LibreOffice Writer

Writer is the word processor for LibreOffice. It is comparable to Microsoft Word. It has many features that Word doesn’t have. Of course, the opposite is true.

Like the other applications in the suite, it has a set of menus, toolbars, and a side bar that surround the pages in a document. This is the traditional user interface. Since version 5.3 of the suite, there have been other experimental user interfaces.

This section gives links to articles and videos about Writer and its features, its different parts, and user interfaces. The rest of this page has brief overviews of the following:
Unique menus

Standard toolbar

Formatting toolbar

Status bar


Comparing to Microsoft Word

Article and videos in this section

LibreOffice Writer LibreOffice Writer lists overview LibreOffice Writer: Parts of a window Letter wizard LibreOffice LibreOffice Writer: Parts of a window Introduction to Pages, Paragraphs, and Characters

Unique Menus

All of the applications in the LibreOffice suite have unique menus and unique items in the menus they all have in common. These menus are how you access all the features and functions of LibreOffice.

Many of the features are located in the traditional toolbars and context menus, and experimental user interfaces, that were introduced in version 5.3, also have many of these features and functions. Certain ones, however, only can be accessed through the menus.

Here are the menus that the six applications have in common:

  • File: This menu gives you the ability to export a document in the EPUB format. This, along with PDF exportation, is in an Export As sub-menu, that the other applications don’t have.
  • Edit: Writer has several items that are not in the edit menu of other applications, including References, Comments, and Selection Mode.
  • View: This menu has a Web view and selections for Text and Table Boundaries and Images and Charts. These are unique to the menu in Writer.
  • Insert: Writer’s menu has Page Break, Manual Break and the ability to insert a section.
  • Format: Writer allows you to open dialog boxes for Bullets and Numbering, Comments, and inserting a watermark in a document.
  • Styles: Writer’s Style menu is considerably different from Calc’s menu. Most of the items are different.
  • Tools: Tools in Writer has word count, chapter numbering, line numbering, footnotes and endnotes. None of the other applications have these items.
  • Window: This menu is the same in all the applications.
  • Help: This menu is the same in all the applications. Writer has two menus that the other applications do not have.
  • Table: This menu contains items to insert a table. It also has items to Delete, Insert, and change the size of rows and columns in a table.
  • Form: Items in this menu are used to create forms for people to fill out.

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The default layout for Writer has included two toolbars – Standard and Formatting – that appear when a document is opened or is created. Writer has 31 toolbars altogether. They can be selected through the Toolbars sub-menu in the View menu, or they appear when a corresponding item in the document is selected (for example the Table toolbar appears when a table is selected).

These toolbars give quick access to various items and functions. There are default items and functions that are included in them when LibreOffice is installed. However, items can be removed and added to each toolbar. The Customize item is located in the Toolbars sub-menu.

The Standard and Formatting toolbars have been StarOffice, from which LibreOffice and has been derived from. Here are descriptions of the two toolbars.

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Standard toolbar

Each application has a standard toolbar. There are icons in the toolbar that are common in all the applications, and there are icons that are unique to each standard toolbar. Here are the unique ones in the Writer toolbar:

  • Toggle Formatting Marks: Clicking this icon will show or hide non-print characters.
  • Insert Page Break: This will insert a break where the cursor is located. The text and objects to the right and below the cursor. Are move onto the next page.
  • Insert Field: Clicking this icon reveals a list of field items. The More Fields choice launches a Fields dialog.
  • Insert Footnote: This inserts a superscript number where the cursor is located. A corresponding number will be placed at the bottom of the page.
  • Insert Endnote: This inserts a superscript number where the cursor is located. A corresponding number will be placed at the bottom of the document.
  • Insert Bookmark: Clicking this icon launches a Bookmark dialog that allows you to create a bookmark or go to one.
  • Insert Cross-reference: This launches the Field dialog with the Cross-references tab selected. Cross-references allow you to jump to specific text passages and objects in a single document.
  • Show Track Changes: Click this launches the Track Changes toolbar. Insert Line: Clicking this changes the cursor to a cross. It allows you to draw align.

Formatting toolbar

This is available in Writer and Calc. Both have a few items in common. However, most of the items in the toolbar is unique to the application. The items are a mixture of icons and drop-down menus.

This section of the Website will have articles and videos about items in the formatting toolbar that pertain to Writer. Writer’s Formatting toolbar has 25 items by default.

Status bar

Every application has a status bar at the bottom of the window of each document. Each application has unique items in it. Several of the items will change based on items that are selected.

  • Page number in the document: This shows the page number of the page that is in the window and the total number of pages.
  • Word and character count: This shows the total number of words and characters in a document or a selection in the document.
  • Page Style: By default, this setting will be Default Style. Right-click on the this section and a list of choices will appear. Clicking it with the left mouse button launches the Page Style dialog with the Page tab selected.
  • Text Language: This shows the language for the grammar and spelling tools. Clicking it brings up a menu that allows you to change the language.
  • Insert mode: Click this to change to overwrite mode.
  • Standard selection: Clicking this gives you a list of options for selecting text and paragraphs.
  • Document modification status: This will either show that the document has not been modified since the last time saved, or it will show that it has been modified since the last time. Different instances have different icons. For example, the Mac instance has a disk icon that turns red after a document is modified. In Fedora, it is a box that has a red asterisk that appears in an unmodified document.
  • Digital Signature: If the document has been digitally signed, an icon is displayed here; otherwise, it is blank.
  • Page views: The choices are Single-page view, multiple page view, and book view. Click the desired one to change the document to that view.
  • Zoom factor: This includes the plus and negative slider and the number percentage. The slider allows you to zoom in and out of a document. Clicking the percent opens a Zoom & Layout dialog.


LibreOffice’s lineage comes from a German company, StarDivision, that created Writer as its first application in 1985. It is the application in the suite that the Document Foundation pays the most attention to.

StarWriter stood alone for about a decade. In 1994 StarOffice was released. It combined the latest version of StarWriter with a spreadsheet and a presentation application.

With version 3.1, StarWriter became one of the first word processors for Linux distros.

This page gives you a more complete history of LibreOffice.

Comparing to Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word has been on the market for a few years longer than StarWriter, the predecessor to LibreOffice Writer. Both applications have been improved over the past 35 years. Word has won the popularity contest several decades ago, and in many ways it is more advanced than the open-source word processor.

However, LibreOffice Writer has many features that the famous application does not. One of those is that it runs equally well on Window, Mac, Linux distros, and other platforms. Word is different on every platform it has been designed for. The Mac version has more features than the Android and iOS versions, but it is not as robust as the Windows version.

Another key difference is that Writer can open and save documents to formats than Word. Writer can handle the latest Word format (DOCX), as well as other modern and legacy formats.
Many articles and videos in the section compare the two word processor.