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October 10, 2006


I LOVE outline form for creating documents. My personal preference is to indent each level of text by 0.25" or so from the corresponding heading, and have the next level heading the same indent as the previous text level. This way, the indentation shows the logical structure.

The only downside is when there are many heading levels (I have seen requirements documents with over ten levels!!!). In these cases, I may have some (or all) of the initial levels at the same amount of indentation.

Glad you like it! My coauthor Floyd wrote it up as very complicated, which it is when you use chapter-page numbering that he was emphasizing, but it's really just a nice easy thing that gives you lots of goodies. And yeah, indenting gives you a nice structure. I just wish that it were possible to apply more than one paragraph style to each level.

Is it possible to embed a new line code to get the effect of something like:


Hi Bambang,

No. However, you can set up the heading style you use for Chapter I so that it automatically applies the appropriate style, such as Heading 2 or Text Body or Bold Title, to "Introduction." In the Stylist (Format > Styles and Formatting), right-click the Heading1 style, choose Modify, and in the Organizer tab, select the style for the next line from the Next Style list.


I don't think any other function makes me want to get violent with my computer more than outlining (and I love my computer).

Here are some issues I've been having:

1. When you want to switch outline formats OO writer doesn't seem to forget the old one. For example, I was originally using (I, A, 1, a) and then I switched to (1, 1.1, 1.1.1, 1.1.2). When I inserted a new paragraph (say Level 2) into the new format I would get A (from the first format that I do not want to use)

2. I decided that I wanted all level 2 entries to be bolded but it appears that I need to do each individual case (this will be a bugbear later on since this is a book I'm creating)

3. The indentation seems to waver as if I've manipulated it - but I didn't

4. The TOC doesn't recognize my document. It gave me the last entry (which was formatted differently - not by choice). I deleted this entry and my TOC has nothing despite a 28 page outline with some text

Sorry for the rant... same stuff happens in Word except in Word you can select "all cases"

Hi Jefferson,

You're actually using the standard numbering in an outline format, not outline numbering. The things you're talking about can be more easily controlled by using list styles.

It will be much easier to create a style for the outline numbering you want, instead of applying the prefab formatting repeatedly and modifying individual cases.

Select some text that's formatted with outline numbering the way you want. Choose Format > Styles and Formatting. Click the icon with the tooltip that says list styles. Then click and hold down on the far right icon, choose New Style From Selection, and name it. Then you can modify it as necessary by right-clicking on its name where it appears in the styles list and choosing Modify Styles.

See this blog on lists.

See this blog on creating styles.

If you want, see this blog so you can apply styles with a keyboard shortcut.
Issue 1: Just select whatever the problem text is, and apply the outline format you want. (Or apply the formatting you want.)

Issue 2: Create a style with the formatting you want, such as bold on the 2nd level.

3. Choose View > Nonprinting Characters to find hidden tabs, etc.

4. To be sure that the TOC recognizes the headings in your document, set up outline numbering as described in this blog and be sure that you're applying Heading1 paragraph style, Heading2, etc. or whatever paragraph styles you're using to structure your document. Then when setting up the TOC be sure that the Outline checkmark is applied.

Solveig, thanks for the reply. Still hasn't worked though but I'm going to try again.

My outline looks something like this

1 Parametric statistics
1.1 Regression
1.1.1 Normal Sample Code
1.1.2 Poisson Sample Code
1.2. Covariance
2 Nonparametric
2.1 Spearman
2.2 Mann-Whitney U


This isn't outline numbering????

Many thanks, Jefferson

I followed the directions again and I still can't get the formatting right.

I did the following:

1. I created a sample outline using the format above (except indented the way I wanted, level one bold, etc). I called it "statbook"

2. I selected the text

3. Hit F11, created the style as suggested

4. Went to down in my document and selected text that I wanted reformatted. Hit "statbook"

5. Nada

TOC problem...

1. I selected all the entire document

2. I hit statbook

3. Inserted TOC

4. It gave me something from - nothing before - nothing after

I'm stumped!

This is a little tricky -- you use either outline numbering OR the formatting under Format > Bullets and Numbering, Outline tab combined with styles, to get the numbering you want. I would suggest that outline numbering might not be what you need for the formatting you've showed me.

"Outline numbering" is actually a bad term. It does not mean 1, 1.1, 1.1.1 per se. A better term would be Document Structure Setup and Numbering.

When you created a numbering style, did you click the Numbering or List icon first in the styles and formatting window, before creating the style? If you created a paragraph style then that's why the correct formatting isn't applying when you doubleclick the style name.

Re the TOC, you need to be sure that the paragraph styles you specified under Outline Numbering are applied to the headings that you want to show up in the TOC. Either that or unclick the Outline checkbox when you set up the toc, be sure Styles is selcted instead, click the browse button, and specify what paragraph style is used at what level.

If you aren't applying specific paragraph styles like heading1 heading2 etc. to the items that you want to show up in the TOC then that's the problem. Also you don't need to select the text that you want in the TOC. Try doing it without selecting the contents and see if that works.

Creating and applying list styles:

Creating and inserting tables of contents:

I was able to get the TOC to work (THANKS!). None of the other suggestions have been working and the original style I created is gone but there are 20 or so WW8No_

Isn't there a way when you change one item it goes through and does for everything of equal rank. Seems like this would be the default or a nice little window would pop up and ask. Driving me a bit mad.

P.S. Colstate = columbus state in Georgia (Sorry).

Sorry to be a pain but, from looking at other boards and blogs, I'm definitely not alone.

Working on another document: OO Writer just stops numbering! After using return with 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 etc (happy happy) it just stops numbering. If I try to get to start numbering again it starts at 1.

There's a button to restart numbering but no button to continue numbering.

O OpenOffice outlining how I hate thee so.

Hi Jefferson,

Hmm, it's usually so reliable. I would doublecheck the outline setup under Tools > Outline Numbering, and make sure that the right styles are being applied.

Outline numbering and regular list numbering don't play well together; if you turn off numbering with list numbering when you're on a style that's used in outline numbering, it'll turn it off, often, for outline numbering under tools > outline numbering.


Hello OpenOffice training, tutorials,

I am "www.openoffice.org/ ... Your CollabNet username is: goodold."

I'm searching for an outline application, or and application-add-on that would be perfect as a Chapter Heading
Wouldn't it be great to have each chapter in the left column. By expanding the outline you could view every page of your short story or book ? Well, that is exactly what I want.
Does Open Office offer an outline template as I mention ?
Gosh, I hope so.
Thank you, and all who have created the OpenOffice.org.

where I use an earlier version of OpenOffice. It works so well,I'm afraid to fiddle with it.
Thank you all ... :-)

Hi Mike,

You can press F5 to view the Navigator, to find your way through the document by heading. Expand to whatever level heading you want.


When is OOo going to support multiple styles at a given outline level? I have multiple heading 1 derived sibling styles, which the TOC can be modified to list just fine. Why can't the outline numbering structure see and use them? The document looks great but pdfs I export get the structure as defined by the Outline Numbering, which is hamstrung by only having one type of heading style per outline level.

yeah, that's definitely a limitation. My sense is that the advanced features are not a priority, unfortunately.


Thank you for the article! My Tools>Outline numbering was totally messed up but now I know how to fix it- so simple- not sure how it got so meassed up- but I was pulling my hair out! So Thank you! It's fantastic!

I was having lots of trouble with outline numbering too. I have spend hours and hours searching online for an explanation to why OpenOffice.org Writer was renumbering some of my paragraphs seemingly at random.

My document structure was very complicated, but it boils down to something like this:

1. chapter one
1.1. sub one
2. chapter two
2.1. sub one of chapter two
2.2. sub two of chapter two
1.1. sub three of chapter two
2.3. sub four of chapter two

I added the 'sub three of chapter two' heading after adding 'sub four of chapter two', and somehow the numbering of sub three went wrong. All chapters had 'Heading 1' as style. All subs had 'Heading 2'. Somehow though, OOo Writer thinks differently about this. Here's what turned out to be the problem:

After numerous tries of removing the style from 'sub three of chapter two' and reapplying it in vain, I went back to Tools > Outline numbering, and put 'TEST ' in the separator 'before' field. Surprise surprise, this is what happened:

1. chapter one
1.1. sub one
2. chapter two
2.1. sub one of chapter two
2.2. sub two of chapter two
TEST 1.1. sub three of chapter two
2.3. sub four of chapter two

Somehow the only correctly applied style was the 'Heading 2' style of 'sub three of chapter two'! By selecting the other headings and reapplying the styles, the numbering gradually turned out as it should have.

The one thing that is puzzling to me is: how can Writer make a difference between 'Heading 2' and 'Heading 2'. It should be the same thing.
The document outline in Navigator was showing all headings, so the styles were applied correctly, AND they were defined in Tools -> Outline Numbering (otherwise they would not show up in the Navigator).
On top of that, the Styles and Formatting window was showing the correct styles as well, for all headings in my document.
All I was doing was to double-click on the already highlighted style in the Styles and Formatting window, and the numbering would magically change... :-?

I have absolutely no idea of why or how this has come into existence. The document I was having trouble with has already seen a number of OOo versions, maybe that is the source of the problem...

PS: Thanks for the beautiful blog so full of useful information! :-D

Hi Tjeerd,

I'm glad it worked out! Outline numbering can get weird if combined with list numbering -- if your headings aren't numbered correctly then click on a numbering icon a couple times and it will reset. Ideally, and this is just generally for everyone, don't use the numbering icons on the toolbar when you want your headings numbered; only use outline numbering. I wish that the program would differentiate them better.


Hi Solveig,

I'd wish that OOo Writer would *not* differentiate at all between numbering and outline numbering. The numbering should be part of the 'Heading' style, and be better configurable from the style settings dialog. If a user clicks on / uses the 'bullets and numbering' feature to add numbering to a heading, and then updates the style, the style should simply reflect the change. Evidently it should never start 'randomizing' the numbering :)

I really can't wrap my mind around why there should be a difference between numbering and outline numbering. OOo Writer should be able to figure it out for itself. So, as far as I'm concerned, this is a flaw in the design of the application...

Some others have already mentioned this as well I think: Tools -> Outline Numbering should be named differently. Maybe Tools -> Document structure or Headings structure is more appropriate. All you should be doing in the associated dialog is define which styles make up the structure of your document. Microsoft Word has a better way of defining structure, I believe. But it's been a long time since I used Word last.

Of course this is all just my own humble opinion ;)

The outline numbering works fine.
If you have problems with outline numbering, this is because you are using list numbering simultaneously with outline numbering. List numbering overrides outline nums, and it may look fine until you try to add a heading in the middle of your text - Ooo don't want to set apropriate number to your new heading.
You can try the following:
There is a button on toolbar "Numbering Off". Try to apply it to every heading of your text (to eliminate list numbering). But click on it only once (and outline numbering should be set), because if you click it twice for one heading - numbers will dissapear at all.
I had same problems - but found solution here http://www.oooforum.org/forum/viewtopic.phtml?t=10692
PS: sorry for my bad english ;)

Hi vlkv,

Yes! Excellent tip. If your headings are screwy and you've set up outline numbering correctly, select all your text and click that numbering off icon ONCE. Then don't use the numbering icons at all anymore; if you need to tweak your headings somewhat, either reapply the appropriate paragraph style, or apply a different paragraph style, then the correct one again.

Thanks vlkv!


Hi Solveig,

Your blog saves my life so much it's not funny.

I read this post several months ago and got to a point where I felt comfortable with numbering and paragraph styles and how not to mix them. I'm doing a dissertation which I've split into multiple documents (for chapters- I'll join them all in a Master Document later). Every now and then I realize I need to change a paragraph style, and I need the change to be the same in all my documents, so I've set up an exemplar file with the styles I like, so I can import them to all my documents as I need to.

This worked fine for a while but I've suddenly started having problems (I know I triggered them somehow, but I can't figure it out). When I import my 'exemplar' styles, all my headings lose their numbering, and in the Outline Numbering dialog, the paragraph style for every level where I've set a style preference in my exemplar switches to (none) instead of Heading n.

Also, I've got a separate numbering system going on, just for examples. When I import my exemplar styles, all of my 'Example Numbering' paragraphs move to the top hierarchical level (e.g. what was 1, 1a, 2, 2a becomes 1, 2, 3, 4), and I have to reset them all manually. They're not like that in the exemplar...

Do you have any ideas? Sorry to bug you with what is obviously a personal problem.


I use MS Word 2007 in the following, fast way:

1)I open a new docx file and change to Outline view.
2)I write my text, in/outdenting my many headers with tabulator/shift-tabulator), and click body text to insert the body text. (that additional click actually sucks)
3)I change to print layout view and choose a style from the dropdown.
4)I add page breaks where needed.

Then I'm done

How do I do that best (and fast, without many mouseclicks) in oO writer?

Hi Marco,

The keyboard shortcuts Ctrl 1 Ctrl 2 and Ctrl 3 are associated with paragraph styles Heading1 through Heading3. So you can apply those styles to the text and you get an outlineish effect without switching views.

Btw, speaking of docx, OpenOffice 3 opens docx files no problem.

To do what you want, you would:
- create a new template and associate Ctrl 4, Ctrl 5, and whatever else you need, with heading 4 on down. Also associated Ctrl T with Text Body, Ctrl W with text body indent if necessary.
- edit how the styles look if you don't like it.
- set that template as your default style.

Now, I realize this is a lot so I've attached the template from the first two steps to this post. All you need to do is download the template and
1. Open it in OpenOffice
2. Choose File > Templates > Save, name it and put it in My Templates category, click OK.
3. Choose File > Templates > Organize, and in the left-hand column open the My Templates category and find that new template.
4. Right-click on it and choose Set as Default Template.
[to go back to the normal template, right-click anywhere in the left pane and choose Reset Default Template.]

Very nice post it is very helpful to every one.

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