Writer - floating, linking or hiding columns; hiding text in cells

I created a 50 page table-based timeline (rows=specific dates; columns=data: 9×2 ¼ inches, and dates:4×0.5 inches, for a total of 13 columns) in Word 2016 to keep track of information for a large historical research project spanning the last 4 centuries. As the project has progressed, I needed more data columns. It wasn’t possible to add them in Word as its max page height or width is 22 inches. Luckily LibreOffice Writer is more flexible on page size (set to 40”W, 14”H).

A table displaying multiple side-by-side timelines is a great research tool, and I intend to use and to add to this table in future research projects. But, it really is a pain to navigate at this size. I will mention that:

  • I’ve tried spreadsheets, but they really don’t display well – they aren’t designed for displaying large quantities of text or the multimedia I’ll add later.

  • While a database might work (inputting data would be easy and I could tag entries), I haven’t used a database in two decades. The closest I’ve come in that time is statistical software like SPSS. Additionally, I am also not sure if Access or Base can display multiple timelines, side-by-side across dozens of pages.

  • That said I’d try using Base with Writer, if LibreOffice is well integrated enough to accomplish what I describe here. Or give a particular combination a shot, so long as I could find some good tutorials.

Absent, purpose-built software or any coding skills, I’m hoping the community can help solve some problems in Writer, that were dead ends in Word:

1. Is it possible to make my date column float/remain visible like repeating heading rows?


2. Can my duplicated month/year columns be linked? Could I input information in any one of them and have the others automatically update?

If Writer can handle 12×2 ¼” data columns (continents/nations, scholarship, notes, data points etc) and more as I need them, that means typing up more date columns to keep the date visible. Zooming isn’t a viable option anymore, and I just lose my spot on the table while scrolling left/right without a date a for reference. It also means more copying & pasting/typing every time I add new rows. Either, some years or months are too full of info and need to be broken down to make sense, or I’m just getting to a particular time period. (making hundreds of blank rows to cover every potential year didn’t make Word 2016 crash, but did make a reasonable windows 10 machine run at Sinclair ZX Spectrum speed).

Solving the date column issue would also make the timeline more interactive. Speaking of which:

3. Can columns be hidden in LibreOffice Writer? Or would the software throw a Microsoft-style hissy fit if the column to be hidden/unhidden was 50 pages long? It would make it easier to compare details on opposite sides of the document.


4. Is it possible to hide some of the text inside a cell? It would make it easier to see event names, headlines or article/book titles. This is one of the main reasons I don’t want to try a spreadsheet again:

  • One possible solution is collapsible headings. Word 2016 has the expand/collapse headings feature – but of course Microsoft doesn’t see the point of using headings tables in Word – so it can’t be done. That has also meant that my timeline’s navigation pane is blank – annoying after 50 pages. While Writer can use headings in a table, I haven’t been able to locate the expand/collapse function in Writer yet. I’m also hoping that Writer can collapse or expand every instance of a particular level. Word only gives the option to display certain levels in the navigation pane – or to have them expanded/collapsed by default via the Style menu.

On that note:

5. Is it possible to apply tags (like the ones applied to posts in this forum) to text in Writer … for use with an expand/collapse feature? That would make it possible to expand details for event names, headlines or article/book titles related to certain topics within the timeline. For example, to those entries related to:

  • specific political parties or groups
  • domestic or international issues
  • certain sub-state polities or states
  • more generally to politics, economics or legal issues

That’s the last query, for now. Thanks for reading through a long post and for any help you can offer.