OpenOffice Writer numbering is powerful but it lacks at least one very important feature.
(I’m not saying Word numbering doesn’t suck. I think it does. )
Now, it’s not all bad. Anyone doing a nice little shopping list like this is going to have no problem.
To get lists like this, just type the list, select the list, click the Numbering icon to turn numbering on, press Tab to indent each item as far as it needs to go, then select the whole list and in the Options tab select the numbering type you want at each level.
However, what do you do if you want this? AND let’s say you have about a hundred of these and combine them in the same master document?
Directive on Parking
Parking shall be completed by 8:30 AM each morning.
Parking shall be performed in the following lots
Lot A, except on Mondays
Lot Q on weekends
Directive on After-Work Parties
Parties shall follow these guidelines
Parties shall last no longer than three hours
Parties shall be catered for no more than $300
Parties shall provide bus service home as necessary
Parties shall take place no more than five times a year
When I first typed up the Directive on Parking part in OpenOffice, composing the blog before I posted it here, it actually looked like the following: the top-level numbering for the directive on parking continued from the bread list, even though it was totally separate.
Imagine a 100-page document or a 100-document book where you have to go back and fuss and curse over restarting the numbering.
The trouble with using regular ol’ numbering is multi-fold.
There Are Problems With Trying to Do Complex Numbering in Big Projects, Especially Relating to Restarting Numbering
Restarting the numbering where and when you want it is hit and miss. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.
To restart numbering, you need to click the Restart Numbering icon, or alternately use the Paragraph formatting window. Here they are.
NOTE however that this restart attribute is NOT available when you create a paragraph style.
This all means that you cannot apply restart-iness with styles. You can only apply it manually.
[I have tested the following issue moderately with 2.1 and it does not SEEM to be a problem. Test with your documents.] Also, here’s the kicker. When you import new styles, at least some of the time, the manual settings, aka the restartiness, are kablooied and you need to set them all over again.
[I have tested the following issue moderately with 2.1 and it does not SEEM to be a problem. Test with your documents.] Did I say the kicker? That was a kicker. There’s another even bigger kicker. Importing the styles also often kablooies all the indenting you did to get, say, Rye bread down to level 3 or the party rules down to the level they’re at. You can get around this by using a separate paragraph style/numbering style combination for every level but you still end up with the problem of manual restarts.
You could consider using outline numbering; however you cannot restart the numbering if you are going to combine multiple documents in a master document. Also you have only the most basic control over the distance from the number to the text. (Tools > Outline Numbering. See also http://openoffice.blogs.com/openoffice/2006/10/in_praise_of_ou.html )
So what the heck is the solution?
There Is A Solution If You’re Willing to Do Things Completely Differently
The solution comes from my colleague Jean Weber, at www.jeanweber.com. She has an excellent book on Writer, including high-end complex issues like this.
Here’s the link to the OOo doc, to which she contributed. http://documentation.openoffice.org/manuals/oooauthors2/
Here’s a link to the file you’re going to be using to solve this problem. http://documentation.openoffice.org/manuals/oooauthors2/0214WG-WorkingWithFields.pdf
What you do is, you create a numbering series of your own that has nothing to do with the normal numbering.
I’ll leave the particular details to Jean’s guide; go to the section called Defining your own numbering sequences. Here’s what you need to accomplish.
1. Create a single number range for every level. For instance, if your top level is regular Arabic, your second level is Alphabetic, and your third level is lower Roman, then create a single number range for each of those called Arabic, Alpha, and Roman (or one two and three, or Larry Moe and Curly, or whatever). Choose Insert > Fields > Other, click the Variables tab, choose Number Range on the left, and the rest is pretty clear. Jean's guide provides lots of nice detail for this.
2. Create paragraph styles with the indenting you want, one style for each level. The paragraph styles are what will take care of the indenting. You also need to set up the correct tabs since you’ll press Tab between the number range and the text.
Here are examples for levels 1, 2, and 3. In this formatting example there’s an indent of .3 inches from the left margin of the document for all text. Also the distance from the number to the text is .3 inches.
Level 1 (plus set a .3 tab in the Tabs tab)
Level 2 (plus set a .3 tab in the Tabs tab)
Level 3 (plus set a .3 tab in the Tabs tab)
3. Start inserting the numbers, just anywhere in the document. You're going to insert them, then make shortcuts so that you can insert them more easily.
Choose Insert > Fields > Other, select your top level variable such as Arabic, specify 1 in the Value field, and click Insert.
Now create your ArabicContinued field. Press Return or just make a space or two. Still in the Fields window, delete the 1 from the Value field, and click Insert to insert another field of the same range. It’ll show up in the document as 2. Click Insert again if you want to prove it's working; it'll show up as 3.
DO NOT set up different variables here for the regular and the restart. They need to have the same name.
Do the same for the first item and the next item at all the levels you’re using.
4. Apply the appropriate paragraph styles to each number range you're using. If you created a paragraph style called TopLevelNumbering, apply it to all the Arabic fields (or whatever you're using at the top level). Also press Tab to insert a tab after each number.
5. If you have a lot more work to do, you want all this inserting stuff to be easier so make AutoTexts.
5.a. Select the first top-level numbering item, the Arabic one that equals 1 and the tab. (Not crucial, but as long as you're saving yourself some work, you can make the tab show up automatically, too.) Be sure the appropriate style is applied so that you can bundle the number and the correct style into one convenient autotext.
5.b. Choose Edit > AutoText. Type a name like ArabicRestart, make the shortcut something obvious like AR for ArabicRestart. Click and hold down on the Autotext button and choose New.
5.c. Repeat the steps for the next number at that level, the one that doesn’t have 1 as the value. So select the field that shows 2 in your document, choose Edit > AutoText, and call this one just Arabic or ArabicContinued. Make the shortcut something like A or AC.
5.d. Repeat those steps for every level.
6. Now just keep on formatting or typing your list by inserting numbers. Type AR F3 (the shortcut plus the key that says "insert the autotext with that shortcut" to insert a numeral 1 plus a tab. Type AC F3 to insert a sequential continuous number.
Note on inserting: You can't have the cursor immediately next to any existing text or the AutoText tool will get confused about what you want to do. There has to be at least a space between the cursor and any other text.
Alternately, if your list already exists, copy and paste the appropriate restart and continuous number variables to the appropriate spots, rather than using the shortcut keys.
Is it wildly different from normal numbering? Yes. Is it complicated to set up? No more than any other complex numbering.
Does it offer much more reliability and control than other numbering in OpenOffice Writer, for complex lists? Yes, yes, oh god, yes.