Guide: LibreOffice Writer Part 3: Paragraphs, Spacing, and Columns


In this third part of our guide, we explore paragraph formatting, line spacing, and columns. This builds on what we’ve learned so far in LibreOffice Writer.

We’ve arrived at the third part of our tutorial. Previously, we discussed how to do some basic font formatting in the software. This, of course, is all well and good, however, formatting paragraphs and creating columns can really make the text work well. In this tutorial, we discuss basic paragraph formatting and how to create columns.

Formatting Paragraphs – Creating an Indent

First, let’s start with some text. In the above example, we’ve created a quick title and our first example paragraph. While the text is technically fine, the problem is the format of the paragraph. In a lot of circumstances, we want to add an indent to the first line. There are two ways to accomplish this. The first way is to simply click at the beginning of the paragraph and hit “Tab” on the keyboard. This does add a nice formatted indent. However, you don’t actually get full control of your indent.

In the second method, we utilize the ruler on the top. First, we need to highlight the paragraph we want to format. Next, you’ll see what initially looks like an hourglass on the left hand part of the ruler. This hourglass is actually two slider. One looks like an arrow pointing down and the other looks like an arrow pointing up. What we want to do is click and drag the slider that points down to the first tiny upside-down “T”. If you use tab, this is exactly where the first line will line up.

When you release the left mouse button, you’ll see that your paragraph now has a nice indent just like the example above. The practical upshot of this is the fact that when you create a new paragraph, you don’t actually have to hit the “Tab” button to re-indent every single paragraph. Additionally, backspace will eliminate the indent should you need to get rid of the indent.

Tab does work fine and it is easier to remember, however, this is a nice alternative method that also has further practical applications.

Formatting Paragraphs – Creating a Hanging Indent

Now, how does one create a hanging indent easily? It’s all well and good to have a regular indent, but what about having every line indented except the first line. This is where the ruler comes in handy again.

Going back to our double slider that looks like an hourglass, we want to slide the arrow that points up to the upside down “T”. This will slide all the text over as shown below.

While we have all the text slid over, we don’t want this for the first line. Remember how we indented the paragraph with the arrow pointing down? We want to do the same thing, only in reverse. Click and drag the arrow pointing down back to the line as I’ve highlighted.

The result is your hanging indented paragraph! The practical side of this method is that you don’t have to break the formatting of grammar or mess with tabbing individual lines. This is great for essays that require a works cited list.

The Block Quote

With different indentations, there is one last form of paragraph formatting we want to cover: the block quote. While some attribute block quotes with blogging, block quotes are also used in written essays and academia. To create the block quote, we are going to need the sliders on the ruler again. First, let’s highlight the paragraph we want to format:

Next, we are going to want to slide the arrow slider pointing up to the one inch mark. This will slide all text over to that point and one inch for a block quote is actually a good place.

Next, we are going to move another slider we haven’t touched yet. That’s the slider arrow pointing up on the right hand side of the ruler. Just click and drag it to the left one inch also as highlighted in the screen shot.

The result of sliding both is that the text is now more squished into the centre of the page. You can additionally format the text to be italics as we discussed in the previous guide. This will help differentiate the text from the rest of the text body. It provides a nice visual cue that something is different with the text (namely that it is written by someone else).

It’s worth pointing out that, if you need to, you can also indent the block quote if you wish. Just follow the first step of indentation and slide the arrow pointing down to wherever you want the indentation to go. With the three sliders, you have plenty of options available to you.

Line Spacing

The next obvious question is line spacing. How does one, for instance, double-space? After all, some works cited lists require this and simply hitting enter seems archaic. Well, Writer does offer a simple solution to this. First, highlight the paragraph you want to adjust the spacing to:

Next, you’ll want to click on the line spacing button we’ve highlighted. You’ll notice that Writer offers a few default options such as 1.5 spacing and 2.0 spacing. 1.5 spacing inserts about a half a line worth of spacing between lines. Meanwhile, 2.0 spacing offers true double-spacing. While this is useful for marking, it also uses more paper on average because you can basically only fit half the content you otherwise could fit on a single page. This increases the amount of paper used in the first place should that page be printed. Something to think about if you are environmentally conscious or want to save money on printing.

Creating Columns

While a lot of the above is useful for academic settings, this feature may be more useful for smaller office settings. What if you wanted to create a document with multiple columns? Such an idea is certainly useful for something like a print newsletter. Luckily, Writer offers a simple solution to this. First, let’s highlight a paragraph we want to split into two columns:

Next, we want to go to click on “Insert”. In the drop down menu, you’ll want to click on “Section…” as highlighted in the above screen shot.

You’ll then see a pop-up window with a number of options. The next thing you’ll want to click on is the “Columns” tab as highlighted in the above screen shot.

In the next screen, you’ll see a multitude of different options. You can not only decide how many columns you want to create, but also how wide each column is and the spacing in between. For a simple two column format where both columns are even, you can click on the up arrow next to the number, type in the number 2 in the text box, or click on the two column preset button to the right. Both of these areas are highlighted above. If you are satisfied, click on the “Insert” button on the bottom of the pop-up window.

As a result, you’ll see that the paragraph selected has now been split into two columns! Note that once the text finishes running down to the bottom of the left column, it immediately continues onto the right hand column.

Also worth noting that if you want to format your paragraphs with the ruler within the columns, you can utilize the sliders just like before (as highlighted). If you highlight the paragraphs you want and they happen to be on the right hand column, the sliders will pop up on the right hand part of the ruler.

With the options available in the columns tab under “section” noted earlier, you have a lot of options on different ways you can format columns.

Congratulations, you can now format paragraphs and columns!

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