Get a free year on Tuts+ this month when you purchase a Siteground hosting plan from $3.95/mo
Despite the fact that Microsoft Office is among the most common commercial software products in most offices around the world, there's a wide variety of governments, organizations, and offices that have begun standardizing on the free and open-source LibreOffice. It provides many of Office's features, in software you can install on your computer (unlike Google Docs and other online alternatives), and it runs on Windows, OS X, and Linux. Plus, it supports the same file formats as Office.
LibreOffice gives you the full package including Writer - the word processor, Calc - the spreadsheet application, Impress - the presentation engine, Draw - drawing and flow-charting application, Base - database and database front-end, and Math for editing mathematics. That covers almost everything Microsoft Office includes. The only problem left is that its UI can be somewhat confusing to start using.
In this tutorial, I will show you the basics of using LibreOffice Writer, so you can get started using all of LibreOffice for all of your office document needs. Let's get started.
Get it and start it!
Depending which OS you are using, first download the LibreOffice installer, and install it as normal. After the installation is done, under your start menu or app launcher, click on LibreOffice icon to open a start window.
On the left side is menu where you can choose what kind of document you want to create or open. On the right side every recent document that you opened or created will be shown, as a shortcut for easier accessing.
Also, you can choose already created Template from Template manager. There you can select various templates for Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations and Drawings. An import option is also there so that you can import templates that you downloaded manually from internet.
Writer is the LibreOffice alternative for Microsoft Word, and we'll explore it in this tutorial to help you see how LibreOffice apps work. It is a full-featured word processing and desktop publishing tool with which you can create all kind of documents, from small and quick memos to entire books—just as in Word.
The default toolbar has pretty much everything that you will need to format your documents, just as you'd expect to find in Word. There's even useful options like an email icon to send a document by email, or a PDF icon to save a document to PDF to easily share it. Then, since there's no ribbon to split functions into sections, you'll also find more standard tools like a table tool, picture gallery, and more.
The draw functions is one of the nicer extras in LibreOffice. It allows you to draw various elements, such as lines, squares, symbols, arrows, callouts, flow charts, and more. Just click on top pencil with curved line icon (see picture above) and the bottom toolbar will be shown from where you can select some of many drawing tools.
The navigator is another nice extra tool that gives you power to jump back and forth in a document based on any object, including tables, frames, graphics, comments, or links. Word gives you a similar function, based on document headings, but this is far more powerful. So feel free to name every object and part of document, and it will be much easier for you to navigate through document with LibreOffice.
Styles and Formatting
Another very useful tool is the Styles and Formatting pane. It is filled with a wide range of pre-made styles to format your document with Paragraph, Character, Frame, Page and List styles. You can also make your own styles to quickly design documents the way you like. Like Navigator window, you can move it wherever you want inside of your document.
If you want to spice your document by adding some already installed graphic element, you can do that by opening the gallery. There you will find various clip art and other graphics ready to be inserted into your work. To insert clip art into the document, just drag it from gallery into the page. After that you can resize it, move it, or rotate it however you want.
Writer's gallery gives you even more options to customize your clip art. When you insert it and then just click once on it, a new bottom toolbar will be shown. Over there you will find the Filter with its magic stick icon, from where you can choose Invert, Smooth, Sharpen, Remove noise and many other filters to add to your images. Beside that, you can change Color, Transparency, Flip side and Rotation.
Alternatively, you can insert some of your own clip art, pictures, or perhaps graphics from the Noun project. Click on the New Theme button above the Gallery groups, and a new window will pop-up. In the General tab, type name of your theme and in the Files tab you can add your files. All well known image formats are supported. Click on the Add button to select your files, then click OK to add them to the list. Once you filled your list with pictures, click OK again and the new Gallery group will be created and added to the list.
Text formatting is pretty much same as in Word. You can change Font style and size, set text to be Bold, Italic, or Underlined, change alignment, and more. When you select text that you want to format, then right mouse click you can see some quick formatting options so you don't have to go to the toolbar to change formatting every time.
Secure Your Document
It's a great idea to use password protected or Read-only documents to secure your work, and LibreOffice Writer has the tools you need for that as well. Select File > Properties in the menu, and a new Window will pop-up with info about your document. Select the Security tab, and you can choose to save your document as Read-only or to protect it with a password, so that only person who knows that password can open and edit it. To do that, click the Protect... button, and enter and confirm the password you want to use.
There's Still More
The beauty of open-source software is that you can customize the software or extend it with additional functionality to fit to your needs and taste. You could do that by tweaking the code, but there's also an official LibreOffice extension center. Here, you'll find many extras for LibreOffice to add extra features to it and make it an even more powerful Office alternative for your needs.
In this tutorial, I've walked you through the very first steps needed to be taken to get familiar with LibreOffice and Writer. There are really many other options and tools that you can use to take your documents to the next level. Feel free to play around, investigate, mess up so you can see what really LibreOffice is offering and master all of its features, and let us know in the comments below if you have any questions about using it!