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documentation.suse.com / Documentazione di SUSE Linux Enterprise Server / GNOME User Guide / LibreOffice / LibreOffice: the office suite
Applies to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 SP2

9 LibreOffice: the office suite

LibreOffice is an open source office suite that provides tools for all types of office tasks such as writing texts, working with spreadsheets, or creating graphics and presentations. With LibreOffice, you can use the same data across different computing platforms. You can also open and edit files in other formats, including Microsoft* Office* formats, then save them back to this format, if needed. This chapter contains information that applies to all LibreOffice modules.

9.1 LibreOffice modules

LibreOffice consists of several application modules (subprograms) which are designed to integrate with each other. While this chapter contains information that applies to all LibreOffice modules, the following chapters and sections contain information on individual modules. Find a short description and where each module is described in Table 9.1, “The LibreOffice application modules”.

A full description of each module is available in the application help, described in Section 9.10, “More information”.

Table 9.1: The LibreOffice application modules



Described in


Word processor module

Chapter 10


Spreadsheet module

Chapter 11


Presentation module

Section 12.1


Database module

Section 12.2


Module for drawing vector graphics

Section 12.3


Module for generating mathematical formulas

Section 12.4

9.2 Starting LibreOffice

There are multiple methods to directly start one of the LibreOffice modules:

  • Click the Activities overview and type libre in the search box. Click the LibreOffice module you want to open.

  • If any LibreOffice module is open, you can start any of the other modules by clicking File › New in the LibreOffice module and then selecting the type of document you want to create.

  • As an alternative, use the command libreoffice and one of the options --writer, --calc, --impress, --draw, or --base to start the respective module.

    LibreOffice has many command line options, especially for allowing document conversions. To learn more about the command line options of LibreOffice, see libreoffice --help or the man page of LibreOffice (man libreoffice(1)).

Before you start working with LibreOffice, you may be interested in changing some options from the Preferences dialog. In any LibreOffice module, click Tools › Options to open the dialog. The most important settings are:

LibreOffice › User Data

Specify your user data such as company, first and last name, street, city, and other useful information. This data has many uses: It is used in the comment functions of LibreOffice Writer and Calc, for authorship information in PDF documents, and for serial letters in Writer.

LibreOffice › Fonts

Map font names to installed fonts. This can be useful if you exchange documents with others and the document you received contains fonts that are not available on your system.

Load/Save › General

Contains loading and saving specific options. For example, you can choose whether to always create a backup copy and which file format LibreOffice should use by default.

To learn more about configuring LibreOffice, see Section 9.7, “Changing the global settings”.

9.3 The LibreOffice user interface

The user interface of most of LibreOffice is very similar across its modules:

Menu bar

At the top of the application, there is the menu bar which gives access to almost all functionality of LibreOffice. The menu bar can be customized to include more or fewer functions. You can also add and remove menus.


By default, the toolbars are positioned directly below the menu bar. The toolbars comprise the most used and most important items of the module.

To dock a toolbar to any other side of the window, drag it to the right position. To make a toolbar float, drag it into the middle of the window. They can be customized to include more or fewer functions. You can also add and remove toolbars.

Side bar

By default, the side bar is positioned at the right side of the LibreOffice window. On the first start of LibreOffice, it is only visible as several icons stacked vertically. Clicking one of the icons opens a panel with more elements. Click the icon again to close the panel. Similarly to the toolbars, the side bar comprises the most important functions.

To dock the side bar to the left or right side of the window, drag it to the right position. To make the side bar float, drag it into the middle of the window. To hide the side bar, click the vertical arrowhead button on the document-facing side of the side bar.

You can hide or show side bar panels but cannot customize their functionality.


The statusbar is displayed at the bottom of the window. It mainly shows information about the document, such as the number of words (in Writer) or the sum of values of selected cells (in Calc). However, it can also be used to change the zoom or language settings. Many elements open additional menus or dialogs on left-click, right-click, or double-click.

For more information on customizing LibreOffice, see Section 9.6, “Customizing LibreOffice”.

9.4 Compatibility with other office applications

The native file format of LibreOffice is the OpenDocument format. OpenDocument is an ISO-standardized format for office documents that is based on XML. However, LibreOffice can also work with documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and databases in many other formats, including Microsoft Office formats. Files in Microsoft Office formats can be opened and saved back normally.

9.4.1 Opening documents from other office suites

If you use LibreOffice in an environment where you need to share documents with Microsoft Word users, you should have little or no trouble exchanging document files. However, very complex documents can require editing after opening. Complex documents are documents containing, for example, complicated tables, Microsoft Office macros, or unusual fonts, formatting, or graphical objects.

In case there should ever be issues with opening documents, try the following strategies:

  • Text documents.  Consider opening text documents in the original application and saving them as RTF or plain text (TXT). However, saving as plain text means that all formatting will be lost.

  • Spreadsheets.  Consider opening spreadsheets in the original application and saving them as Excel files. If this does not work, try the CSV format. However, saving as CSV means that all formatting, cell type definitions, formulas, and macros will be lost.

9.4.2 Converting documents to the OpenDocument format

LibreOffice can read, edit, and save documents in several formats. It is not necessary to convert files from those formats to the OpenDocument format used by LibreOffice to use those files. However, if you want to convert the files, you can do so. To convert several documents, such as when first switching to LibreOffice, do the following:

  1. Select File › Wizards › Document Converter.

  2. Choose the file format from which to convert.

  3. Click Next.

  4. Specify where LibreOffice should look for templates and documents to convert and in which directory the converted files should be placed.

    Documents retrieved from a Windows partition are usually in a subdirectory of /windows.

  5. Make sure that all other settings are correct, then click Next.

  6. Review the summary of the actions to perform, then start the conversion by clicking Convert.

    The amount of time needed for the conversion depends on the number of files and their complexity. For most documents, conversion does not take long.

  7. When everything is done, close the Wizard.

9.4.3 Sharing files with users of other office suites

LibreOffice is available for several operating systems. This makes it an excellent tool when a group of users frequently need to share files and do not use the same system on their computers.

When sharing documents with others, you have several options:

If the recipient needs to be able to edit the file

Save the document in the format the other user needs. For example, to save as a Microsoft Word file, click File › Save As, then select the Microsoft Word file type for the version of Word the other user needs.

If the recipient only needs to read the document

Export the document to a PDF file with File › Export › Export as PDF. PDF files can be read on any platform using a PDF viewer.

Sharing a document for editing

Agree on a common exchange format that works for everyone. TXT and RTF formats, although limited in formatting, can be a good option for text documents.

E-mailing a document as a PDF

Click File › Send › E-mail as PDF. Your default e-mail program opens with the file attached.

E-mailing a document to a Microsoft Word user

Click File › Send › E-mail as Microsoft Word. Your default e-mail program opens with the file attached.

9.5 Saving files with a password

You can save files, no matter in which LibreOffice format, with a password. Unlike older versions of LibreOffice, the encryption applied to the document with recent versions of LibreOffice is very strong. However, this encryption does not protect file names and file sizes of encrypted files. If that is important to you, see the alternate encryption methods described in Chapter 12, Encrypting Partitions and Files.

Procedure 9.1:
  1. To save a file with a password, select File › Save or File › Save As.

  2. In the dialog that opens, activate the check box Save with password at the bottom and click Save.

  3. Type and confirm your password, then click OK.

The next time you open the file, you will be prompted for the password.

To change the password, do either of the following:

  • Overwrite the same file by selecting File › Save As. Make sure Save with Password is deactivated.

  • Select File › Properties and click Change Password in the General tab to access the password dialog.

9.6 Customizing LibreOffice

You can customize LibreOffice to best suit your needs and working style. Toolbars, menus, and key combinations can all be reconfigured to help you more quickly access the features you use the most.

You can also assign macros to application events if you want specific actions to occur when those events take place. For example, if you always work with a specific spreadsheet, you can create a macro that opens the spreadsheet and assign the macro to the Start Application event.

This section contains simple, generic instructions for customizing your environment. The changes you make are effective immediately. This means you can see if the changes are what you wanted and go back and modify them if they are not. See the LibreOffice help files for detailed instructions.

To access the customization dialog in any open LibreOffice module, select Tools › Customize.

Customization dialog in Writer
Figure 9.1: Customization dialog in Writer
Note: More information

Click Help for more information about the options in the Customize dialog.

Procedure 9.2: Customizing toolbars
  1. In the customization dialog, click the tab Toolbars.

  2. In the right column in the Target drop-down box, select the toolbar you want to customize. By default, it is set to Standard.

  3. Activate the check boxes next to the commands you want to appear on the toolbar, and deactivate the check boxes next to the commands you do not want to appear.

  4. To switch back to the original settings, click Defaults and confirm with Yes.

  5. To save the changes, click OK.

Procedure 9.3: Customizing menus

You can add or delete items from current menus, reorganize menus, and even create new menus.

  1. Click Tools › Customize › Menus.

  2. In the right column in the Target drop-down box, select the menu you want to customize.

  3. To add menu items, select an item from the Available commands list and add it by clicking the right arrow. To remove an item, select it and click the left arrow.

  4. To rearrange the order of items in the menu, select an item and drag it to another position.

  5. To switch back to the original settings, click Defaults and confirm with Yes.

  6. To save the changes, click OK.

Procedure 9.4: Customizing key combinations

You can reassign key combinations and assign new ones to frequently used functions.

  1. Click Tools › Customize › Keyboard.

  2. In the Shortcut Keys box, select the key or key combination you want to assign a command to.

  3. Select a Category and Function at the bottom of the dialog.

  4. Click Modify to assign the function to the key or Delete to remove an existing assignment.

  5. To save the changes, click OK.

Procedure 9.5: Customizing events

LibreOffice also provides ways to assign macros to events such as application start-up or the saving of a document. The assigned macro runs automatically whenever the selected event occurs.

  1. Click Tools › Customize › Events.

  2. Select the event you want to change.

  3. Assign or remove macros for the selected event by either clicking on Macro or Remove.

  4. To save the changes, click OK.

9.7 Changing the global settings

Global settings can be changed in any LibreOffice module by clicking Tools › Options on the menu bar. This opens the window shown in the figure below. A tree structure is used to display categories of settings.

The options window
Figure 9.2: The options window

The settings categories that appear depend on the module you are working in. For example, if you are in Writer, the LibreOffice Writer category appears in the list, but the LibreOffice Calc category does not. The LibreOffice Base category appears in both Calc and Writer. The Module column in the table shows where each setting category is available.

The following table lists the settings categories along with a brief description of each category:

Table 9.2: Global setting categories

Settings Category




Basic settings, including your user data (such as your address and e-mail), important paths, and settings for printers and external programs.



Settings related to the opening and saving of several file types. There is a dialog for general settings and several special dialogs to define how external formats should be handled.


Language Settings

Settings related to languages and writing aids, such as your locale and spell checker settings. This is also the place to enable support for Asian languages.


LibreOffice Writer

Settings related to word processing, such as the basic units, fonts and layout that Writer should use.


LibreOffice Writer/Web

Settings related to the HTML authoring features of LibreOffice.


LibreOffice Calc

Settings related to spreadsheets, such as spreadsheet appearance, Microsoft Excel compatibility options, and calculation options.


LibreOffice Impress

Settings related to presentations, such as enabling the smartphone remote control and the grid of the page to use.


LibreOffice Draw

Settings related to drawings, such as the grid of the page to use.


LibreOffice Base

Allows setting and editing database connections and registered databases.



Allows defining the default colors used for newly created charts.



Allows configuring a proxy and the e-mail software to use.


Important: Settings apply globally

All settings listed in the table apply globally for the specified modules. That means, they are used as defaults for every new document you create.

9.8 Using templates

A template is a document containing only the styles—and content— that you want to appear in every document of that type. When a document is created or opened with the template, the styles are automatically applied to that document. Templates greatly enhance the use of LibreOffice by simplifying formatting tasks for a variety of different types of documents.

For example, in a word processor, you can write letters, memos, and reports, all of which look different and require different styles. Or, for example, for spreadsheets, you could use different cell styles or headings for certain types of spreadsheets. If you use templates for each of your document types, the styles you need for each document are always readily available.

LibreOffice comes with a set of predefined templates. You can also find additional templates on the Internet, for example at http://templates.libreoffice.org. For details, see Section 9.10, “More information”.

Creating your own templates requires some planning. You need to determine how you want the document to look, so you can create the styles you need in that template.

A detailed explanation of templates is beyond the scope of this section. Procedure 9.6, “Creating LibreOffice templates” only shows how to generate a template from an existing document.

Procedure 9.6: Creating LibreOffice templates

For text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings, you can create a template from an existing document as follows:

  1. Start LibreOffice and open or create a document that contains the styles and content that you want to re-use for other documents of that type.

  2. Click File › Templates › Save as Template.

  3. Choose a Template Name and Category.

  4. Confirm with Save.

Note: Converting Microsoft Word templates

You can convert Microsoft Word templates like you would convert any other Word document. For more information, see Section 9.4.2, “Converting documents to the OpenDocument format”.

9.9 Setting metadata and properties

When exchanging documents with other people, it is sometimes useful to store metadata like the owner of the file, who it was received from, and a URL. LibreOffice lets you attach such metadata to the file. This helps you track metadata which you do not want to or cannot save in the content of the file. This feature is also the basis for later sorting, searching and retrieving your documents based on metadata.

As an example, we assume you want to set these properties to your file:

  • A title, subject, and some keywords

  • The owner of the file

  • Who sent you the file

To attach such metadata to your document, proceed as follows:

Procedure 9.7: Setting properties
  1. Click File › Properties.

  2. Change to the Description tab and insert title, subject, and your keywords.

  3. In case you want to add additional data to your document, switch to the Custom Properties tab.

  4. To add a property, click Add Property.

  5. In the Name column, click the drop-down box for the entry. A list of properties appears. Choose, for example, Owner.

  6. Select the type (for example, Text) and insert the name of the owner in the Value column.

  7. Repeat from Step 4 for more custom properties.

    To remove a custom property, click the red icon at the end of the corresponding row.

  8. To save the changes, click OK.

  9. Save the file.

9.10 More information

LibreOffice has extensive online help. In addition, a large community of users and developers support it. The following list shows some places where you can go for additional information.


Extensive help on performing any task in LibreOffice.


Home page of LibreOffice


Official question and answer page for LibreOffice.


Taming LibreOffice: books, news, tips and tricks.


Extensive information about creating and using macros.


Extension and template directory for LibreOffice.


Templates for creating labels with LibreOffice.