How to Use Custom Styles in LibreOffice Writer

If you’re using the free and open source LibreOffice suite of programs, your word processor is likely to be far more powerful than it needs to be. Writer has at least as many standard functions as the paid Microsoft Word, and if you become familiar with some of them, you can streamline your workflow significantly. In other words, spend a little time setting it up and you’ll be flying through your documents like a 60WPM Superman.

Today, let’s take a look at the Styles tool and how you can better customize it for your specific work needs.

What are styles

In Writer, a style is a collection of formatting information that you can quickly and easily apply all at once. A style contains any combination of the following attributes:

  • Indents and spaces
  • Alignment
  • Text flow
  • Font and font effects
  • position
  • Outline and numbers
  • Adjacent
  • transparency
  • Emphasis
  • Drop caps
  • Tabs

In other words, you can apply pretty much anything you can apply individually at the character or paragraph level with the formatting tools at once by choosing a style. This is incredibly useful when you’re creating a document that regularly switches between text styles, such as a press release with lots of titles and quotes, or a data-heavy presentation with text charts and lots of subheadings. It makes applying all of this formatting a lot easier, and it also helps keep the formatting consistent.

Writer comes preinstalled with a collection of commonly used styles. You can apply any of them by selecting any amount of text (word, sentence, paragraph), clicking the Style drop-down menu, and then choosing a style.


If you can’t see the Style drop-down menu next to the font selector above the text area, click View> Toolbars and make sure “Formatting (Styles)” is checked.

To see all of the available styles at once, click the Styles drop-down menu, then click the More Styles option at the bottom of the list. This will bring up a sidebar menu that shows all of the available styles in their formatted text.

Note that different styles are used for different purposes and affect different groups of text based on their properties. A character style applies formatting only to the characters you select. A paragraph style applies formatting to an entire paragraph – even if that paragraph style contains only character-level formatting. There are also special styles for lists, frames, and pages.

Edit a style

Let’s say you’d prefer to stick with the standard LibreOffice styles, but want to customize one of them. Click the drop-down menu, click the down arrow to the right of the style you want to change, then click the “Edit Style” option.

Alternatively, you can click the Edit Style button (the wrench with the little blue window icon) or right-click a style in the sidebar and then click the Change option.

In this menu window you can customize pretty much anything to one style. Any changes you make on these tabs are saved and applied to the style you are currently working on. Click “OK” to save your changes, click “Apply” to see them in action in the text document (even if no text is selected!) Or click “Reset” to return it to the Writer default setting for this Reset style.


You can do this for any style available.

Create a new style

If you’d rather start over with your own style, you can start the process by either 1) clicking the New Style button in the menu bar (the wrench with the yellow star) and right-clicking on Styles and formatting “click” in the sidebar and then click the “New” option or 3) press Shift + F11 on your keyboard.

Give your style a new name that is easy to identify by the names of the standard styles.

Okay, maybe just a little more useful.

There you are. When you’re done, click the “OK” button

The new style appears in the list under the section of the last style selected. Change it in the same way we discussed in the previous section.

From here, you can customize anything you’d like in the list of style formatting at the top of the various tabs. Font changes are applied to fonts, paragraph changes are applied to paragraphs, and so on. When you’re done, click OK again.


There is another way to do this, and you might prefer if you want to work directly on your text rather than jumping through the menu. Make selections of text, then make the changes you want. To the example, here is a specific title format I like, using Lucidia Bright font size 18 “in italics with a modified tab at 0.5”.

Now select the changed text and look in the Styles and Formatting sidebar for the “New style from selection” button. It’s the little paragraph button right here:

Click New Style to create a completely new style that matches any changes you’ve made to text, or click Update Style to apply those changes to the currently selected style. (Warning: if you haven’t chosen a style, it will be applied to the default paragraph text style.)

Practical shortcuts

As you get used to working with styles, you’ll want a faster way to edit them. Here are some keyboard shortcuts you might want to practice:

  • F11: Open the Style and Formatting window.
  • Ctrl + F11: Create a new style.
  • Ctrl + Shift + F11: Update the style you currently applied to your text selections.
  • Ctrl + 0: Apply the default paragraph style.
  • Ctrl + 1-5: Apply the Heading 1-5 style.

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