Writer: are custom lists reliable?

In LO, lists are created with a combination of a paragraph style and a list (or numbering) style.

The paragraph style defines the basic appearance for the “content” (how the item text is formatted).

The numbering style, set in the Outline & Numbering tab of the paragraph dialog, transforms a common paragraph style into a list.
A list has “magic” properties:

  • a tag (bullet or number) is automatically added at the beginning,
  • the TAB key when used at the beginning of the paragraph sets the logical nesting level of the paragraph.

Both these properties can be tuned through the list (or numbering) style.

However, management of lists does not seem to be as reliable as other features in LO:

  • attribute propagation does not work well with “list” paragraph styles as mentioned in this question.
  • right indent is ignored or creates havoc as mentioned here or here,
  • custom numbering styles seem buggy (see below)

Performing a major overhaul of a long document to have a more rigorous definition of styles and a more centralized control over them, I revised the way lists were handled.
Using @oweng’s semantics for List x, List x Start, List x Cont. and List x End (see his answer),
lists were consistently restyled with List 1 Cont. when an item should not be bulleted.
This meant some list items would be changed to List 1 instead of their former style.

Applying List 1 style did not result in any visible change of formatting.

I had to apply first a non-list style such as Text Body before List 1 to get the desired effect.*

Since I don’t like direct formatting because it has precedence over style modification, I did not use the Insert unnumbered item in list button for List 1 Cont. items. Anyway, they were already there and I should have used the Bullets On/Off button. Instead, I played with the List 1 Cont. paragraph style definition.

Is Bullets On/Off considered Direct formatting or not? (meaning will it play nasty tricks when styles are modified?)

I first created a custom numbering style which I named NoBullet 1. The parameters in the Position tab were exactly the same as those in List 1 numbering style. In the Option tab, the bullets were chosen as None and a space character was defined as being inserted before the bullet (this was necessary, otherwise no insertion at all would disable the “numbering” property).

Next, this NoBullet 1 numbering style was associated to List 1 Cont. paragraph style.
Once again, to get the effect of style modification, I had to style the list items Text Body then List 1 Cont..

When you do that, your list items are set at the shallowest level. You must position them to the required level with the TAB key entered from the the beginning of the paragraph.

Strangely enough, when you click in a list item with a custom numbering style (i.e., neither List x nor Numbering x), the bottom list toolbar does not display. You then have no access to the Promote/Demote buttons not Move Up/Down. Moreover, sometimes, randomly, the paragraph is no longer a list and the TAB key inserts a tabulation like in a standard text paragraph.

Are list paragraph with custom numbering styles considered as genuine list paragraph by LO?

There is also a minor inconvenience.

As stated above, the NoBullet 1 numbering style is a clone of List 1 but for the absence of bullet. It would have been very nice if the former could have be linked to the latter (just like paragraph and character styles can be hierarchically linked) so that any change in List 1 indentation is immediately propagated to No Bullet 1 and both styles remain synchronised.

Is there any technical reason for not allowing numbering styles to be linked?

To summarize, using highly tuned bulleted/numbered lists with intermediate unnumbered items seems one of the most difficult tasks in LO when you want to control the general appearance from the styles.

The behaviour described above is present in versions 3, 4 and 5. It does not seem to be a temporary bug but inherent to the design.

See this nice work around here. It explains how to manage list styles to apply it to paragraph styles. You should create the combined styles that wish to use.