What is wrong on using manual formatting? It is an offense or the like?

Learning to use Styles could be a steep path (for me, a few years).

How much of Style will understand someone who don’t know what the symbol ¶ mean, nor the difference betwen Enter and Shift+Enter?

If using styles is a problem, if understanding the difference between Enter and Shift+Enter is a problem, you, probably, should not use computers and would be better off sticking to pen and paper.

@gabix : Perhaps you judge too harshly. Myself, while I have never tried to write a book using Writer (where Styles might be most appropriate), I have used Writer for many things and, yet, I have never used Styles, only manual formatting. The OP raises an interesting point – What is wrong with using manual formatting, and why so much emphasis on Styles.

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It is an offense or the like?

No never. Nothing speaks against direct formatting.

It is just that with longer documents the use of styles saves work and gives a better overview of the formatting used.

It only becomes problematic when direct formatting and formatting with styles is used.

With a 50 page document, can you still remember where which formatting was used?

If you only use direct formatting, there shouldn’t be any problems either.

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The OP raises an interesting point – What is wrong with using manual formatting, and why so much emphasis on Styles.

Yes, it is. Since I’m actually an advocate of styles, I still use direct formatting for short documents.

I hope everyone will be happy with what they do. As long as you know what you are doing, there shouldn’t be any problems.

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Of course it’s not an offense. It’s a problem.

People tend to believe that using direct formatting is easy. And keep coming with problems caused by using that, problems that are sometimes very hard to fix and very easy to prevent by using styles. But telling that is taken as offense by them.

The fact is that you have to be very advanced user to use direct formatting efficiently.

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Direct formatting is no offense, neither against us, nor the great deity of computing, nor criminal law. We will still encourage the use of styles because it helps you work efficiently and make a consistent output, and it may benefit people you collaborate with.

The purpose of formatting is to make parts of your content stand out in some way, depending on type of content. E.g. chapter headings are set with a larger and/or bolder typeface. List items are indented, possibly marked with bullets or numbered. Side notes/digressions perhaps with a frame around them or a different background color.

For some types of content, you may also want to summarize. Headings collected to table of contents. Keywords to an index. This can be automated by the use of “metadata”.

While the use of styles can be thought of as an added level of abstraction, learning to set up and use styles is not particularly difficult. When you start using them, they will help you to keep the appearance of your text elements consistent. Some kinds of metadata, defining document structure, can also be assigned by styles.

If your document is a page or three, you have no trouble handling this by hand. If you have 200 pages it is harder. If you decide that headings should be centered and underlined, and subheadings indented and green, you have a significant workload ahead of you. Or you can modify the Heading 1 and Heading 2 styles and all is well. Heading styles are also marked with a particular outline level, so headings are automatically collected to the ToC.

How you choose to work is up to you. If you create documents in collaboration with others, your choices in this field will also influence each other’s work. Also, if you submit your work to professional handling (e.g. print/publish), results may be less predictable.

As simple and as complicated as that…

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Manual formatting is OK if you never edit or otherwise review your document. I call this kind of document “one-shot expendable”: you write it, print/send it and throw it away.

When the document is supposed to live for a longer period and be edited/amended/augmented, your own interest is to concentrate on content not on formatting. In this context, styling is not a matter of colours, font faces, spacing, … but an important task where you mark up intents of pieces of text as to the importance they have: some paragraphs are headings or titles, others are comments, some are lists of things, others lists of actions, …

Not all words have the same importance in a paragraph. The paragraph style gives the principal role of this paragraph amidst the discourse but some words should be marked specially (e.g. the word for which a definition is given, a seemingly ill-used word, a foreign word, …). You will then use a character style such as Emphasis, Quote or Foreign. Note that I don’t use qualifiers such as bold or italics. This comes later.

The general idea is to tag your text about how you as an author structure your text.

As a rule of thumb, Body Text is the standard paragraph style for the discourse and Heading n for the different levels of heading.

With your text correctly marked up, you then allocate the typographical attribute to the styles. Inevitably, several styles, mainly the character styles, will look the same because the number of typographical effects is limited. For example, quotations and foreign words may be formatted italics. But as formatting is never satisfying in only one trial, you may change your mind afterwards and keep quotations italicised and change foreign words to red Roman, only changing the style without the need for hunting the words one after the other in the text.

One underestimated feature may help you organise your styles. Paragraph, character and frame styles are hierarchical (use the Hierarchical choice in the bottom menu of the style side pane to see the effect). Styles are sorted in a tree-like structure. They inherit all attributes from their immediate ancestor (recursively) and you can override a few attributes to tune the style to its purpose. The non-overridden attributes keep their value from the ancestor. This means that a change in a non-overridden attribute automatically propagates (transitively) to all descendants, sparing you the pain to do the change yourself.

At the top of the paragraph hierarchy, there is Default Style. It is there only to set your own defaults for all others. This role explains why, contrary to M$ Word, Default Style should never be used to write document content because customising it (for one paragraph need) will have adverse effects on all other styles.

In the character hierarchy, Default Style is a “non-style”. It cannot be modified or deleted. It is an internal technical style which means “remove all character styling to revert to paragraph styling”.

Unfortunately, for the time being, page styles cannot be organised hierarchically.

I don’t think that this “mark up approach” needs so many years to be understood. You associate styles with meaning, no matter how text will look in the end. This is what is important for an author.

I admit that when it comes to allocate the effects to styles, you may take some time to know what large possibilities are offered by LO components (Write, Calc, Impress, Draw) and to choose judiciously between them. The hierarchy between styles adds a degree of complexity but gives you also an extraordinary power of flexibility and convenience in formatting review.

The most important point is to understand the semantic target of page, paragraph and character styles (in this order).

Answer to your matter-of-fact questions

When View>Formatting Marks is enabled (which is always recommended to have a visual clue about what’s going on), represents a paragraph break. Before and after the mark, paragraphs are independent. They can have their own styles and do not interfere with each other. This break is caused by Enter.

In some circumstances, you may want to have a line break inside the paragraph without leaving it. For example in Hanging indent paragraphs, you define terms as:

word      A word is a sequence of
          characters between spa-
          ces or punctuations.

correct sentence
          A correct sentence is a
          sequence of words  pas-
          sing grammar rule test.

In the first case, “word” is short enough to be set in the indent. It is followed by a tab to start the definition at the paragraph left indent. In the second case “correct sentence” is too long and overflows the first line indent. Adding a tab after it does not align to the left indent. You then enter Shift+Enter to wrap to next line beginning. “correct sentence” is still part of the paragraph which contains the word to be defined and its definition. There is no vertical spacing added as would be the case if you left the paragraph.

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In case you need clarification, edit your question (not an answer) or comment the relevant answer.

(Edit only fixed misspellings and added missing words)

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I forgot a very important point in my answer:

Never (x 7) mix direct formatting with style formatting! Choose one or the other, but not both in the same document.

Direct formatting overrides style formatting and you will be struck with perplexity when changing a style has no effect. Direct formatting is rather “sticky” and sometimes Ctrl+M does not remove it. I know! It happened to me. This occurs with some features without style equivalent. There is a manual action but it is not considered formally as direct formatting.

A remark suggested by another question:

With a consistent use of styles (remember: they mark the structure of the text, not its appearance), you can separate the author and the “formatter”. They may be different person. The author concentrates on text using conventional semantic styles agreed upon between writer and publisher. Somebody in the printing shop is in charge of “style decoration”, i.e. mapping the semantic styles to elements of a corporate graphical charter without caring for document content. A bit of a caricature, but this is the raw idea.

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