Open Office Tricks

As a heavy Open Office user, I am constantly looking for shortcuts, tips, tricks, and methods for improving my productivity. Here I'll mention a few that I find very useful or that were hard to discover. Note that there are many, many more tips and shortcuts available for Open Office, just google them. If you find anything especially interesting, then contact me.


Horizontal Lines

Horizontal lines can be created in Writer by typing a symbol three times on a line by itself and then pressing Enter. The choice of symbol decides what type of line is created. These are the lines that I've discovered:

Symbol Name Line Type
* Asterisk Asterisk
- Dash Dash
= Equal Equal
# Hash Hash
~ Tilde Tilde
_ Underscore Underscore


Lists can be created in Writer by typing a symbol and a space before a line of text. Pressing Enter at the end of the line adds a new line that is a continuation of the list. The choice of symbol decides what type of list is created. These are the lists that I've discovered:

Symbol Name List Type
* Asterisk • A bulleted list!
+ Plus • Another bulleted list!
- Dash ─ A horizontal line list!
1. One-period 1. A numbered list with periods after the numbers!
1) One-paranthesis 1) A numbered list with close-parenthesis after the numbers!


Tables can be created by inserting multiple plus signs (the + symbol) and pressing enter. The width of the resulting table can be controlled by adding tabs and spaces between the plus signs, or the mouse can be used to drag the tables' borders to different dimensions. Tables can also be created with pipes (the | symbol, usually found on the same key as the \ backslash symbol) instead of plus signs, however I find that the pipes create cells too narrow to be useful. Additionally, the width of the tables can be controlled not only with tabs and spaces, but also with dashes, underscores, and equals signs.

Super- and Sub-scripts

Ctrl+Shift+P to make the text superscript. Ctrl+Shift+B to make the text subscript. Repeat to turn off.

Calculation Field

Pressing F2 opens a line for performing inline calculations. The result is inserted directly into the text.

List Boxes

First, put the List Box in place:

  • From the View -> Toolbars menu, add the Form Controls toolbar.
  • Enable Design Mode by clicking the Design Mode button, which looks like a Triangle, Pencil, and Ruler in the standard OOo Linux theme. If you are not sure, then hover over the icons with your mouse and the tooltip will tell you what each button does.
  • Click the List Box button, do not drag it.
  • With the mouse cursor shaped as a cross, drag a rectangle near the text where you would like to insert the List Box.
  • Right-click the List Box and choose Anchor -> As Character.
  • Right-click the List Box and choose Alignment -> Top.

Now, lets add some data:

  • Right-click the List Box and choose Control....
  • On the Data tab, change the Type of list contents property to Valuelist.
  • On the General tab, select the List Entries property.
  • Enter the data one item at a time, using Shift-Enter after each item.
  • Press Enter after the last item.
  • Close the Properties dialogue box.
  • Disable Design Mode by clicking the Design Mode button.

You may also remove the border around the List Box:

  • Enable Design Mode.
  • Right-click the List Box and choose Control....
  • On the General tab, change the Border property to Without frame.
  • Close the Properties dialogue box.
  • Disable Design Mode.


Open Office's AutoCorrect feature can make repetitve text or unusual characters easy to insert by automatically replacing certain character combinations with different characters. Here are some examples from the default configuration:

Replace With


Pasting Newlines

Text with newlines can be pasted into Calc cells once the cells are selected with an activated cursor. Attempting to paste text with newlines on selected cells without an activated cursor leads to each line of text being pasted in a separate cell.


Data -> Filter -> Autofilter This feature treats the first row of a spreadsheet as a field title, and the remaining rows as database entries with fields. The titles have dropdown menus that let the user filter on each field. This is one of the nicest features of Calc, bridging the gap between spreadsheet and database.

General Open Office tips

Compatibility with Microsoft Office

Some tips for keeping your Open Office documents compatible with MSO (Microsoft Office):

  • Save Writer documents as Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP (.doc), or as Microsoft Word 2007 XML (.docx) for compatibility with some MSO versions that insist on "converting" MSO XP documents.
  • Save Calc documents as Microsoft Excel 97/2000/XP (.xls).
  • To preserve page layout, use fonts that have similar dimensions to common Windows fonts. I recommend using actual Times New Roman, Arial, and Tahoma fonts. Ubuntu users can install ttf-mscorefonts-installer for the real Microsoft fonts, or ttf-liberation for fonts with the same dimensions as Times, Arial, and Courier.

Open Office ignores the system locale in Linux and Macintosh

This is a problem. It's probably this problem, but it is also related to this problem and this problem and this problem and this problem and the nine-year-old granddaddy of them all, this problem. To fix it, set Tools -> Options... -> Language Settings -> Languages -> Locale Setting. Unfortunately there is no fine-grained setting of date formats, number formats, measurement system, and who knows what else this affects. There is no documentation on exactly what is affected when the locale is changed, furthermore, there is no documentation on exactly what values each locale has. I currently use the Dutch (Netherlands) locale (for the yyyy-mm-dd date format), then disable the decimal separator checkbox from the Same as locale setting and set my default currency as ILS. But that is the extent that one can customize his locale in Open Office, and in Calc this problem will turn around and bite you.

Hebrew, Arabic, and Farsi in Open Office: עברית العربية فارسی

Initial configuration

To configure Open Office to work with Hebrew, Arabic, Farsi, and other Right-to-Left languages, enable the checkbox at Tools -> Options... -> Language Settings -> Languages -> Enabled for complex text layout (CTL).

Writer Documents

Change directionality of the current paragraph from the LTR and RTL buttons on the Formatting Toolbar. These buttons look like the Nonprinting Characters button (which itself looks like a reverse letter P with a double stem), but they have a Right-facing and Left-facing arrow respectively.

Set the page direction as RTL: Format -> Page -> Page -> Text Direction. This will affect the layout in some non-obvious ways, such as having the first column on a multi-column page be on the right side.

Calc Documents

Change directionality of the current cell from the LTR and RTL buttons on the Formatting Toolbar.

Set the sheet direction as RTL: Format -> Sheet -> Right-To-Left.

Useful Extensions

PDF Import Extension

The PDF Import Extension allows you to import and modify PDF documents. Best results with 100% layout accuracy can be achieved with the "PDF/ODF hybrid file" format, which this extension also enables. A hybrid PDF/ODF file is a PDF file that contains an embedded ODF source file. Hybrid PDF/ODF files will be opened in as an ODF file without any layout changes. Users without this extension can open the PDF part of the hybrid file with their PDF viewer.


OOoLatex is a set marcos designed to provide latex support into OpenOffice. The extension contains two mains modules allowing to insert equations as emf or png images, the latex code is saved into the image attribute allowing re-edition while simpler equations are expanded into symbol characters and then inserted as regular text.

Hebrew spell check dictionary

Hebrew dictionary for spell checker.

MySQL Connector for

The MySQL Connector for installs a native MySQL database driver. It is faster, seamless integrated, easier to administrate and there is no need to install and setup a JDBC or ODBC driver separately. It was never easier to use MySQL databases in Base. Create new database tables or use the powerful SQL query editor of to visually build MySQL database queries without learning SQL commands. Not to forget the database forms, that allow you to display and manipulate data.

Alternative dialog Find & Replace for Writer

Fast selection preset regular and extended expressions.


This extension generates a data input form for tables in calc, reproducing the Data - Form feature of Microsoft Office Excel.


A little macro that adds a 'Insert / Page number...' dialog to writer. It eases the way you can add page numbers to a document.


Export, Update and Import your documents to and from Google Docs, Zoho and WebDAV servers. For Google Docs you may export, update and import all your documents, spreadsheets and presentations, for Zoho you may export documents, spreadsheets and presentations, and import documents and spreadsheets, to WebDAV you may export what you are able to open in Needs Java 5+ to work.

Oracle Presenter Console

The Presenter Console Extension provides more control over your slide show presentation, such as the ability to see the upcoming slide, the slide notes, and a presentation timer whereas the audience see only the current slide.


This extension provides syntax highlighting features for COOoder will be usefull for developers wanting to present code fragments in writer documents. The colors used are the same than the ones from GeSHi. Character styles will be created for each language element.

Code Formatter

Colorize C++, C#, Perl, Python, Java, StarBasic, and XML can be color coded for a better appearance.


Note that by the term "Open Office" I am really refering to the Go-oo LibreOffice office suite. Go-oo LibreOffice is based on, which is owned by Sun Oracle. Go-oo is was a community-developed fork of LibreOffice is the project resulting from the merge of Go-oo with OpenOffice defectors after Oracle purchased Sun and handled other Sun FOSS assets in a worring manner. To further clarify confuse things, the term "Open Office" is a registered trademark of an unrelated Dutch company, therefore, in a technical sense the term "Open Office" should not be used to refer to LibreOffice, Go-oo, or to

This page is now available in Swedish! Fler trix i


Date Published: 2008-03-05
Date Revised: 2009-01-16
Date Revised: 2009-06-02
Date Revised: 2010-11-08 with several useful tips from Mads Horn. Thanks, Mads!
Date Revised: 2010-11-23: Extensions
Date Revised: 2011-01-28: Fixed some errors, added link to Swedish Translation
Date Revised: 2011-02-03: Cleanup, corrections, elucidation, Writer List boxes, RTL section, General OOo section, revised notes regarding LibreOffice. Special thanks to Harold Fuchs, TomW, and M Henri Day on the Open Office Users mailing list.
Date Revised: 2011-12-04: AutoCorrect tips from Stefano Corradini


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