[Tutorial] Columns in Writer: an introduction

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[Tutorial] Columns in Writer: an introduction

Postby RoryOF » Tue Feb 07, 2017 8:30 pm

Introduction to Columns in AOO Writer

Users of Writer often query the Forum on how to insert columns into their document. Depending on the precise requirements a number of different ways exist.

(a) Columns occupying entire Pages.

This is often the requirement for magazines and newsletters.

Define a new Page Style with the number of columns you require.

At the definition stage decide on the number of columns, their widths, and inter columnar spacing, and whether to insert a dividing line or not.

Text inserted into the first column will flow to the top of the next column as it spills. Should you wish to limit the text in a column, you can force the following text to flow to the next column by /Insert /Manual break /Column break.

If you wish to change the number of columns per page, you must define a new Page Style for that style, then use /Insert /Manual break /Page break to insert that new Page style. You can use the same command to revert to a normal Page Style if you only need the columns for a limited number of pages.

(b) Columns starting mid page and continuing over pages.


If you want columns to start or end mid page, and not on page boundaries, even extending over a number of pages, consider using a Section.

Place cursor where you want the columns to start, then /Insert /Section and define a new Section: use the Columns tab of the definition to set the number of columns and related parameters.

If you wish to change the number of columns, you must terminate the existing Section of columns, and insert a new Section with the differing number of columns defined.

To exit a Section, either at end or at start, place cursor either as the last character or the first character and press Alt Enter. The cursor will now exit the columnar section and you can (if desired) define a new Section with a differing number of columns.

Text will flow from column to column as needed; you can force text to move to the next column by /Insert /Manual break /Column break.

Native columns as in (a) and (b) are “newspaper columns”, where text flows from the bottom of a filled column to the top of the next.

(c) Columns occupying only part of a page


For columns occupying only part of a page, use a Section with columns as in (b).


If you do not want to use a section, you can insert a one row Table (/Insert /Table) with the number of columns you require. Set the Table borders OFF so they are invisible. Define inter-column spaces either by setting the gap to cell border, or by adding thinner columns between your main text columns. You will need do some manual steering of the text and decide where to break it in the first column, and insert it in the nest column.

(d) Parallel columns

Users often want to place data in the first column and align related information in subsequent columns. While this is possible using columns with careful formatting, any edit is likely to throw the entire structure out of alignment, perhaps even to the confusion of the author and the data.

For parallel columns where text must be aligned use a multi-row table.

You can easily access a table for editing by right clicking on the table name in Navigator and choosing Table : Edit from the popup. Note that when editing a document Writer can be made to show a faint (non-printing) cell outline on screen to help positioning for text insertion if cell borders are OFF. You can get this non-printing display by selecting /Table /Table boundaries.

You may find it helpful not to allow tables to flow automatically from page to page: consider defining your tables each to fit on a page.

Don’t forget that when the cursor is inside a table cell, Tab jumps to the next cell. If you want a normal Tab, you must use Ctrl+Tab.

If in any doubt, it is good to experiment with a short experimental file until you have mastered the various techniques. It may be that you will find it easier (and quicker) to revise your initial design target, rather than be looking for complex layout options, which may not be easily, if at all, possible.

Formatting shortcut

On the Format menu is a Columns item; this works as follows:
If no text is selected, the dropdown on the window that opens allows only one choice, Page Style (selected by default); this causes the Page Style used for the current page to have Columns added; this modification is made to the Page Style of the current page and will apply to all instances of that Page Style

If text is selected, the dropdown on the window that opens allows two choices : Page Style or Selection. If Page Style is selected, this works as in the previous paragraph, where the entire Page style is set to have columns; if Selection is chosen it inserts an OpenOffice Section with columns, incorporating the selected text into the first column. To cause the text to break into the second and subsequent columns, one needs to either choose "Evenly distribute contents to all columns" on the column selection window, or /Insert /Manual break : column break when you position cursor at the chosen break location. The Section is entitled SectionN. These Section names can be changed by /Format /Sections.

This section is inserted merely for completeness; however, it is suggested that the best approach, until one knows exactly what this shortcut method does (should one choose to use it), is to use the slightly longer methods set out earlier in this tutorial, where one explicitly defines and names a Page Style or a Section; that way one has better knowledge and control of the use of columns in one's document.

For short column areas it is possible to /Insert /Frame and choose that frame to have columns - one is now allowed the choice of adding the columns to the frame, the Page Style, or inserting a Section; if the columns are inserted into the Frame, breaking of the text between columns is now handled by the process of insertion of the columns if you have enabled "Evenly distribute contents to all columns" on the column selection window, or by /Insert /Manual break : column break when you position cursor at the chosen break location. If Section is chosen, the section is inserted into the frame.

Remember that it is also possible to insert a Table into a Frame; this method may be preferable for short tabular areas where texts need to be aligned across columns.
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