Using as an Outliner

Dmitri Popov

Productivity Sauce

Apr 17, 2009 GMT
Dmitri Popov

Although Writer can't replace a dedicated outlining application, there are two ways to turn the word processor into a lightweight outliner. The easiest one is to press the Numbering On/Off button in the main toolbar or the F12 key. This turns the current line in the documents into a numbered entry and displays the Bullets and Numbering context toolbar which offers basic outlining tools. The Promote, Demote, Move Up and Move Down buttons in the toolbar allow you to easily rearrange outline entries, while Bullet and Numbering opens the dialog window which lets you tweak different settings such as Numbering type, Outline, Position, etc. You can also create a custom outlining style or modify an existing one using Stylist. Press F11 to evoke the Stylist panel, switch to the List Styles section, right-click then on the style you want to edit and choose Modify from the context menu. If you want to create a new style from scratch, choose the New item from the same context menu or press Shift+F11.

Another approach requires a bit more work, but it allows you to use Writer as a two-pane outliner. This solution is based on the Outline Numbering feature which lets you specify a hierarchy of heading styles and then manage them using the Navigator. By default, Writer uses the built-in heading styles (i.e., Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc.) for each level, but you can easily change that using the Tools -> Outline Numbering dialog window.


Using heading styles to structure your outline is easy: apply the Heading 1 style to the top level of your outline and other heading styles to sub-levels, for example:

Primates (Heading 1)
Monkeys (Heading 2)
Capuchins (Heading 3)
Japanese snow monkeys (Heading 3)

The fastest way to apply styles is to use keyboard shortcuts: Ctrl+1 for Heading 1, Ctrl+2 for Heading 2, and so on. To make Writer look like a more conventional two-pane outliner, open the Navigator panel (press F5 or choose View -> Navigator) and dock it to the right or left of the main window. To do this, drag Navigator close to the right or left side of the screen, and release the mouse button when you see a gray window outline. In the Navigator panel, expand the Headings section, and you should see the outline as a hierarchical tree containing the specified headings:

        Japanese snow monkeys

You can quickly navigate to a specific heading by double-clicking on it in the Navigator. But that's not all: the Navigator also offers four buttons that allow you to promote and demote levels as well as move them up and down. Using these buttons, you can rearrange your outline and move headings around as you would in a traditional outliner.


  • Try LyX for good outliner capability in a document processor

    Starting with LyX-1.6, LyX has very good outliner capability in a document processor. will tell you all.
  • Would be great if it worked

    I've tried the approach suggested above for a while, but I had to drop it. Move up, Move Down, Demote and Promote is buggy, especially when you turn on numbered headings. Numbers change, and don't change in an unpredictable manner, styles change and then are impossible to change again, etc, etc.

    This is of course bugs, and nothing but bugs. I could report them, but it's not worth the hassle. Reporting bugs to Open Office is difficult, and bug-fixing is so slow that KOffice 2 will be a better replacement long before they ever fixed the bug. It's a pity, but I've lost all hope that OO.o will ever be anything but secondary to MS Office.
  • How Not To Shorten URLs


    > You can shorten the URL [via] yourself before you share it.

    A bad idea. URLs transport some inherent meaning other than just a way of delivering content. And TinyURL is but a redirection service, therefore, it just adds another level of complexity (another point of failure) to internet addressing.

    Firstly, there's a difference between the domain and (replace "example" with some bad malware site). I prefer to see the proper domain name.

    Secondly, they proudly state:

    > we will create a tiny URL that will not break in email postings and never expires.

    A bold promise! But still, their URLs are not the real ones. If TinyURL ceases to exist, they will not be bound to their promise anymore. (And they are not bound to it, anyway.) And if the original URL or domain ceases to exist, there will possibly no way for the average user to find the tiniest hint on what the original page was about. (For moderate hackers, there may be some hints in their HTTP headers, but Joe the Average Plumber will neither be able to find, nor to understand these headers.)

    Therefore, I'd say that TinyURL is inherently bad. is in every respect one of the worst websites ever created.

    To shorten URLs is the alone obligation of the original website.
  • Please . . . you haven't tried org-mode yet

    OpenOffice outliner is OK, but emacs-orgmode or vim outliner beat the pants off of it. I highly recommend emacs orgmode, it is so useful that it converted me from the cult of vi to the church of emacs.


    a former vi-ninja-cum-emacs-pirate
  • shortening urls

    You can shorten the URL yourself before you share it.
  • Dmitri is great, long URLs are insane!

    hey guys. I love Linux Magazine. How about showing a little love in return, and shortening your URLs? They're insanely long! They're freaking infinite! Please, for the love of readers who enjoy sharing LM articles, shorten them. Thank you!

    And Dmitri, thanks for another great article. I always look for yours because they are so good.
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