This is a concept that confuse a lot of new, and not so new, users: the “difference” (yes, between quotes) between list numbering, both manually formatted and list styles, and chapter numbering.
We’ve seen how to align lists on a previous article: that holds for both kinds of numberings so let’s focus on the difference between “normal” lists and what we find on Tools → Chapter numbering.
- The numbered/bulleted list we find on the toolbar/sidebar are useful ONLY for quick lists. Those lists need to be configured by hand each time.
- Lists styles have the advantage of making the configuration just once (they are styles!) and the disadvantage that “levels” need to be chosen by hand.
- Finally, Tools → Chapter numbering is the dedicated tool to number headings. It’s by far the easiest way to number chapters on your document, but have some limitations we’ll see below.
So yes, all three generate “numbered items”, all three work more or less the same way but all three are used for different purposes.
Let’s see the “logic” behind all that.
Numbered & Bulleted Toolbar/Sidebar
All of us used it more than once: with the cursor on a paragraph, one click and we get a working list.
I’ll not repeat here the previous article about how to align a list, check it out for more details, but it’s clear that if we need to perform all that every time we insert a list it’s better to not need them too often.
If our document need many lists, all of them with a consistent, and not standard, look then we need to use styles.
The fifth button on the style editor (F11) gives us several predefined list styles. Five of those styles, the ones called “List 1” to “List 5”, are bullet styles while the other five are different types of numbered lists: normal numbers, letters and two kinds of Roman numerals.
Each of those styles offer up to ten nested levels and can be set as any list, so again I’ll not enter on the details of their configuration. Let’s focus on the use of list styles, because that can be a bit tricky.
On both, a paragraph style definition or on the setting of a particular manually formatted paragraph we can find the Outline & Numbering section
Here, under “Numbering style” we can pick any list style to use on that paragraph/paragraph style. In fact, if with the cursor on any paragraph we double click on a given list style the only way to later remove the list from that paragraph is to go to the “Outline & Numbering” section of the paragraph formatting and select “None”.
NOTE: Because we are now using a numbering style, by default the numbering will continue without restarting so if you create a new list later on your document you’ll need to restart the numbering by using the corresponding button on the Bullets and Numbering toolbar.
Chapter Numbering, a.k.a Outline Numbering
As you can see on the previous screenshot there is also something called “Outline Level” there. What’s that?
On a Writer document it’s possible to create a hierarchy of “levels” that takes care of the document structure. There are 10 levels available to choose from. For example, you can build a structure like this:
Level 1 → Part
Level 2 → Chapter
Level 3 → Section
NOTE: By “section” here I mean the usual meaning of “Section”, that is, a lower level block of document that’s grouped below chapters, not what Writer gives with Insert → Section which is a completely different beast. [Yeah, Writer’s use of “section” is a clear example of bad naming, but other programs do even worst on the “misuse of common terminology” scale… just saying]
Each paragraph (style) with a given “outline level” will be picked by the TOC, but that’s not enough to get chapters numbered.
Now the confusing part: there are two ways to assign to a given paragraph style a level.
One way to assign a level to a paragraph style is what we’ve already seen: the “outline level” on the “outline & numbering” section of the paragraph style. With that way if you want the chapters to be numbered you need to also pick a numbering style there. Not recommended.
The other way, the highly recommended way, to assign a level to a paragraph style is with Tools → Chapter numbering
For any “level” you can set a numbering, pick a character style to be applied to that numbering, select “separators” (for example, to write the word “Chapter” before the number), show “sublevels” (section 3 on chapter 2 displays as “2.3”), etc.
This recommended way have its limitations, though. For example you cannot use a scheme like
because each time a higher level change, the lower level numbering get reset.
To obtain that kind of “running numbering” you need to mix both methods: for example using the “outline & numbering” section of the paragraph style for the higher level and the “chapter numbering” for the lower.
Why is the system so convoluted, you may ask. Well, Writer have a really long and complex history (its initial release was more than three decades ago) so understanding this will make this already long article impossible to read, so let’s move on, after all it’s not that difficult to master.
Just remember: nothing is perfect 😉
One more thing: NEVER mix Tools → Chapter numbering with the “Outline & numbering” on the same paragraph, both method are incompatible.
Let’s hope I did not confuse you even more, my dear reader, and that finally the numbering system on Writer results a bit clearer for you.