10 essential LibreOffice Writer tricks

LibreOffice Writer offers a ton of timesaving features that a lot of users don't know about. Here are 10 cool tips that can speed your work.

I'm a writer of both tech articles and fiction. I depend upon LibreOffice on an hourly basis. Because of this, I have a personal relationship with the word processor piece of the office suite puzzle. Most people use only a small portion of the power of the word processor, but it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, if average users knew the power they held at their fingertips, they'd be amazed at what they're missing.

With that in mind, I want to illustrate some handy tips and tricks you can use with LibreOffice Writer. These tips won't make you a better writer, but they will make the process of writing (in one form or another) easier.

1: Create instant hyperlinks

I wind up placing a lot of hyperlinks within many of the articles I write, which can be quite cumbersome. You type the text, click on the Hyperlink button, enter the URL, click Apply, and click Close. There is a much better way: Use the Hyperlink Bar. To enable this, click View | Toolbars and select Hyperlink Bar. This will open a new toolbar that has two simple text areas. The first (to the far left) is where you enter the text for the hyperlink. The second area is where you enter the URL. Once you've entered the URL, press Enter and the link will appear to the right of the current cursor position.

2: Use the Thesaurus

That's right, LibreOffice comes complete with a handy Thesaurus to use as you write. To open up this this tool, highlight the word you need help with and then hit Ctrl + F7. The LibreOffice Thesaurus will open with suggestions for the word. If you are using a window manager or have created a custom shortcut that uses Ctrl + F7, you can just go to Tools | Language | Thesaurus.

3: Take advantage of autocomplete

You know that tool on your smartphone that mostly just gets in the way of your trying to type? Well, you can enable it in LibreOffice Writer, only it's not so bad. Click Tools | Autocorrect Options. In the Word Completion tab, make sure the Enable Word Completion option is checked. In that same tab, make sure the check box for Collect Words is selected. With the latter option checked, LibreOffice will record every word you type so autocomplete will have a database of words from which to pull. Now as you type, LibreOffice will complete your words and you just have to hit the Enter key to accept its suggestion.

4: Know your keyboard shortcuts

Here's the deal. Every application has keyboard shortcuts. Most people know the usual Ctrl + A, Ctrl + V, Ctrl + P shortcuts. But that short list does little in the grand scheme of things. There exists a huge list of preconfigured keyboard shortcuts for LibreOffice. The best way to learn these shortcuts is to click Tools | Customize and then click on the Keyboard tab. There, you can scroll through the complete list of preconfigured keyboard shortcuts. Go through that list and commit to memory those you'll need to use most.

5: Protect your templates

LibreOffice has a great system for using templates. You can create a collection of them and house them in a shared repository. But when you create them, it's a good idea to make them read-only and to password protect them. The last thing you want to do is work hard on a template only to have someone overwrite it, causing you to go back to the drawing board. To mark a template as read only and password protect it, open it and click on File | Properties. Click on the Security tab and select Read Only. Now click the Protect button and when the new window opens, enter (and re-enter) the desired password.

6: Create a table of contents

If you're creating larger documents, you should seriously consider creating a table of contents. It may sound complicated, but it's not. To add a table of contents, follow these steps:

  1. Click in the document where you want to create the table of contents.
  2. Click Insert | Indexes And Tables | Indexes and Tables
  3. Click the Index/Table tab.
  4. Select Table of Contents in the Type box.
  5. Select any options you want and then click OK.

If you later make a change in the document that must be reflected in the table of contents, you must update it by clicking Tools | Update | All Indexes And Tables.

7: Navigate through your document

If you are creating a complex document, you will want to take advantage of the LibreOffice Writer Navigator. This handy tool will allow you to click on an object within your document and immediately zip to that spot. The Navigator includes objects such as headings, tables, text frames, graphics, OLE objects, bookmarks, sections, hyperlinks, references, indexes, and comments. To get to the Navigator click View | Navigator or just hit F5.

8: Perform quick calculations

When a document requires some calculations, there's no reason to fire up a calculator or open up a spreadsheet. LibreOffice Writer has a formula toolbar that lets you perform calculations from within the word processor. The formula toolbar doesn't permanently reside in the toolbar section of LibreOffice. Instead, you view it, run your calculation, hit Enter, and the calculation will appear at your cursor. You can do the following calculations: sum, round, percent, square root, power, various operators, and various basic and statistical functions.

9: Dock and undock your toolbars

A really cool feature is the ability to dock and undock toolbars. All toolbars can become undocked windows, which allows you to position them exactly where you want. Here's how you do it. Find a toolbar you want to serve as an undocked window. Hold down the Ctrl key and then double-click an empty spot on the toolbar. This will undock the bar which can now be moved around like a standard window. Repeat the action to re-dock the bar.

10: Move text efficiently

Writer offers a really great way to copy a block of text to a new location within a document -- and you don't have to do copy/paste. Instead, highlight the text, press and hold the Ctrl key, and then drag the text to wherever you want it. I prefer this method because it is more efficient than the standard copy/paste method.

More tips?

Have you found a tip for LibreOffice Writer that has saved you time and effort? If so, share it with your fellow TechRepublic members.

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