How to propagate a style format through a document?

I have a writer document of about 100 A5 pages. Some of the styles in it have different formats. For example “Header 3” is 12 point and left justified in some places, 14 point bold centred in others. How do I propagate the one format for Header 3 throughout the document? i.e. make them all the same?
I tried to go down the template path, but I found the explanations hard to follow and not very relevant to the above.

Talking of the example: Choose one of the Heading 3 paragraphs, remove partial direct formatting from it, make sure it has exactly the attributes you want for Heading 3. (Not header! That’s something completely different.). Go to the Styles panel and Update Selected Style. Now use Find&Replace with OtherOptions: Paragraph Styles, Use Find All and finally Ctrl+M to remove probale direct formatting.
In a respective way you can clean the mess somebody may have made of the document concerning different styles because he (f/m) wasn’t teached “Reasonable and Professional Usage of Office Software” but “MS Office” or “MS Word” (the opposite) instead.

Templates always have the same effect on the text.

Excluded: Character styles are determined via paragraph styles and direct formatting is done via style sheets.

[means: A paragraph style cannot format text differently that has been handled by a character style or direct formatting.
Similarly, a character style cannot format text that has been treated with direct formatting.

Order, which formatting is above which?

Direct formatting (Upper)
Character styles
Paragraph styles (Lower)


Direct formatting is removed with Ctrl+M.

See also:

Professional text composition with Writer


Excluded: Character styles are determined via paragraph styles and direct formatting is done via style sheets.

What do you mean? This is a bit obscure. Character styles are independent from paragraph styles. Direct formatting is always manual. “Style sheet” is Word vocabulary.

Can you improve this paragraph?

There is no need to “propagate” style definition throughout a document but a requirement to be consistent. There are three layers of text formatting:

  • paragraph style is the deepest
  • character style
  • direct formatting is the shallowest

Every layer masks the corresponding attributes in the lower levels.

If you Header 3 paragraphs are inconsistent, you applied some other formatting to them, either with a character style or worse with direct formatting.

To achieve best results in Writer, work exclusively with styles (and all style categories: this includes frame, page and list styles – discard table styles which are not formally styles and do more harm than good). This is manageable while direct formatting always causes trouble, overriding/blocking the modifications you make to styles.

@Hrbrgr gives you the recipe to clear direct formatting.

Templates are a way to give different documents the same look. In a sense, templates “propagate” to styling to other documents.

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In case you need clarification, edit your question (not an answer which is reserved for solutions) or comment the relevant answer.

Thank you. I appreciate the time you and others put into answering questions. I think I have now got a handle on styles and their hierachy.

If I can make a comment I do find the whole template-style structure to be complex and counter intuitive. It is a top down structure and assumes the end user knows what she/he wants from the start. How I like to approach constructing a document is to start with the default, then keep changing things till it looks like how I want it. Ideally I would like then to push a button to save that structure. If I have conflicting styles, then the saving program should help me to be consistent.

The style system is not counter-intuitive, it is different than what you find in other document processing suites, notably M$ Word. As usual, when you start using a new application, you must accept to change your routine (the real name for “intuition”). There is no single approach to text composition, this is why all apps have their own help files and user manuals.

Unfortunately, due to the monopolistic position of Word, non-styled formatting had to be provided to ease transition to Writer. Many users stop there, not making the effort to discover styles. and this is the beginning of many problems because it creates conflicts or hides style actions.

The style system is indeed complex because it allows complex things and more sophisticated self-organizing formatting than Word. It partly bridges the gap between text processing and desktop publishing.

Your approach is good: write your text with full style mark up. Don’t care for formatting at this step. What is important is the mark up: it gives Writer hints about the significance of paragraphs and words (common discourse, quotation, comment, note, emphasis, understatement, irony, …).

You then play only with style configuration until formatting is satisfactory. You don’t modify text in this step.

Styles are saved with the document. If you want to define the final style set as your own formatting “signature” in all your (future) documents, erase the text and File>Templates>Save as Template. Make it your default template. All new documents will be based on this template.

However this will create a constraint: style updates must be made in the template itself, not in the document so that these updates are shared by all other documents.