Writer's User Interface

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Writer's User Interface


When you open the Writer window, you will see the view option "Print Layout" by default. This view shows something similar to the output of the document. The difference between what is shown on screen and what is printed relates to the borders displayed and objects inserted automatically, as discussed below.


  • Borders: the text area border, the cell borders on a table (even if the table is configured to not have borders), OLE object borders... will show in grey to help the author during editing. Those borders will not be printed nor exported to PDF. It is possible to change the color of those borders (or eliminate them completely) under Tools → Options → OpenOffice → Appearance: there are options for "Text boundaries", "Object boundaries" and "Table boundaries".
  • Objects inserted automatically: the table of contents and the fields show a grey background. Again, this background is not printed nor exported to PDF and it is there only during editing. To modify that background, in the same Appearance menu there are separate options for "Field shadings" and "Index and table shadings"

As already discussed in the chapter Apache OpenOffice User Interface, there are many menus and toolbars that make up the interface of OpenOffice components. In this section, we will show you the unique aspects of the OpenOffice Writer interface.


Title Bar

The title bar is located at the top of the window (below the menu bar on Mac), and displays the file name of the current document. The default file name for a new document is Untitled X, where X is a number dependent on how many documents are open.

Menu Bar

The Menu bar is located below the title bar (above the title bar on Mac). The functions of the menu bar were already discussed in Apache OpenOffice User Interface. Each menu contains a drop down submenu with commands specific to the menu title.


Writer has two types of toolbars, docked and floating, as explained in Apache OpenOffice User Interface.

Important toolbars to note in Writer are the standard toolbar and the formatting toolbar. These toolbars are also present in the other OpenOffice components. Under the menu bar is the standard toolbar, it provides basic operations such as open, save, print, cut, paste, and help, among others. The formatting toolbar is below the standard toolbar, it shows tools based on the cursor's selection. When the cursor is on text, the tools are for formatting text, when the cursor is on a graphic, the tools are for formatting graphics, and so forth.

More on moving and editing toolbars in Apache OpenOffice User Interface.


Sidebar is a new feature in OpenOffice 4.0, the sidebar provides frequently used tools, grouped in decks. Read more about the sidebar in Apache OpenOffice User Interface.


Writer automatically provides a ruler on the horizontal and vertical axis of the document window. The ruler displays the dimensions of the page, position of tabs, indents, borders and columns.

To show or hide the ruler, choose View → Ruler. For more ruler display options choose Tools → Options → OpenOffice Writer → View (or OpenOffice → Preferences → OpenOffice Writer → View for Mac users).


From here, tab over to General to set measurement and spacing of default tab stop intervals.


You can also change the measurement unit of the ruler by right clicking on the ruler to open a menu of units.


To define indents and tab settings, choose Format → Paragraph → Tabs. Create a new tab by typing in the position, selecting type and fill, and clicking New.



Status Bar

The status bar is located at the bottom of the window. It displays information about the document and provides an easy way to change some document settings.


Page Number

Displays the current page number, sequence number of the current page (if different), and the total number of pages in the document.

If any bookmarks are created in the document, a right click on this field will display the list of bookmarks, click on desired one to go to the bookmark.

You can also access the Navigator by double clicking on this field (more on The navigator).

Page Style

Displays the current page style. To change, right click and choose preferred style from the menu. Or double click to bring up the page style dialog box.


Displays language for the current document. Click to open a menu to change the language settings for selected text or cursor location. Choosing None (do not check spelling will exclude text from spell check and choosing More... will open the character dialog box.

Insert mode

Click to toggle between INST (Insert) mode and OVER (Overwrite) mode. Insert mode will insert text after the cursor position moves forward. Typing in overwrite mode replaces text after the cursor position.

Selection mode

Click to toggle between STD (Standard), EXT (Extend), ADD (Add), and BLK (Block) modes. These selection modes are explained in Working with Text.

Unsaved changes

An asterisk (*) appears if changes are not saved.


Digital signature

If document has been digitally signed, an icon OO-Writer-DigitalSig-Icon.png shows here. Double click this field to view the certificate.

Selection and object information

When the cursor is in a section, heading, list item, or an object is selected, pertinent information is displayed. Double-clicking opens the relevant dialog box.


Click to change between single page, side-by-side and book layout views.


Drag the zoom slide to change magnification or click on the + or - buttons to increase or decrease magnification. Right click on the zoom percent level field to change the value.

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