Apache OpenOffice User Interface

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Main Menus

As shown below, all Apache OpenOffice applications share a similar menu structure with several identical entries.


These menus provide all the main functions available in the program, such as file creation, editing, formatting and configuration.

  • File: Commands that relate to the entire file. You can create, open, save, print, or export documents from this menu. Additional options include digital signatures, templates, wizards, and preview.
  • Edit: Editing commands such as copy, paste, undo, and selection. Additional commands are specific to each application, such as AutoText in Writer, Points in Impress and Draw and Cells in Calc.
  • View: Document view options such as layouts, toolbars, and zoom. Most of the applications have specific view commands.
  • Insert: Insert content, either internal to the file (page numbers, cross references) or external (pictures, video or sound). You can also use this menu to give structure to the document, such as by adding sections in Writer, sheets in Calc, or slides in Impress.
  • Format: Formatting commands for text and access to the styles editor. More formatting options are available per type of document.
  • Tools: Configuration options, either for the program as a whole (extension manager, autocorrect options) or for the document (language, outline).
  • Window: Provides a list of all opened documents to select between, or create a new instance of the document.
  • Help: Access to the help system bundled with the program. Search for updates and information about the installed version.

The different components of Apache OpenOffice offer additional menus, specific to that component. Everything will be considered on the corresponding sections of this guide.

Editing Menus

You can modify the existing menus using Tools → Customize → Menus. From here you can create, add to, modify, delete or rearrange your menus.


Contextual Menus

A contextual menu is a menu with a graphical user interface. These menus appear with a right click interaction. As shown below, a right click on a misspelled word brings up the spell-checker options while a right click on a toolbar offers several options to customize it.

This is a contextual menu for a misspelled word This is a contextual menu for a toolbar

Documentation note.png Contextual menus cannot be edited from the user interface, but some extensions can modify them.


A toolbar is a graphical element with several icons that can be used to easily activate several functions.

The list of available toolbars is shown in View → Toolbars. From this menu it is possible to activate used toolbars as well as deactivate those present on the user interface.


As shown, there are a variety of icons. Drop down menus offer functionality such as creating a new document or choosing font for text. Other icons supply direct functions, such as the save button.

Fixed and Contextual Toolbars

There are two kinds of toolbars available in OpenOffice: fixed and contextual. Fixed toolbars once activated are always visible. Contextual toolbars are shown only when the related object is selected. For example, when inserting or editing a table, the table toolbar will appear (unless modified to stay fixed on the screen).

Floating and Anchored Toolbars

Toolbars may float as an independent window or you can anchor them to one of the edit area borders. To change between floating and anchored toolbars, drag the toolbar with your mouse towards a border and it will anchor. If a toolbar is anchored and you drag it outside the border, it will then float.

Anchoring a toolbar is shown in the screenshot below. The thick dotted line indicates the floating toolbar may be anchored in place.


Editing Toolbars

Under Tools → Customize → Toolbars you can edit existing toolbars (toggle elements, add new ones, change their icons) as well as create new toolbars.

Access the toolbar's contextual menu by right clicking on the toolbar to be edited. This allows you to quickly select which buttons are visible or to access the toolbar properties.

It is important to note that it is possible to save the new toolbars in a document; this way the new toolbar will only be available when working on that particular document/template.

Status Bar

At the bottom of the application, the status bar displays information about the current document and offers convenient ways to change some document features.

For example, the status bar from Writer shown below displays, from left to right:

  • the page number
  • the page style
  • the text language
  • the cursor mode (INSRT to insert text normally, one click will change it to OVER to overwrite existing text)
  • the selection mode (STD for standard, EXT for extended)
  • a tool to control page display
  • a tool to control document zoom
  • the current zoom percentage


Side bar

Starting with Apache OpenOffice 4.0, there is a new interface element to access functions on the different components: The Side Bar, visible to the right side of the document on the following screen shot.


The side bar is separated on "decks", which are separated on "content panels" according to the following nomenclature:

Schematic overview of sidebar components.
Name of the feature and name of the control including all its components (icon bar, content panels).
Also known as task pane(l) or tool pane(l)
tab bar
Similar to a vertical tool bar. Clicking on buttons switches between sidebar decks. The button on top of it is a drop down menu that offers some configuration options, like enabling/disabling decks, undock/dock the sidebar, and so forth.
Contains one or more content panels. Only one deck is visible at any one time.
content panel
Displays information about the document and/or provides the means for document modification.
Each content panel focuses on one topic like font, table or shape properties.
There may be more than one content panel in a deck.
Examples are the task panels of the Impress task pane or the property views of the Symphony sidebar.
title bar
Displays the title for the current sidebar deck.
Can contain a close button.
content panel title
Displays the title for one content panel. Optional when there is only one content panel.
configuration menu button
Opens a popup menu that allows switching between decks and also allows the activation and deactivation (tab is not shown) of decks.

As shown below, to the left of each content panel title there is a button that can be used to close/open the panel content. To the right of the content panel title is a button that opens the corresponding traditional menu of panel content.


The available decks and the content of the content panels depends on the component used and on the context. For example, the slide transition deck is only available on Impress while the Properties deck is on all components. The Properties deck will show different tools depending if a drawing, a picture or a text box is selected.

The sidebar is by default docked to the right of the screen, but it can be moved to any side by simply dragging it from the title bar. To dock choose from the drop down configuration button and use the undock or dock item. Otherwise it can be left floating as a stand alone window on the same way previously discussed for toolbars.


When docked, on the middle of the free side of the sidebar it is possible to see a slim button: by clicking on it, the sidebar hides to the side where it is anchored: Clicking again on that button will open the sidebar. But if, with the sidebar hidden you click anywhere on the bar except the central button, then the sidebar will open on autohide mode. In autohide mode, as soon as you move the mouse pointer outside the sidebar it will automatically hide again.


Other Panels

Some decks on the sidebar are also available as stand alone panels: the Navigator, the Stylists, the Gallery are some examples, while other panels like the Data Source panel, the thumbnail panel (seen to the left on the Draw screen shot above) are only available as stand alone panels.

These panels can be docked/undocked or hidden in the same way as the sidebar.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Almost all Apache OpenOffice options can be activated through keyboard shortcuts. For example, on Writer the  Ctrl  +  F7  activates the thesaurus on the selected word.

All keyboard shortcuts can be configured on Tools → Customize → Keyboard tab.

Documentation caution.png The operating system has precedence over all keyboard shortcuts: if one particular shortcut is used by your system, Apache OpenOffice will not be able to use it. For example,  Ctrl  +  F12  is used to open the Insert table menu, but KDE under Linux uses that combination to show the plasma board: if you use Apache OpenOffice on KDE you will need to use a different keyboard shortcut.
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