share page styles and some paragraph styles will not be compatible despite having many common attributes).

To answer ironically your feature request, maybe the best ... (more)

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+1. Thank you - but I expect ignorants to fiercely defend their right to force a tool to become less usable for thinking users only to please their urge to work wrong way.

Mike Kaganski gravatar imageMike Kaganski ( 2017-08-16 09:34:30 +0200 )edit

Wooops! I meant Writer, not Word. Sorry to disagree but a regular user who want to publish a book can't learn how to become an expert. They just want to tell the program, in an easy way, to add page numbers, from say page 5 to page 100. Also they want to specify the margins and to tell the program to mirror them. I don't believe it's impossible to implement such an interface. At least, there should be some free templates for most common uses, then users just fill the template with their content

Joe Jobs gravatar imageJoe Jobs ( 2017-08-17 16:37:53 +0200 )edit

A regular user needs to learn alphabet. One needs to know arithmetics in today's world. Any professional must have good knowledge of tools they use. It's great misconception of today to not treat essential programs as one's most important instruments. And as with any instruments, different brands have different specifics. If you did professional photography with Canon, you need to learn new things when you switch to Nikon.

LibreOffice is all around styles. Learn them to be successful.

Mike Kaganski gravatar imageMike Kaganski ( 2017-08-17 16:56:19 +0200 )edit

I wasn't talking about professionals. It was clear from the very beginning that I suggest making the program easier for the regular user, not for the professionals. But OK, fine, then make some video tutorials to help the users understand how to set the margins and to mirror them for a book. Also make a nice video tutorial for showing how to start page numbering from page 5. An author doesn't want to become a professional in LibreOffice Writer. They are casual Writer users.

Joe Jobs gravatar imageJoe Jobs ( 2017-08-20 21:38:43 +0200 )edit

I'm no professional. I discovered LO by solving my problems. My main tools were first built-in help, then I read the manual. After that, I used logic to find the distinctive features underlying LO operation. They were ubiquitous styles. From there on, I studied how they could be used efficiently for my needs.

All in all, menus (to set style parameters) are rather well organised and quite simple in LO. Of course, when you start from scratch, ...

ajlittoz gravatar imageajlittoz ( 2017-08-20 22:09:32 +0200 )edit

... you must first get accustomed to where find what. After that, the quite good design in Writer (of course not all is perfect, but it is globally fairly acceptable) makes things easy, despite what you might think. The impression of complexity comes from the wealth of available powerful features.

Don't try to grasp everything at the beginning. Only use what you badly need and only progressively increase your "knowledge circle". This is the only way to master the tool.

ajlittoz gravatar imageajlittoz ( 2017-08-20 22:14:14 +0200 )edit

answered 2017-08-17 23:01:48 +0200

floris v gravatar image

Actually, you can do all the things you want quite easily, you just have to learn to use the page style dialog window properly. Just open the styles list, select the page styles tab and right click any page style, select Modify. Then visit all the tabs in the page style window and make a mental note of all the things you can configure there, including mirrored pages.

Your idea of setting page ranges is flawed, because it doesn't take into account the effect of font size or margins changes that may result in your pages 1-5 to drop to 1-4 or expand to 1-6. In Writer this is solved by entering "manual page breaks", that allow you to switch from one set of page formatting rules (a page style) to another. It's very easy to use, but quite hard (at first) to understand.

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One never highlights enough that that "LO is all around styles" as @Mike Kaganski remarked. If you don't RTFM visiting the various style dialogs is a way to have hints about what can be done, though some button or option names are ill-chosen, but that's life!

Important also: pages do not exist by themselves but as a consequence of text flow. Text doesn't belong to page but to an entity defined between page breaks spanning potentially several pages.

ajlittoz gravatar imageajlittoz ( 2017-08-18 08:08:27 +0200 )edit
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Asked: 2017-08-15 22:59:58 +0200

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Last updated: Aug 17 '17