Working with lists

List styles (also called numbering styles) work in conjunction with paragraph styles. They define indentation, alignment, and the numbering or bullet characters used for numbered or bulleted lists. You can define many list styles to use for different purposes, from simple bulleted lists to complex multi-level lists.

As with other styles, the main reasons for using list styles are consistency and speeding up your work. Although you can create simple lists quickly by clicking the Numbering On/Off or Bullets On/Off icons on the Formatting toolbar, and use the icons on the Bullets and Numbering toolbar to create quite complex nested lists, the appearance of the resulting lists may not be what you want—and you might want to have more than one style of list. And what if you later need to change their appearance?

Note uses the terms “numbering style” and “list style” inconsistently, but they are the same thing. For example, the tooltip in the Styles and Formatting window says “List Styles”, but its style dialog says “Numbering Style”.

Creating a new list style

The dialog to create a new list style consists of six pages, in addition to the usual Organizer page.

Bullets, Numbering Styles, and Graphics pages

The Bullets, Numbering Style, and Graphics pages contain predefined formatting for either the bullets (Bullets and Graphics pages) or for numbering. To use one of them for your style, click on the image. A thick border will indicate the selection. If you choose a graphic bullet, you can select the Link Graphics option to create a link to the graphic object rather than embedding it in the document—but keep in mind that the bullet will not be displayed when the document is opened on a different computer or when the graphic file used is moved to a different location on the computer.

Outline page

Use the Outline page to select among predefined nested structures. You can also select one and use it as a starting point for your style, customizing such a list using the Position page and the Options page, as described below.

Position page

Use the Position page to fine tune the indentation and spacing of the bullet point and its text. This page is particularly effective when used in combination with the Options page.

Position settings for a List style

Position settings for a List style

For each individual level, you can adjust the following settings. It is generally easier to adjust the settings in the order given below, instead of the order on the dialog. That is, start from the overall indentation for the list elements, then fix the position of the symbols, and finally the alignment of the symbols.

  • Numbering followed by: use this field to determine the character to follow the numbering symbol. Choose between a tab stop, a space, or nothing. If you select the tab stop, you can specify the position of the tab.
  • Indent at: this value determines how much space is reserved for the numbering symbol, measured from the left page margin. Note that the alignment of the first line of the list is also affected by any tab you may have set to follow the numbering.
  • Aligned at: this value determines the position of the numbering symbol, measured from the left margin of the page.
  • Numbering alignment: select in the drop-down menu how the numbering (including any text before or after as set in the Options page) should be aligned. The symbol alignment is performed around the Aligned at value.

Note: When defining an indentation different from 0, the position of the tabulation is not considered.

In normal circumstances, setting the Numbering followed by distance to be equal to the Indent at distance works well. See Applying the list style for a graphic representation of the effects of these parameters.

If your document was created with an earlier version of, or if the document was saved for compatibility reasons using the ODF file format version 1.1 or earlier, the Position page will appear as in the figure below.

Position page for documents created with earlier versions of

Position page for documents created with earlier versions of

In this case you can adjust the following settings:

  • Indent: use this field to determine the indentation of the number or bullet area. The indentation is measured from the left margin of the paragraph linked to the numbering style (in other words, if the paragraph style already has an indentation, when the list style is applied the indentations are added together).
    For any level other than Level 1, selecting the Relative option causes the indentation to be measured from the start of the previous level rather than from the page margin.
  • Spacing to text: this value determines how much space is used by the numbering symbol. Writer reserves this space, even if only part of it is used.
  • Minimum spacing numbering <-> text: this is the spacing between the right edge of the numbering symbol and the text. If the spacing to text is not sufficient, Writer will honor this setting by expanding the numbering area. Setting the minimum spacing between numbering and text is very useful when right-aligning the numbering or when there is much text before or after the numbering.
  • Numbering alignment: select in the drop-down menu how the numbering (including any text before or after) should be aligned.

Tip: To fully appreciate how the Numbering alignment works, try to create a numbered list with more than ten elements and make sure that enough room has been made for a two (or more) digit number.

Options page

Use the Options page to alter the style of all the outline levels. The options available on this page depend on the type of marker selected for the list. Select first the level you want to modify on the left hand side of the box. To modify all ten levels at once, select 1 – 10 as the level. If you started from a predefined outline, some of the levels will already have settings.

Options page for a list style

Options page for a list style

Depending on the numbering style selected in the Numbering box (bullet, graphic, numbering), some of the following options become available on the page:

  • Before: enter any text to appear before the number (for example, Step).
  • After: enter any text to appear after the number (for example, a punctuation mark).
  • Color: pick the color for the list marker (number or bullet character).
  • Relative size: specify the size of the number relative to the size of the characters in the paragraph of the list.
  • Start at: enter the first value of the list (for example, you might want the list to start at 4 instead of 1).
  • Character Style: choose a character style to be used for the number or bullet.
  • Character button: click this button to select the character for the bullet.
  • Graphics selection button: opens a list of available graphics (Gallery) or allows the selection of a file on the hard disk to be used as marker.
  • Width and Height: specify the dimensions of the graphic marker.
  • Alignment: specify the alignment of the graphic object.
  • Keep ratio option: If selected, the ratio between the width and the height of the graphic marker is fixed.

The right-hand side of the dialog shows a preview of the modifications made.
To revert to the default values, click the Reset button in the bottom right corner. Finally, if you wish to use consecutive numbers regardless of the outline level, check the Consecutive numbering box at the bottom of the page.

Combining list and paragraph styles

When applying a list style, the underlying paragraph style remains unchanged; therefore, if your list must also have a certain font size, indentations, and so on, you might expect to first apply a paragraph style and then a list style (or vice versa). However, it is possible to embed a specific list style in a paragraph style using the Numbering page of the Paragraph Style dialog.

This section gives an example of combining list and paragraph styles.

  1. Create a list style you want to use for the paragraph. For example: MyNumberedList.
  2. Create a new paragraph style.
  3. On the Organizer page of the Paragraph Style dialog:
    1. Give the new paragraph style a name, say NumberedParagraph.
    2. In the Next Style drop-down menu, choose Numbered Paragraph (this will make the following paragraph also be in this style, until you choose a different style).
    3. In Linked with, choose None.
    4. Leave Custom Styles, in the Category field.
    5. Set up the parameters of this paragraph to your liking. Because the indentation is controlled by the List paragraph style, do not modify this in order to avoid undesired interactions.
  4. On the Numbering page, choose the MyNumberedList style from the list created in step 1.
  5. Click OK to save this style

Applying the list style

Now that the list style is available, it can be quickly applied to any list in the document:

  • If starting a new list, before pressing Enter to start a new line, double-click on the desired list style name in the Styles and Formatting window.
  • If you already have a list, select it and then double click on the desired list style name in the Styles and Formatting window.

Remember that applying a list style does not affect the characteristics of the underlying paragraph; therefore you may want to check if you are satisfied with the paragraph style before applying the list style.

If you have more than one list in a document, the second and subsequent lists with the same style continue their numbering from the previous list. To restart at 1, place the cursor anywhere in the paragraph you want numbered 1, right-click, and choose Restart numbering.

To stop using numbering, click the Numbering On/Off icon on the Standard toolbar.

The final result is illustrated below.

A numbered list of CD tracks highlighting the various elements

A numbered list of CD tracks highlighting the various elements

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This book is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, version 3.0.

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One comment on “Working with lists
  1. Stuart Hughes says:

    Great explanation of list, thanks!