Writer Insert Fields is disabled

I am editing a document to get the current page number in a footer. When I choose Insert - Field, all the choices are grayed out.

I can type into the footer, but not insert fields.

If you really hope for some help, edit your question to provide more technical information. Start by OS name, LO version and save format. Don’t start a conversation. But friendly to contributors by grouping all information in a single place.

Insertion will be disabled if you click in a definitely wrong place where insertion does not make sense. The best thing you can do is attach a sample file and give directions as to where to look.

Windows 10

Version: (x64) / LibreOffice Community
Build ID: 02b2acce88a210515b4a5bb2e46cbfb63fe97d56
CPU threads: 16; OS: Windows 10.0 Build 19044; UI render: Skia/Raster; VCL: win
Locale: en-US (en_US); UI: en-US
Calc: CL

.docx format (customer document)

Second page footer. “Page 2 of 2”. I attempted to change the first 2 to the current page number using a field (because this footer shows up on the third page as well). As I said, under Insert - Field all options are grayed out.

When you say, “wrong place where insertion does not make sense”, I have no idea what that could possibly mean.

I have no control over this document, other than trying to make a few edits and fix the page numbering.
NDA_test.docx (41.3 KB)

See, what the Navigator shows…
Lots of conversion problems and/or artefacts…

[Tutorial] Differences between Microsoft and AOO/LO files

Your document is .docx, which means it is first “translated” into LO internal format when it is open. Since M$ Word and LO Writer are not based on the same document specification, expect compatibility problems. The most frequent of these is with page styles because Word has no notion for them. In the end, you have one page style per page, which nullifies the advantage of page styles.

That said, your document is badly structured with drawing objects interspersed at bottom of pages where they interfere with footers. In your case, you clicked on one of these text boxes, likely the one containing “Business Use Only”. Note there is also an empty one probably intended initially to create a border around the footer.

Since drawing objects are totally alien object, not taking part in the text flow, they can’t be “decorated” with fields (because fields belong in the text flow). Consequently, the Insert>Field menu is disabled.

From the description of the problem, you don’t type in the footer, but in one of the text boxes.

Then your case is hopeless because the solution requires restructuring it by removing the text boxes and replacing them with “text-flow objects”, i.e. integrating their textual context in the footer in some clever way.

Remember that when you save back to .docx, any Writer-specific feature will be converted to an approximate equivalent in Word format. So, don’t spend too much time in designing a smart Writer-solution. Anyway, the document itself is a formatting mess where everything is direct formatted, including vertical spacing.

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Ok, I read your description more carefully and you seem to be saying these text boxes can not possibly hold fields. Got it. I don’t understand why a field has to be in the “text flow”, but rules are rules.

It sounds like LO and MSO are fatally incompatible. I guess I always thought that conversion was a practical means of working back and forth. Looks like I was wrong.

Some of us have been in the field for over 20 years. At first, I think everybody understood that “compatibility” merely meant that the body text of a document would be exported/imported correctly, with all the basic formatting. It was expected that decorations like headers and footers would get lost, because most developers of software used a strategy of vendor lock-in. The cost of development was enormous, and office software was quite expensive. Compatibility was the last thing that the developers wanted, and nobody forced them.

As long as your document is fairly simply formatted, it will be converted well enough, but the conversion of the page styles in Writer to the sections in Word and vice versa seems to be very hard or impossible. Expect problems with them.

Correct, it’s a design decision that graphic objects like drawings, and text boxes fall in that category, can’t contain fields. You can use frames instead.
The earliest versions of MS Word came with a book explaining the basics of word processing. Later versions came with inbuilt and/or online help. I think that’s a mistake. A word processor is complex software, just like advanced graphics design software. It’s not “plug and play”. It takes time to learn to work with it, just as it takes time to learn a language or mathematics. Take that time.

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Open Document Format (ODF) is the native document format of your office suite (odt, ods, odp etc). It has been invented some 20+ years ago to overcome compatibility problems by means of a completely free and open XML standard instead of trying to be “compatible” with something that was intended to be as incompatible as possible. A few years later this true standard has been sabotaged by Microsoft “Office Open XML” (docx, xlsx, pptx) which is not even compatible to its own ISO standard. If you do not want to store your work in ODF documents, you should not use LibreOffice.

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I’m using LO. Other people send me MSO documents. I will use LO until it becomes infeasible. Then I will have to convert to MSO. I can’t expect my customers to use LO just to appease me. Heck, I’ve got one who sends me .xls files that I can’t even open without jumping through hoops. I think I had to open it on a web page and spit it out as a .xlsx file to open it in LO.

In this case, I created a text box that I laid over the number for page 3, and returned a PDF file to them. I hate to think what would happen if I had to make edits and returned them a .docx file.

In the real world, MSO is the 500 lb gorilla and there’s nothing I can do about it. It would probably be best if LO could try to mitigate these problems as much as possible. These issues are not going away by themselves, and MS isn’t going to make it any better.

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If you get paid for that work, get that copy of MSO asap. It will save you a lof of time, headaches and more.


@gnuarm2 Referring to your initial question: What to do with fields in the footer?
Erase the graphic objects and set their text parts into the footer as a “regular” text. Then you easily can insert fields. But you may have to reformat the entire text. If it is to hard for you I agree to floris_v:


@Grantler If I replace the objects in the footer with footer text, will that translate back to something workable in the .docx document?

Much better than graphics objects. As long as you design a document with “standard” text and no fancy decoration like text boxes, you have higher odds to be in the “compatibility circle”.

So it’s still “ods”? Ok, thanks.

??? I used word odds as a synonym for chances, likelihood or probability. I didn’t mean .ods extension which designates a Calc spreadsheet.

@gnuarm2 After a cumbersome hour I can present the given sample file as a new odt/docx/pdf file. There are some inaccuracies and lack of real consistence in it, but it is possible to convert, based on LO, this complicated (complicated in format) docx file.

See my attachments:

  1. odt file from the given docx file, converted

  2. docx file for possible exchange to collaborators

  3. pdf file, converted from docx file (www.zamzar.com) for checking layout (no MS Word available for me at the moment)

    NDA_test_converted.odt (73.0 KB)
    NDA_test_converted.docx (14.0 KB)
    NDA_test_converted.pdf (59.7 KB)

I wonder if this procedure is worth its effort…

I’m sorry. I thought I made it clear early on that the immediate problem has been resolved. There was no need to put so much effort into this. But thank you. I appreciate the effort.

For now I don’t have a problem. If I encounter another issue like this in the future, I will work with my customer to find a common ground, or I will simply give up on LO and obtain MSO.