Libre Office: 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.

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 1/2, 1/4 and 3/4.

Click OK.

Improve Automatic Recovery

2. The AutoRecovery can be optimized like this:

Toolbar Writer - Tools - Options...

Load/Save - General - Save:
set the AutoRecovery interval to 5 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...

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.

Like this you can install it in Libre Office Writer:

- Download Pagination (a .oxt file) from the website of the related project Open Office (Libre Office is built on that). From this webpage. Website down? That wouldn't be the first time. Then get Pagination here.

- Launch Libre Office Writer.

- 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.

- Close Extension Manager.

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

- 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), right at the bottom of the list.

- This 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 - click on 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:

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; this will remain entirely invisible, not even asterisks will show, which is normal.

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

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

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.

(continued in the column on the right)

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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 - tick Nonprinting Characters

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 Replace.

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

Now type a dollar sign $ in the search field, and click 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 5.3.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 18.x and Ubuntu 16.04.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 its 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:
Linux Mint: Menu button - Administration - Software Sources
Click the button PPA's and remove any Libre Office PPA.
Ubuntu: launch Software Sources and remove any Libre Office PPA.

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

d. Use copy/paste to transfer the following command line to the terminal (this is one line):

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libreoffice/libreoffice-5-3

Press Enter. When prompted, type your password. Your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal.
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

Press Enter.

f. Launch Update Manager (Ubuntu: Software Updater) and refresh it. Install the new packages that it offers you.

g. Launch Libre Office. You should now have version 5.3.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....

Want more tips?

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

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