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What are Styles, What are they Supposed to Help With, and How are Users Supposed to be Able to Use Them?

asked 2016-06-28 18:39:04 +0200

MarjaE gravatar image

updated 2016-06-28 18:46:34 +0200

I know styles are supposed to be the "correct" way and the "easy" way to organize and edit documents. And they even exist in drawings.

In my experience, when I had to edit documents imported from Word, styles would scramble the documents, and would freeze and sometimes crash LibreOffice.

In particular, styles would scramble list numbering, list formating, section-header formatting, and paragraph formatting after section headers. In addition, styles would insert certain Windows bullet points which would freeze and sometimes crash LibreOffice.

I was only able to edit the text by copying into Textedit, and copying into a new LibreOffice document with only my default formatting. 12 pt OpenDyslexic, etc. I know technically default formatting is a style.

Is there any clear explanation of styles, what they are supposed to help with, how to use them, how to add them to existing documents, how to remove them when they malfunction, etc. anywhere? or how to continue avoiding them?

I've gone over the sections in the Draw Guide and the Writer Guide, but even the "Introduction to Styles" seems to be written for people who already use and understand styles and just need to know how to handle the LibreOffce options.

P.S. I suppose the idea is that we're supposed to try things out, but from experience, styles can screw things up. I don't want leftover remnants from trying things out to later screw things up.

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answered 2016-06-29 17:35:50 +0200

ajlittoz gravatar image

Styles are the basic bricks for document entry automation. They define properties for text. With a well designed styles collection, manual formatting, or even style switching, is reduced to a minimum.

In LO, there are three styles layers:

  • Paragraph style: global properties for text in this paragraph; define one style per paragraph goal (e.g. main text, comment, footnote, headings, signature, ...)
  • Character style (this layer does not exist in M$ Word): allows to apply extra properties or fully replace them to a selection within a paragraph (e.g.
  • Direct formatting: manually applied properties without style definition, usually creates a mess among the names para/char styles and the only way to get rid of it is through Format->Clear direct formatting

The layers are overridden in the given order: direct overrides character which overrides paragraph.

Paragraph styles are best defined with their intent in mind (just like "semantic" mark-up in HTML5). For a letter, you might have Date, "Addressee", "Object", "References", various "Heading x", "Body Text", "Valediction", "Signature".

Character styles are either defined for their visual effects (such as "Italics", "Bold", ...) which is enough for letters, or for semantic highlighting which is more frequent in technical writing (such as "Technical term", "Foreign word", "Important", "Minor", ...).

An important aspect of styles is the ability to link them: a style may be a descendant of another one and inherits all the father's properties, except for a few of them which are overridden. When the father style is modified, the modifications cascade down the hierarchy unless the changed property was overridden. With such a hierarchical organisation, styling and formatting always remain consistent.

The automation part lies in the relation between paragraph styles. A given style may be defined to be followed by another style. With a clever design, a letter may begin with a "Date" style and the styles will automatically switch to "Addressee", "Object", "Attachment", "Civility" and "Body Text". Then you type as many "Body Text" you need and you manually switch to "Valediction" which may automatically followed by "Signature". Grand total: only an initial style setting and a manual style switch.

Since paragraph styles have a property to define the space above and below the paragraph, you should never type empty paragraph only to create spacing between them. There is more flexibility in the definition and possibilities to experiment a global layout through style modification (see below the remark about inheritance between styles).

One of my favourite is to separate styles into two families: headings, depending on Heading with a sans serif font and a colour, and text styles, depending on "Body Text" (inheriting also from "Default") with a serif font. I built a complete family of styles which I repeatedly use.

The family can be stored:

  • either in a previous file and the styles are loaded through Format->Styles & Formattingor F11, then clicking on the rightmost icon in the toolbar and selecting Load styles to load them from the previous file (and you can choose ...
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answered 2018-12-12 13:40:24 +0200

updated 2018-12-12 13:48:59 +0200

Personally, i don't see clear mapping between styles and numbering. Why applying style 'Heading 2' explicitly to numbering level e.g. 2.1 kills numbering at all i.e. kills 'updating index' for 'Table of contents' and changes numbering to 1.1 (why?)

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Could you better described what you do? Heading n are by default associated with Outline Numbering. There is then no necessity to link them with another numbering style, otherwise you mess up both chapter numbering and TOC collecting.

ajlittoz gravatar imageajlittoz ( 2018-12-12 15:23:43 +0200 )edit

answered 2016-06-28 23:17:30 +0200

m.a.riosv gravatar image
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answered 2016-06-29 17:54:46 +0200

MarjaE gravatar image

I have read the guide. I don't understand it.

I have neurological issues, and need to block videos, animation, and flashing online.

I understand I can set up various styles, in Writer, but I don't know how to keep them from scrambling text, particularly list styles scrambling list numbering and spacing and indentation. I've had to strip styles to keep them from scrambling text, and I'm naturally reluctant to add styles after having so much trouble stripping them.

I don't understand how I could set up styles, in Draw. I have several complex drawings where stylres are supposed to be the "easy" way to edit everything, but entering hundreds of groups and assigning thousands of objects to different styles seems anything but easy.

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P.S. Can 1 object have 2 or 3 styles?

E.g. 1 color style, linking all objects withn the same color, 1 shape style, linking all objects with the same shape and size, and 1 text style, linking all objects with the same text size and font?

I can't see much use for drawing styles if not.

MarjaE gravatar imageMarjaE ( 2016-06-29 18:14:58 +0200 )edit

Creating a consistent list collection needs careful planning ahead and analysis of the intended document structure and semantics. I admit that list styles are the most difficult of them.

My experience with Draw styles is very limited because I find them rather lacking the flexibility they have in Writer and offering less user control.

ajlittoz gravatar imageajlittoz ( 2016-06-30 08:08:50 +0200 )edit

I need to reorganize lists, add items, remove items, etc. If the styles can't handle that, the the styles are a problem, not a solution.

MarjaE gravatar imageMarjaE ( 2016-06-30 15:56:33 +0200 )edit

Styles won't reaorganise, add or delete anything. They just tell how to display text and eventually add automatic decoration like numbers and bullets.

You can reorganise the structure of your document with the "Navigator" window which allows you to move around paragraphs (headings and dependent text as a block), promote or demote them.

Adding items is the easiest task: click where you want it added, enter a return, style the paragraph and type text.

ajlittoz gravatar imageajlittoz ( 2016-07-01 08:11:05 +0200 )edit

My experience was that trying to add, remove, or reorder items would scramble list formatting, at least when editing Word docs in LibreOffice. It might take a list of 9 items, number the 1st through 3rd 1 through 3, mistake the 4th for a regular paragraph, and number the 5th through 9th 1 through 5. It might add indentations, bold, etc. I don't remember all the details but it was an impossible mess. It would sometimes just crash.

MarjaE gravatar imageMarjaE ( 2016-07-03 00:32:21 +0200 )edit

I met this trouble with elaborate documents in Word. That's why I switched to LO which seems more immune to the phenomenon. As @floris v explains, the cause might be the wild creation of anonymous styles in Word as soon as you touch any style property.

A workaround in LO may be to select the problematic area (full paragraphs as a whole), force a paragraph style, clear direct formatting (perhaps do it also before setting para style) and then edit the list.

ajlittoz gravatar imageajlittoz ( 2016-07-03 08:14:56 +0200 )edit

answered 2016-06-28 21:39:39 +0200

timelord gravatar image

You may find the various video tutorials on youtube of benefit to you.

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I can't watch video.

MarjaE gravatar imageMarjaE ( 2016-10-10 02:40:43 +0200 )edit

answered 2016-06-30 11:52:32 +0200

floris v gravatar image

Styles are a way to make it easier to format your documents consistently. In the pre-styles era all formatting was direct formatting, and in a word processor like WordPerfect 4 you'd have to remember the formatting of each heading, and apply that every single time - down to every detail like character size, underlining, boldface, indentation, etc. A real pain. When you have been through that, you would become a styles hugger as soon as they were introduced. As long as you don't convert files to a very different file format, styles are a tremendously powerful time saver.

So now the issue of the OP:

MS Word nowadays seems to convert every bit of direct formatting into a style, so that if somebody throws in a lot of direct formatting instead of modifying styles, you will end up with a Word document loaded with styles (IMHO that about kills the whole idea of styles, they didn't do that in the older versions of Word). But there are also major differences between the styles concepts of Word and Writer: where Writer uses page styles to hold page formatting attributes like page numbering, headers and footers, Word uses sections, and the conversion of sections to page styles and vice versa is not perfect. So where Word uses many sections to handle different page settings, you can end up with hundreds of page styles in a converted document. But much of the time, when you get a file with a really long list of used styles, you know that the original document was made by somebody applying direct formatting in a grand way. If you get such documents a lot from somebody you may be able to influence, it may help to teach them to use styles wisely. So instead of working in a default paragraph style with TNR 12 pt and overriding the formatting with Calibri 11 pt, tell them to modify the default paragraph style to Calibri 11 pt.

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Asked: 2016-06-28 18:39:04 +0200

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Last updated: Dec 12 '18