Explore the Tiny Little Status Bar with Deep Secrets
The LibreOffice Status Bar for Writers
Talk about flying under the radar! For two years I barely paid attention to the little data bar on the bottom of my LibreOffice Writer window. Silly me. Now I know there are 10 things that the Status Bar can do that I never imagined.
The Status Bar is located on the bottom of your document page (in Writer, Calc and the other applications, too). It’s not a toolbar, per se, but the programmers who designed it packed as much as they could into it, streamlining access to a bunch of features.
If you cannot see the Status Bar, go the to View Menu and select Status Bar. I normally leave it showing all the time, except when I use the Full Screen editing mode (Control-Shift-J – remember from our previous articles?) where it’s automatically hidden with everything else.
Note: Apache OpenOffice’s Status Bar is very similar, but does not include the Word Count box. Some of the boxes work a bit differently, too.
Let’s explore the Status Bar, from left to right.
Secret # 1 – The page number box
The page number will normally show the current page and the total number of pages. If you restarted your numbering (say, after a title page and introduction), it will show the current assigned page number and the actual sequence number.
But that’s not all. Click on this box, and you can open up the Navigator tool. (In some versions of LibreOffice (LO) and in Apache OpenOffice (AOO), you may need to double-click.) We’ll probably have an entire post later on the Navigator, but for now, look at the page counter box on top and reset it to go to another page. (It’s like the Go to Page command in Word, but much more.)
Right-click on the page number and – if you’ve set any bookmarks – you’ll see a list of the bookmarks here. Select one to move there. (To set a bookmark, go to the Insert menu and select the Bookmark command, or type the keyboard shortcut Control-I, K.) If you haven’t learned to use Bookmarks, this is a great tool if you write anything longer than 3 pages; the right-click toolbar access makes it easier.
That’s three useful tips in one tiny screen tool. (And that’s just the first secret. Keep reading.)
Secret # 2 The Word Count Box
This box shows the number of words and characters in your document. Pretty simple.
If you selected (highlighted) any text, however, it shows the number of words and characters in that selection. Good if you want to know how many words you wrote in that paragraph or chapter.
Click in this box (double-click in some versions) and the Word Count box pops up.
Pretty good. Now, once LibreOffice’s UX designers had gotten to this point, they could have called it a good day’s work and left the rest of the Status Bar alone. But they were just warming up.
Secret #3 – The Page Style Box
The third box from the left shows the Page Style. (Not the Paragraph or Character style, as you might have guessed.) This is the currently defined style for the current page.
Right-click on this box and you get a popup list of already defined page styles you can select from.
Click (or double-click) here and the Page Style dialog box pops up. (We’ll talk about Styles more, later, but suffice it to say that LibreOffice is much more flexible in defining and assigning page styles than Microsoft Word.)
Secret #4 – The Language / Spell-Checking Box
The next box shows the language selected for spell-checking and hyphenation for the current paragraph. If you write in more than one language and you’ve downloaded the language tools for those languages, you can define which language is appropriate for any paragraph.
Click (or double-click) or right-click, and a menu pops up so you can assign which language to use for the current active paragraph. (The one the cursor is located in.) You can also turn off spell checking (and hyphenation) for that paragraph. Select the More… command, and the character formatting box appears. Once there, click on the arrow next to the language box, and you see a list of virtually every language and dialect spoken in the world, many with downloadable dictionaries.
Secret # 5 – Normal Insertion / Overwrite Box
The text insertion box is normally empty, which means that the normal text input is selected. (If you put your cursor in the middle of a paragraph and type, the ensuing text shifts forward as you type.)
Click in the box and you can toggle the Overwrite mode, which will destroy any text that gets in the way as you type. If you find that text is mysteriously disappearing when you type, look here and click if it says Overwrite.
Overwrite mode appears to be a leftover from ancient word processing and appears to cause writers lots of grief when they accidentally tap the INS key or click on the overwrite box. There really should be a setting to turn off this option. Would anybody miss it if they just deleted Overwrite from future versions of LibreOffice?
It seems to me that LO should put “Normal” or “Writing” or something in the box when you are NOT using Overwrite. It’d be less confusing than an empty box. (AOO shows INSRT in normal mode; OVER when in overwrite mode.)
Secret # 6 – Selection Tools
This tiny, unassuming icon (which doesn’t illustrate its function very well), can be a big help when you are selecting text.
Click here and a tiny menu pops up. The choices are
Standard selection – normal everyday contiguous selection of a block of text or graphics.
Extending selection allows you to add to your current selection.
Click anywhere and it automatically selects the text between your previous selection and the click point. (You can do this even more quickly by holding down the Shift key.) If you click within the current selection, it shortens the selection appropriately.
As I see it, the advantage of selecting the tool from the Status Bar is that you can do the entire selection process with one hand on the mouse.
Hitting F8 will do the same thing as selecting this in the box. Unless you are one-handed, however, it’s easier to hold the Shift key with one hand and select text with the other (with the mouse or the keyboard).
Adding selection allows you to select non-contiguous text (the selections don’t have to be continuous). Select a word or a sentence, select Adding selection, and select some more text not attached to the first. Repeat as necessary.
This way you can select several words or titles and format them at the same time. In Windows, it’s easier to select text, hold down the Control key, and continue selecting bits of text as necessary. (Shift-F8 does the same thing. )
Allows you to select text vertically instead of horizontally. This is useful if you want to cut or copy text in a column. You can enter this mode with Control-Shift-F8 as well. But in Windows, it’s easier just to hold down the Alt key and select.
Note that it makes a difference whether you click or right-click on this tool. Click once and the menu pops up with the latest setting. Click again, and it disappears. But click a third time, it pops up again but with the next menu item selected. You can cycle through the menu items. Each time you do the slow-motion double-click, it selects a different menu item. (This confused me for a while because I knew I hadn’t selected that option earlier.) But, if you right-click on the tool, the pop-up menu operates the standard way, without pre-selecting one of the options. In general, I recommend right-clicking. (I also recommend that LibreOffice remove the slo-mo cycling mode or adapt AOO’s better method of double-clicking.)
IMPORTANT: When you finish playing with these selection techniques, make sure you right-click and reset it back to Standard selection, or you’ll find yourself wondering later why you can’t select anything in your document.
Secret # 7 – Document Change Status
When you type, a little x or asterix shows in the box. When you save, it changes to a grey box with a checkmark. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s so small it’s hard to see; but AOO’s version is even tinier and less noticeable.
Secret # 8 – Digital Signature box
For most writers, this will probably seem odd. But, if you’ve digitally signed the current document, a page icon with a red blob shows here. Click in the box if you want to add a Digital Signature. Otherwise the box is blank. This is useful for legal and business documents, I imagine.
Secret # 9 – Section or Object Information
Normally, this is just a wider, unassuming empty box. However, if you select a picture, a list item, a heading, a table, or a defined section, it shows size information about that object. Here’s a shot from the LibreOffice Writer user manual.
Secret # 10 – Page Display Controls
Here’s some excellent stuff.
First is a collection of three icons of pages. These adjust the page display in Writer:
- The left, single-page icon let’s you see one page at a time. Normal viewing.
- The double page icon (both the same) allows you to view multiple pages at a time. You need to zoom out to see them. The degree you move out determines how many pages you see. I’ve been able to get as many as 14 pages on the screen, but of course, you can’t read them.
- The two mirrored-page icons let you see up to two pages at a time in “Book mode.” This means the even numbered page is always on the left and the odd numbered page is always on the right, just as in a book. This is good if, well, you’re writing a book and need to see how the design will look across pages. It’s especially useful if you’ve set each chapter to start on an odd-numbered page or you want to check your two-page layout.
Finally, the slider magnifies or shrinks the view of the pages. Click on the plus and minus signs to adjust incrementally. When I’m writing, I like to increase the magnification to 110%. When I’m proofreading, I set it to the maximum that will fit on the screen. If I’m checking layout, not editing text, I might shrink to well below 100%, using the Book mode. (If your mouse has a wheel, you can hold down the Control key and zoom in and out by moving the mousewheel. This action may depend on the System Settings for your Mouse and the Mouse settings in Options (Tools -> Options -> LibreOffice -> View -> Mouse.)
The percentage figure on the right isn’t just for show. Right-click on it and select the view that you want to see.
You could do all this, also from the Zoom tool under the View menu, but it’s much quicker to select this in the always-present Status Bar.
But that’s not all! Simply click on the percentage figure and the Zoom & View Layout dialogue box pops up with more choices.
For such a small piece of on-screen real estate, the LibreOffice Status Bar packs a lot of functionality. Different writers use different tools. But taking a few minutes to learn which ones you can use will speed up your writing and change the way you use LibreOffice.
Please add your own LibreOffice tips in the comments.
Previous articles in this series
Title artwork, Reimagining LibreOffice’s Icons, is by the author, using Photoshop, Topaz Impression, and Topaz Lens Effect.
All screen shots are by the author.