Typographical Hacks for LibreOffice

Short Form


Office suites are as old as the personal computer. Yet, after more than thirty years, few of us have bothered to learn how to use them.

Oh, we have learned how to get things done in them. Most of us can format a document and print it out, after a fashion. But what we haven't learned is to do these things efficiently, taking advantage of all the tools that are available.

It is as if we have learned enough about cars to go down hill in them and coast across level ground, but never learned about the ignition. We get things done, but with more effort and less efficiency that we should. Some tasks, like going uphill, we don't imagine are even possible because of our limited view.

Using any office suite to its full potential means knowing how to design your documents – and nine-tenths of design is knowing how to use styles and templates. Knowing how to use styles and templates is the equivalent of being handed the key to that coasting car and shown the gas pedal – suddenly, you can take full control of the vehicle, instead of getting by on clumsy makeshifts.


LibreOffice is not just a word processor. It was also designed to be an intermediate desktop publisher, comparable to FrameMaker in its ability to shape large blocks of text.

My proposal is based on the book I am currently completing for Friends of Open Document Format. In this talk, I will show some how basic typographical principles can be applied using the features of LibreOffice Writer.

(The book will be published with a CC Attribution/Sharealike license. It will be free for the download, with hardcopy versions available at a modest price)


LibreOffice, typography, Writer, layout, formatting

Speaking experience

Taught at post-secondary institutions, 1999-200. Delivered talks at Calgary Open Source Software Festival (COSSFest), 2009 and 2010.