Aligning Text in LibreOffice Writer

Tools for Tweaking the Alignment

Writer aligns text on the fly. It does its best (and usually it is a very good best), but it cannot always keep up with unforeseen circumstances or the changes inflicted by revisions. For this reason, you may need to tweak the alignment before you publish.

A useful place to start is with the font for your main paragraph styles.The spaces between letters are small, and sometimes minor changes in font or font size can be enough to improve the look of your chosen alignment. Using points as the measurement, you can adjust font size to one decimal place, or 1/720th of an inch, which should be more than enough.

Another alignment-tweaking tool is in the hyphenation settings on the Text Flow tab of a Paragraph dialog box (Figure 4). Simply turning on hyphenation can improve the alignment, because it gives the alignment algorithm more flexibility in making line breaks -- just remember that more than two lines ending in a hyphen are considered too many in typography.The settings for the number of letters at the end or start of the line can also aid the alignment.

Figure 4: Hyphenation settings can improve the result of alignment.

However, as professional typesetters have known for centuries, the most effective way to improve alignment is manual. Many of the languages supported by LibreOffice include hyphenation dictionaries. English in particular is available for several localizations. If one localization does not have a hyphenation dictionary, another will that can be used with only minimal caution. Make sure a hyphenation dictionary is installed for the current document’s language, and select Tools | Language | Hyphenation. The Hyphenation dialog box opens, which gives you the option of changing all the places where hyphenation might be improved ( a possibly rash decision) or to go through every instance, letting you chose where hyphenation falls. This is a potentially tedious task, but may be worthwhile in some cases (Figure 5). If you see a line end where no hyphen is indicated, but you want to keep two words together, press Ctrl+Shift when entering the space between the word to insert a soft hyphen. Later on, if you want to find such instances, click Tools | Options | Writer | Formatting Aids | Soft Hyphens. The soften hyphen appears as a gray bar between the words.

Figure 5: You can manually tweak line alignments from the Hyphenation dialog box.

Hidden Professionalism

As you can see, looks can be deceptive. Choosing a text alignment seems like a minor choice, but it is more than a matter of whim. Behind this choice lies centuries of design convention and practical choices.You may not want to worry about this for a single-use document. However, if layout matters, Writer can accommodate you. Although Writer’s layout tools are often overlooked, with them you can easily create a Writer document that meets professional publishing standards.

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