9 LibreOffice Features You Should Avoid Using

The keys to using LibreOffice? To start with, try avoiding features that make you look lost in the 1990s.


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LibreOffice is essential to the Linux desktop. However, it is also burdened by useless baggage—features that are hopelessly obsolete today and should never be used by anyone hoping to create an impression.

I'm not talking about features like master documents in Writer that have become less useful as the average amount of RAM on a workstation has risen into the gigabytes. Nor am I talking about the interface, which, although serviceable, is decidedly uninspired. Still less am I talking about features such as the fields for hidden text or paragraphs that have only a handful of users but remain essential for rare yet sophisticated purposes.

Rather, I am talking about features that make users look clueless—features that encourage typographical nightmares of illegibility or excess. Some of these features look as though they might date to LibreOffice's first incarnation as StarWriter in 1984, because they result in the kind of excess that people used to commit when office suites were new. Certainly, in the decade that Sun Microsystems oversaw the code, very little was done to update it with the result that much of the code has a nineties-like look to it.

But regardless of when they were added, here are nine features in LibreOffice—and its cousin Apache OpenOffice—that you should think twice about using unless you are trying to re-create some of the monstrosities of the early decades of the office suite. Although some have occasional uses, most of the time applying them means being laughed at for your incompetence. Fortunately, few are essential, and those that are can be replaced by more reliable features.

9. Heading Levels

Writer is equipped with ten predefined paragraph styles for headings, not including titles and subtitles.

To say the least, this is excessive. Headings are supposed to both help readers scan and identify the structure of the information. For example, a Heading 2 paragraph indicates information that is subordinate to a Heading 1 paragraph, so that a Heading 1 section entitled "Choosing Fonts" might have Heading 2 sections called "Finding Fonts" and "Identifying Types of Fonts."

The only way this hierarchical system works is if each heading is immediately identifiable. Typically, several indicators are used, such as typeface, font size, color or indentation.

Ten headings, though, are more than users can be reasonably expected to perceive. Moreover, as a designer, you soon run out of ways to differentiate them.

Use a maximum of three headings—they are far easier for you to use and readers to perceive. Ten is simply too many paragraph styles for everybody.

8. Font Effects

Font Effects are a tab in the dialog windows for formatting characters and paragraphs. While some of the options on the tab are useful—especially Font Color and Effects (that is, letter cases), at least five are considered gauche by modern standards: embossed, engraved, outline, shadow, and blinking (which, of course, only works for online documents).

If you absolutely must use one of these settings, you should be able to find a font that uses it with more precision—and legibility—than the setting on the Font Effects tab.

7. Justification Options

LibreOffice Writer includes options for how a short final line should be handled when full justification is set—that is, when a paragraph starts at the left margin and ends exactly at the right modern.

When a paragraph's last line is too short to fill this space, Writer lets you choose what to do. Three of these options should never be used, because they leave the last line looking strange compared to the rest of the paragraph above it: Centered, Justified and Expand single word. The last two are especially ugly, leaving extra white space between letters or words unless the last line is just short of being long enough to fill the space.

The only option that consistently works is Left, which lets the line start at the left margin and end on the right where it may.

6. Graphic Bullets

The Bullets and Numbering dialog contains a variety of pre-defined options, as well as the ability to add your own through special characters or a character style that uses dingbats.

However, one tab you should avoid in the dialog is Graphics. This tab contains over sixty graphical bullets of different colors and shapes that you can either embed in a document or link to.

The trouble is, such bullets haven't been used since the mid-1990s. They're perfect for a retro-look, but if you use them today you only look outdated.

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Tags: open source, Linux, OpenOffice, word processor, LibreOffice, Office productivity

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