LibreOffice is the flagship open source productivity suite. It offers everything you need to get your work done: Word processor, spreadsheets, presentations, database, drawing, formulas… all for free.

For those coming off a long-term relationship with MS Office, you’d probably reached a point where everything was done with a level of efficiency you no longer have with the new software. Fear not, because there are tons of tips and tricks to help you work with plenty of speed. I’ll offer suggestions for each tool within LibreOffice. First, I want to focus on the word processor — Writer.

I write a lot (over a half million words a year). So, naturally, I spend a great deal of time working with LibreOffice Writer. Making that tool efficient is crucial for my ability to get work done. Here are some of my favorite tips.

1. Use the thesaurus

When you’re writing like a fiend and you stumble on a word, your flow can quickly break. Having a built-in thesaurus can practically remove this stumbling block from your process. But how do you get to the thesaurus without having to go through a menu hierarchy (thus stomping on your speed)? Simple. You hit [Ctrl]+[F7]. When that combination is pressed, the Writer Thesaurus will appear (Figure A) to help you out of a word-jumble stumble.

Figure A

Using the thesaurus is easy — highlight the word you want to replace, hit the key combination to bring up the thesaurus, scroll through the suggested replacements, select the word you want to use, and click Replace.

2. Get to know keyboard shortcuts

Like all good word processors, LibreOffice offers the standard shortcuts:

  • [Ctrl]+[c] — copy
  • [Ctrl]+[v] — paste
  • [Ctrl]+[a] — select all
  • [Ctrl]+[z] — undo

But did you know that A) Writer has a very large number of keyboard shortcuts to enjoy and B) you can modify these keyboard shortcuts to fit your needs? That’s right, if you go to Tools | Customize and click the Keyboard tab, you can modify any of the shortcuts so they work exactly how you need them to work. You’ll even find a number of possible combinations that have no action or event assigned to them. Those are the shortcuts you want to use to create your own, customized actions. Say, for example, you use Track Changes a lot and want to create quick key combinations to accept and reject changes. Here’s how to set the Reject Change action to the [Ctrl]+[6] combination:

  1. Open up the Keyboard tab
  2. Select the [Ctrl]+[6] Shortcut key
  3. Select Edit from the Category window (under Functions)
  4. Select Reject Change under Function
  5. Click the Modify button
  6. Click OK

You can now gain much quicker access to the Reject Change function.

3. Drag and drop words

This is a cool trick very few know about. If you highlight a word and then hold the control key down, you can drag that word (or selected words) to wherever you need in the document. No need to copy/paste the selection. The only caveat to this is the process doesn’t actually move the selection, it just pastes it. So, you’ll have to go back and delete the original. However, if you want to bypass the copy and simply move the section, don’t bother holding down the control key — just highlight the section, and drag and drop it to the new location.

4. Quick change case

If you need to change the case of a word, you can do that without having to retype. Select the word (or words) to be changed and right-click the selection. From the context menu, click Change Case, and then select the case you want to use. The options available are:

  • Sentence case
  • lowercase
  • Capitalize Every Word

5. Use autocompletion

Just like your smartphone, LibreOffice can help you out with autocompletion of words. This is especially helpful when you’re working on a very lengthy document (the autocompletion can save you keystrokes). To enable this feature, go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options. In the resulting window (Figure B), click on the Word Completion tab and make sure both Enable word completion and Collect words are checked.

Figure B

You also have two choices of how Word Completion is displayed:

  • Standard
  • As a tip

The Standard method will display the word in line, as you type. The As a tip option will display the word more as a suggestion tip (Figure C).

Figure C

LibreOffice Writer offers plenty of options to help make your experience more efficient. Use these tips and see if you’re not working faster in the flagship open source office suite.

Have you migrated to LibreOffice yet? If not, what prevents you from doing so? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.