How to modify the default list style?

There are three easy ways to define bullet lists with LibreOffice:

  1. Start a paragraph by typing "* " (with the correct option active)
  2. Use Shift-F12
  3. Use the button in the format toolbar

And I currently think they are equivalent. I can define list styling for paragraphs having a list style attached, or for list started by applying a list style of a given paragraph (either from the corresponding button in the format(style) toolbar or from the style side panel) but I’ve not found how to change the default styling used with that easy way. I can change the style for an existing list, but any new list get the default style.

I’ve even tried, unsuccessfully, to use conditional paragraph style, and it didn’t work. (But conditional paragraph style seems buggy; I got lot of glitches when playing with them, and their usability found a all time low when I found out that I couldn’t save them, see

The “easy way” to create bulleted or numbered list is a form of direct formatting. This means it is not controlled by styles.

As with any direct formatting, you can customise an instance either with the drop-down menu of the toolbar buttons or with Format>Bullets & Numbering. But this will act only upon the occurrence you are editing.

This only way to make your settings persistent is to create a new list style (or customise an existing one) and associate a paragraph style with this list style.

I wouldn’t recommend conditional styles to try to solve the issue. For proper operation, condition styles need to detect the context of the paragraph. Sometimes this context is quite difficult to set. Think for example of outline levels. The simplest way is to use Heading n styles. If you try to use a “universal” conditional style, fiddling with the outline level means you go through Format>Paragraph. This is as complicated as styling with Heading n and partially working: the outline level is set but formatting is not (i.e. the conditional style did not trigger the right “elementary” style). I think most of the problems with conditional styles come from the difficulty to force the context in an elegant, simple and reproducible way. Add to that a conditions cannot be changed once configured.

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Let’s forget about the conditional styles. The simple fact that I can’t save them shows that either I don’t understand them at all, or that they are buggy as hell. I think I don’t have an issue about the notions of styles and direct formatting. After all I’m a LaTeX user and I’m using LaTeX when I’m not constrained by collaboration concerns.
But I’m for sure confused with the use of these concepts by lists in Writer. I get predictable results so I kind of understand the behavior. But I can’t intuit a rationale for that behavior and that makes it difficult to know if the behavior is buggy or if there is a lack of understanding of my part. And I don’t have that feeling for the other kind of styles in Writer I’ve used. Some issues.
1/ I’d have expected that using the “easy way” to start a list would apply a “Default list style” as a direct formatting on the current paragraph. There is no such style.

2/ I’d have expected that Format|Bullets and numbering… defines a direct formatting for the current list. That’s not the case, it modifies the style of the list and thus is directly applied to all the places where the same list style is used. I’d have waited for the user to use “Update selected style”.
3/ If you use the easy way to start a list, Format|Bullets and numbering… modifies the whole list even if only one paragraph is selected. But applying a list style is only for the current paragraph, not the whole list.

4/ You can modify the indentation of a paragraph with an active list with the Format|Paragraph… menu or the ruler. That changes only the current paragraph, not the current list, not all paragraphs with that list style. Using “Update selected style” when on the list styles does nothing. If you do it when on the paragraph list, you get what you expect (now the paragraph style is linked to the list style). Excepted for the paragraphs which had already that style list. They don’t change. Cleaning the direct format on them does nothing either.

Writer (or LO in general) is plagued with the necessity of providing a so-called “intuitive” control interface in order not to discourage newcomers. The idea is to allow to get immediate results without the need to read the guide(s). This means that the well balanced style machinery can be worked around with buttons, menus, shortcuts, … leading to direct formatting.

Lists may be the worst example of this. Even with styles a list is a complex object. Then, with direct formatting (“intuitive behaviour”), this becomes much more complicated because there is no high-level “tagging” to clearly define the list extent. With DF, you have a confusion between list item and list (=a contiguous sequence of list items) and you get you 2/ and 3/ issues.

Even “styled” lists are not exempt of special considerations. The list style takes over the left alignment properties, completely disabling the left indent in the paragraph style. Strangely enough, the right paragraph indent messes up …

… everything if modified. When trying to fine tuned a list item layout, it is sometimes difficult to know if an attribute should be changed in the list or paragraph styles.

The only way to achieve predictable and reliable formatting is to use exclusively styles without the “comfort” (intuitive ?) of direct formatting, however immediate and “easy” it may seem.

I can use the styles exclusively, I’m the kind of person which is more productive that way because any inconsistency bother me out of proportion of the true issue. But I’m not alone but my major motivation for using Writer is collaboration. When I haven’t that constraint, I don’t leave my comfort zone of using LaTeX. And collaboration implies both that the documents are big enough that direct formatting is not a good solution, and that you have to work with people more comfortable with inconsistencies and who really don’t want to give up the convenience. They at least prefer the consistent documents, but the work they are ready to do to ensure that the document is consistent is limited. LO gives you tools to get a consistent document. Provided a suitable template, those tools are usually not that much harder to use than direct formatting once you have changed your habits. The major exception is lists. But as you said styles lists are already more complex than needed.

I fully agree.