LibreOffice: Configure it Right


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Tame your Libre Office Writer

Libre Office Writer (or LibreOffice Writer, as the official spelling unfortunately is), is a fine word processor. An excellent alternative to Microsoft Office Word. However, it does have a couple of sub-optimal default settings. Luckily, those can be changed. Read on below.

Contents of this page:

Limit the AutoCorrect Options

1. Some AutoCorrect options are highly irritating, so it's better to limit AutoCorrect somewhat.

Panel of LibreOffice Writer: Tools - AutoCorrect - AutoCorrect Options...


Tab Options:

Remove both ticks for:

Capitalize first letter of every sentence

Delete spaces and tabs at beginning and end of paragraph

Delete spaces and tabs at end and start of line



Tab Word Completion:

Remove the ticks for:

Enable word completion

Collect words



Tab Replace:

Delete (click on each item that you want to remove, and then click the Delete button):

:1/2:
:1/3:
:1/4:
:2/3:
:3/4:
:3/8:
:5/8:
:7/8:


Click OK.

Improve Automatic Recovery

2. The AutoRecovery can be optimized like this:

Toolbar Writer - Tools - Options...

Double-click the section "Load/Save", so that it expands - General - Save:
set the "Save AutoRecovery information" interval to 5 minutes instead of the default 10 minutes.

That way, you'll reduce the risk of data loss in case of power failure and such.

Disable Java

3. Have you installed Java? The performance of Libre Office can be enhanced greatly, when you disable Java in it. This will disable a few features, but usually you won't even miss those. Proceed like this:

Toolbar Libre Office Writer - Tools - Options...

Section "LibreOffice" - Advanced - Java Options:
remove the tick for: Use a Java runtime environment

Make it easier to insert page numbers

4. By default, it's pretty cumbersome to add page numbers. Luckily, some helpful developer has provided a useful extension, called Pagination. This extension makes adding page numbers a lot easier. It's old, but should still work in the current versions of Libre Office.

Like this you can install it in Libre Office Writer:

a. You need the "latest" version of Pagination (a .oxt file) from the website of the related project Open Office (Libre Office is built on that). You can download it from this webpage. Website down? That wouldn't be the first time. Then get Pagination from my Google Drive.

b. Launch Libre Office Writer.

c. Toolbar Writer: Tools - Extension Manager...

Click Add - and click your way through to Pagination-xxx.oxt in the Downloads map. Upon adding, it installs itself in Libre Office.

d. Close Extension Manager.

e. Close Libre Office Writer (as well as all other Libre Office applications).

f. Launch Libre Office Writer again.

Now you can find the page numbering feature in the toolbar of Libre Office Writer: Insert - Page Number...

Note: don't select the item Page Number (without dots), but the item Page Number... (with dots), at the very bottom of the list.

See the screenshot below:


If you select No page number for first page (most people do), then don't change anything for the option below, misleadingly called Page number for first page: that's 2 by default and should remain 2. Because it actually means to say: "page number for the first page that should actually show a number".

See the screenshot below of the correct settings:

g. The installation of Pagination is a user preference, so repeat this in each user account.

Note: do not turn Libre Office into a Christmas tree! Be very reluctant to install extensions. The more extensions you install, the slower Libre Office will become (and the less stable).

Improve macro security

5. Macro's can be useful, but they're also risky. You can improve the macro security of Libre Office like this:

From the menu, launch LibreOffice Writer - panel: Tools - Options...
If necessary, click on the small triangle before the word LibreOffice, in order to expand this section - Security - button Macro Security... - set the Security Level to Very high.

Close Writer.

Note: user preference, so repeat this in each user account.

Install some useful fonts

6. Install some useful fonts, in order to improve the compatibility with documents from Microsoft Office. Namely a package containing some old Microsoft fonts and two modern Google-made free replacement fonts.

I. First the package with old Microsoft fonts:

a. Launch a terminal window (this is how to launch a terminal window).

b. Use copy/paste to transfer this line into the terminal (it's one single huge line!):

wget http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/pool/contrib/m/msttcorefonts/ttf-mscorefonts-installer_3.7_all.deb -P ~/Downloads

Press Enter. With this command, you download the installer package from Debian, because the version in the Ubuntu/Mint repositories is broken. Furthermore, the Debian package is cleaner because it doesn't pull some software that's useless in Linux Mint.

c. For the actual installation, use copy/paste to transfer this line into the terminal (it's again one line!):

sudo apt install ~/Downloads/ttf-mscorefonts-installer_3.7_all.deb

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted. In Ubuntu this remains entirely invisible, not even dots will show when you type it, that's normal. In Linux Mint this has changed: you'll see asterisks when you type your password. Press Enter again.

c. Now you might be confronted by a license agreement from Microsoft (sigh). See the screenshot below (click on it to enlarge it):

Hit the Tab key to activate <Ok> (which then turns red), and press Enter.

d. In the next window you'll be given the chance to say Yes to the agreement: hit the Tab key to activate <Yes> (which then turns red) and press Enter.

e. Finally, copy/paste this command into the terminal:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig

Press Enter.


II. Now install the Google-made free fonts Carlito (replacement for Microsoft's modern proprietary Calibri) and Caladea (replacement for Microsoft's modern proprietary Cambria). Like this:

a. Launch a terminal window (this is how to launch a terminal window).

Use copy/paste to transfer this line into the terminal (it's one line!):

sudo apt-get install fonts-crosextra-carlito fonts-crosextra-caladea

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted. In Ubuntu this remains entirely invisible, not even dots will show when you type it, that's normal. In Linux Mint this has changed: you'll see asterisks when you type your password. Press Enter again.

b. Now you're going to configure Libre Office to use them as replacement for the Calibri en Cambria fonts from Microsoft:

Panel of LibreOffice Writer: Tools - Options... - section LibreOffice: Fonts

Tick: Apply replacement table

c. Type in for Font (it's not in the dropdown list, you have to type it): Calibri
Replace by: Carlito (it's in the dropdown list)

Press the button with the green tick.

Tick: Always and Screen only

d. Now type in for Font (it's not in the dropdown list, you have to type it): Cambria
Replace by: Caladea (it's in the dropdown list)

Press the button with the green tick.

Tick: Always and Screen only

Click the OK button.

Find and replace hidden characters

7. Sometimes there are wrong "hidden characters" in a document. You can find and replace them as follows.

First make the hidden characters visible in the document:
Toolbar Libre Office Writer - View - click on Formatting Marks

Then:
Toolbar Libre Office Writer - Edit - Find & Replace...
Now you get a search window.

A superfluous space kan be found and replaced as follows:
Click in the search field and press the space bar once. Leave the "Replace with" field empty. Click the button Replace.

Finding and replacing a hard return (hard line end) is a little more complicated. In the search window, click the button called "Other options". Then tick "Regular expressions".

Now type a dollar sign $ in the search field, and click the button Replace.

Problems with Libre Office? Install a newer Libre Office

8. Usually, I'm opposed to adding external software repositories like PPA's. But there are favourable exceptions, and the PPA for Libre Office is one of them.

If you experience problems with your current version of Libre Office, you can install a later version of Libre Office with this PPA. Namely 6.4.x.

It's much better to use packages from this PPA for that purpose, than to use the *.deb files that The Document Foundation provides upstream. Because those are intentionally built against a very old baseline for maximum compatibility, which is a disadvantage for modern operating systems like Linux Mint 19.x.

So, if you want to install a newer version of Libre Office, do it with this PPA, not with the upstream *.deb installers from The Document Foundation.

Note: although this PPA is reliable, don't apply this how-to just to have the "latest and greatest"! Only do it when you encounter a problem in your current version of Libre Office, which might be solved in a later version.

Most of the packages in this PPA have only experienced minor testing. In fact, one of the PPA's goals is to enable a wider audience to test packages before they are added to the official repositories. In general, this PPA is not for the average user to install without a closer look (if it would be, its packages would already be in the official repositories).


This is how to do it:

a. Close all Libre Office applications.

b. If present, remove the PPA of an older version of Libre Office, from your sources list. As follows:

Menu button - Administration - Software Sources
Click the button PPA's and remove any existing Libre Office PPA.

c. Launch a terminal window.
(You can launch a terminal window like this: *Click*)

d. Use copy/paste to transfer this line into the terminal (it's one line!):

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libreoffice/libreoffice-6-4

Press Enter. When prompted, type your password. In Ubuntu your password will remain entirely invisible when you type it, not even dots will show, this is normal. In Linux Mint that has changed: you do see asterisks when you type it. Press Enter again.

Press Enter again, to confirm adding the PPA.

e. Now copy/paste the following command line into the terminal:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Press Enter.

f. Then remove the Firebird packages which you might have got as well (they're not present by default in Linux Mint, so you probably won't need them). With this terminal command (copy/paste it):

sudo apt-get remove firebird*

Press Enter.

g. Launch Libre Office. You should now have version 6.4.x.

Note: there's also a Libre Office PPA (LibreOffice Fresh) which always gives you the latest version. Even when it's a major new version. I don't recommend to use that PPA: the bigger the "version jump" is, the bigger the risk of problems becomes.

The PPA which I do recommend gives you "only" rather small improvements within a given Libre Office version. This reduces the risk of diminished stability and reliability considerably.


Problem with a Microsoft Office document? Use OneDrive

9. Does Libre Office have a problem with a complex Microsoft Office document? Then open that document in the free cloud service One Drive.

In the free edition of Microsoft OneDrive there are basic editions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint, called Office Online. With those you can open, edit and even create documents.

In my opinion Libre Office is a far superior tool, but in certain cases using Office Online can be a useful emergency measure.

Yet it remains an emergency measure, because you more or less "hand over" your document to Microsoft: in principle, that company can read your OneDrive documents....

Want more tips?

10. Do you want more tips and tweaks? There's a lot more of them on this website!

For example:

Speed up your Linux Mint!

Clean your Linux Mint safely

Avoid 10 fatal mistakes


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