Creating and modifying paragraph styles

Paragraph styles control all aspects of a entire paragraph’s appearance, such as text alignment, tab stops, line spacing, borders, and character formatting (font, font size, color). The formatting of individual words within a paragraph can be changed using character styles or manual formatting. Character formatting is covered here.

Writer comes with many pre-defined paragraph styles, which you can modify, and you can define new (custom) paragraph styles.

Tip: Any modifications of paragraph styles, including the Default paragraph style, and any new paragraph styles that you define, apply only to the document you are working on. If you want the changes to be the default for all documents, you need to put the changes into a template and make that template the default template. See Working with Templates for details.

You can modify paragraph styles in several ways:

  • Using the Paragraph Style dialog
  • Updating from a selection
  • Using AutoUpdate (not recommended)
  • Loading or copying styles from another document or template

Properties of paragraph styles

You can save some time by understanding some of the properties of paragraph styles and then doing some things in a particular order. Two important properties are Linked styles and Next Style; both are found on the Organizer page of the Paragraph Style dialog.

  • Linked styles. When styles are linked together, a change in the base style affects every style linked with it. For example, every Heading style (such as Heading 1, Heading 2) is linked with a base style called Heading. This relationship is illustrated below.
  • Hierarchical view of linked styles

    Hierarchical view of linked styles

  • Next style. When you type a paragraph and then press Enter to start a new paragraph, the new paragraph will automatically have the style defined as the next style. For example, you can define the Heading 1 style to be followed by a First para style, the First para style to be followed by a Text body style, and the Text body style to be followed by more paragraphs in the Text body style until you change one of them to another style.

Caution: If you are in the habit of manually overriding styles in your document, be sure that AutoUpdate is not enabled, or you will suddenly find whole sections of your document reformatting unexpectedly.

Modifying the built-in sequence of styles

The built-in sequence of heading and paragraph styles is to have use Heading 1 for chapter titles and Heading 2, Heading 3, and so on for subheadings, which each heading followed by a paragraph in the Text Body style. This may be just what you want; if so, you can skip to page Error: Reference source not found. If you want a different sequence, read on. As an example, we’ll modify three built-in styles (Heading 1, Heading 2, and Text body) and create one custom style (First para).

One common book design uses one paragraph style for the first paragraph in a chapter, and another paragraph style for all the other paragraphs in the chapter. For example, all the paragraphs in a chapter might have their first lines indented from the margin, except for the first paragraph, which is not indented.

To set up your book to have a different style for the first paragraph in each chapter, you need to do two things:

  1. Create a new style, or modify an existing style, to use for the first paragraph, and make it followed automatically by the style used for other paragraphs.
  2. Change the heading styles to be followed automatically by your chosen first paragraph style.

A style must exist before we can choose it as a next style. So, before we define our heading styles, let’s create the First para style. We want this to be the same as a Text body paragraph, with one difference: Text body is to have the first line indented, but First para is to have no indentation of the first line. We can save some time (and later inconsistencies if we change something else) by linking the First para style to the Text body style and changing only that one setting. Later, when we make other changes to the Text body style, those changes (such as font and spacing) will apply to the First para style as well.

Modifying the Text body style

To do all this efficiently, we’ll start with the Text body paragraph style.

  1. If the Styles and Formatting window is not already open, press F11 to open it. Go to the Paragraph Styles list. Right-click on the Text body style and select Modify from the pop-up menu.
  2. On the Organizer tab, notice that you cannot change the name of the style (because it is a built-in style), the AutoUpdate checkbox is not marked, Next Style is already set to Text body, and the Text body style is linked with the Default style. All of these settings are what we want.
  3. Organizer page, Paragraph style dialog

    Organizer page, Paragraph style dialog

  4. On the Indents & Spacing tab, change the settings to match those we’ve specified for the Text body style: ((fill in)).
  5. Indents & Spacing page

    Indents & Spacing page

  6. On the Alignment tab, choose Left or Justified, as you prefer. ((Add comments about the last line choice under justified.))((What does “text-to-text alignment” do?))
  7. On the Text Flow tab, mark the Orphan control and Widow control checkboxes and set the number of lines to 2. If you want to use automatic hyphenation, mark the Automatically checkbox and make other choices. Clear the Insert checkbox under Breaks.
  8. On the Font tab, choose the font, typeface, size, and language.
  9. Leave the other tabs alone for now. Click OK to save your changes.

Creating the First paragraph style

Now that we’ve modified the Text body style, we’ll create a First para style linked with it.

  1. On the Styles and Formatting window, right-click on the Text body style and select New.
  2. On the Organizer tab, change the Name from Untitled to First para. Do not mark the AutoUpdate checkbox.
  3. Click on the Next Style list; it changes from Untitled to First para. Scroll down and select Text body.
  4. Notice the Linked with setting, which is Text body. That is what we want, so leave it as shown.
  5. Organizer page

    Organizer page

  6. Go to the Indents & Spacing tab and change the First line setting to 0.00.
  7. Leave the other tabs alone for now. Click OK to save your new style.

Modifying the heading styles

Now that we’ve created a First para style, we can change the heading styles to use it as a next style.

  1. On the Styles and Formatting window, right-click on the Heading 1 style and select Modify.
  2. On the Organizer page, change Next Style to First para.
  3. Leave the other tabs alone for now. Click OK to save the change.
  4. 1.Repeat steps 1–3 for the Heading 2 and Heading 3 styles.

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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 “Creating and modifying paragraph styles
  1. Sophie G says:

    When I copy and paste from an outside source, my paragraphs arrive stuck together, so I can’t indent some without all, or centre the title without the rest. Is there a simple way to do this?