How to make Writer columns work consistently

I am currently working in a recipe file with recipe titles followed by a 2-column list of ingredients, which are followed by single-column instructions

I generally like Writer, but it does not perform well with columns.

I looked in vain to create a style with 2 columns. If there is a way, please inform me. (It seems columns have to be inserted manually each time they are used.)

When I insert columns manually, the columns behave erratically. With the specifications to “distribute columns evenly,” I often end up with 1 line in the first columns and the rest of the lines in the second column. (I can sometimes fix this by manually inserting a column break in the second column. Other times this just creates more problems.) This behavior is not consistent. Sometimes it works as it’s supposed to, but I cannot figure out what makes the program behave correctly and what makes it behave incorrectly.

I have found it best to set columns after finishing a section of text (not necessarily defined as a “section”), and sometimes that works great:
In a section of text, I high-light the portion I wish to format as 2 columns. It works, and the rest of the text stays as 1 column text.
Other times, the columns may be erratic (see above) and/or the rest of the text is pushed to the next page as though I inserted a manual page break after the columns, which I didn’t. There seems to be no way to remove that invisible column break.

The problems above all occur in native Writer (*.odt) format.

Sometimes the program actually behaves better in Word 2007-365 *.docx format, after I save a writer doc in that format. Other times it doesn’t.

In short, it seems that the column formatting feature is highly erratic and not dependable, unless I"m missing something.

If I’m missing something, I would really appreciate help in seeing it.

If I’m not missing something, it seems to me that the column feature needs more attention.
I followed instructions of ajlittoz below as I understood them - which meant mainly that I removed the “keep with next” instructions for all styles. I still came up with glitchy behavior in the attached file. I did not try to “fix” anything but left the columns as they showed up after specifying 2 columns with "columns distributed evenly."Vegan Cheese.odt

What next?

The problems above all occur in native *.odp format.

This is not Writer but Impress

Sorry, I miswrote. I meant native Writer format, namely *.odt. (Corrected above.)

Columns are not defines in paragraph styles because a paragraph content is supposed to flow inside the “geometry” defined by the current page style.

As described in your question, your page style is 1-column because you want your headings and instructions as such.

Since you want you list of ingredients to be 2-column, the standard way to temporarily change the number of columns is to insert a section. Text will flow from one column two the next in the following circumstances:

  • when the bottom of the page is reached,
  • if you insert a manual column break,
  • dynamically if distribute columns evenly is enabled so that both columns try to keep the same height.

There are sometimes “glitches” if section content is complex (such as a multi-column table within the section columns). It depends on LO version (which you didn’t mention) but usually adding a paragraph break then removing it settles things down. Your case does not look like a “complex” content issue.

Erratic behaviour frequently originates in spurious direct formatting. It is very difficult to spot direct formatting. At least you should enable View>Formatting Marks and other boundaries, all the more when working with sections.

When attempting sophisticated layout (sections enter into this category), you should work with styles and absolutely proscribe direct formatting.

Check your style to see if Keep with next paragraph, Don’t split paragraph are enabled. They cause sometimes a flush to next page if the linked paragraph are quite long. Also, make sure you didn’t use line breaks Shift+Enter instead of paragraph breaks Enter. In combination with the aforementioned attributes, they can cause spurious page flush.

If these clues do not lead you to the fix, edit your question to attach a problematic file for further analysis.

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Thank you for the detailed reply.
I seldom use direct formatting (an occasional in the single column, but I can do without it.)
I am using LO
My text is not complex - other than alternating single columns and double columns on the same page.
I have “fixed” some things by adding paragraph break, then deleting it and other workarounds as well. But it’s annoying to have to do. I’ve spent way too much extra time trying to solve/work around this problem.
I do have “Keep with next paragraph” enabled for the headings I use. So I’ll change that to see what happens.
I had the problems described whether or not I used [shift+enter] or [Enter].
I will also enable to View/Formatting. Thanks for that tip.
Later: I followed your instructions as best I could but still have issues. I uploaded the file on which I’m currently working.

Open the side bar, in paragrpah styles select Default Style, right-click and select Modify. In the dialog that opens, click on the tab labelled Text flow, untick Keep with next paragraph

You should be using Text Body not Default Style for your normal text. Never use Keep with next paragrpah for normal text or you will end up with weird problems, it is only to keep things like Headings with the following paragraph… Cheers, Al

Wow! I missed that! Thank you, Earnest Al! I didn’t think I was using “Default Style” and I didn’t realize I had “keep with next paragraph” enabled anywhere.
Ok, so now I know that the “Keep with next paragraph” is a biggie in messing up the column feature. Who knew!
Thanks again!

I’m not a writer of that kind of texts, but if…
I would shy back from creating lots of sections. Some of the reasons are that there are no section styles, that I don’t know a way to simply cut a section, or to copy/paste it like a single object, and that I would expect problems with the text flow.
My way: Use frames based on proper styles.
A reworked version of the example document provided by the OriginalQuestioner will show what I suggested:

[editing with restpect to the comments below]
I attach now a more elaborate example also discussing and demonstrating to more detail the usage of the suggested FrameStyle and “lecturing” on the usage of AutoText for the purpose.

There is alas no section style which makes using sections less straightforward and useful as other features.

However, frames are not exact replacements for sections.


  • creates an independent text flow
  • allows full control on placement within the page


  • breaks the logical sequence of text (because there are now two flows)
  • where frame is anchored in not always immediately visible
  • external text wrapping is somewhat complicated to set properly

Content of section is set where sequential reading expect it to be. No difficulty with wrapping and positioning. A section can be split at page boundary which frames can’t. The main inconvenience with sections is the lack of styles and the poor edition assistance of Writer part (no copy/paste, …).

I use both frames and sections. Choice between both depends on purpose: frame for “side annotation”, i.e. content can be skipped on reading without changing semantics of text, section for “sequential argumentation”.

My experiences concerning Writer are limited. The longest texts I ever created were about 40 pages and had a rather simple layout. (The content was often “bureaucratic”.) Only in very few cases I used sections.
The disadvantages of TextFrame objects you mentioned are real, of course.
In the current case I personally would use the second kind of textframes shown in my example, and expect that a collection of recipes could easily work around any problem related to the mentioned disadvantages.
Personally again I would prefer a format of one page per recipe. If this is not accepted (no waste of paper e.g.), that’s a different case …
(Actual editors may still insist on some handiwork per page done by a professional layouter…)

Thanks to both of you for this discussion of “Frames.” I’m learning a lot, even if I may not use this on the current file.

It seems to me that section styles would be a useful addition to Writer.

I confess I’ve tried to use Writer like MSWord, not always with great success.

The use of frames sounds interesting. However, it’s not immediately obvious to me how to avoid having to specify the attributes of the frame each time I want to use one (referring now to “Frames” in the dropdown menu.)
I’m not quite sure whether references above are to “Text Boxes” or “Frames.”
For the edited sample document, let me guess:

  1. The first recipe is linked Frames aka Text Boxes??
  2. The second recipe is an example of “Frames” from the dropdown menu?

(I probably wouldn’t know how to use the old WordPerfect any more, but sometimes I get nostalgic, thinking of how it was easy to look under the hood to see what was going on, even in the WYSIWYG version. :wink:

Neither linked nor unlinked frames ar related to one of the two kinds of objects coming with the ambiguous UI name “Text Box”.
My first example of a list of ingredients consised of two linked frames. (I wouldn’t actually recommend that solution.) The other example is a single frame with two text columns.
Talking of the second variant:
There is a FrameStyle having set all the needed attributes. Having inserted any TextFrame which still is selected, a doubleclick on the menttioned FrameStyle will make it look and act as needed.

The second example with auto text, etc., is really helpful! Laughed at your list of fake ingredients.
Loved "called >Insert>Frame>Frame…
>>OK …and doubleclicked on the framestyle name twoColumnRecipeFrame in the Stylist panel.
Not one click or key-hit more needed! No manual adjustment!"

Now I will have to practice
Thank you!
Wunderbar! Vielen Dank!!

You are speaking German, and your user name’s letters form a typically German name. Are you a “Displaced Person” :wink:
If you escaped tyranny in Europe, why do you surrender to a non-ISO paper size (e.g.)?
Probably you are the one who can tell me for what reasons US Americans, being proud of all the progress their country supported, still insist on the most outdated kind of hoedown concerning everyday standards. Funny: The silly Letter format was the replacement for “official” in the Reagan era instead of abandoning the … and starting to use the reasonable ISO-A4. Even the UK shifted to ISO-A-formats in the 1950es - and they also are proud of being old-fashioned in many ways.