Jack Sarlo

"How To Write An Ebook With OpenOffice Writer (Step-By-Step)!"

write ebooks

In this tutorial I’ll go through the features you can use within this free software to write an ebook.

You can download the free OpenOffice Writer software from https://www.openoffice.org

I suggest you download the software and follow through each of the steps so you learn by doing, instead of just reading.

This software has a LOT of settings and features, for a documentation on all of them refer to Writer’s own documentation.

It’s very long. I will show you how to use the most common and important features only, with screenshots so you understand better.

You will write a document, just like you do in Microsoft Word, with a table of contents if you want to.

Then you just click on File > Export As Pdf to convert the document into a .pdf file that can be opened as an ebook with a tool like Adobe Reader.

So let’s go through it.

The table of contents can be helpful.

Table of Contents

Formatting First Page

You will need to insert a header and footer that will be displayed on every page of your ebook. This is optional, but any professional looking ebook has at least a footer section.

In the header you can list your ebook name and some simple design. In the footer you can list the Page numbers.

However the first page of your ebook should not contain any header or footer. 

In the first page you can either place an image (your ebook cover) that stretches the entire length and width of the page or write the title of your ebook in big font size.

You can hire an ecover designer (e.g. from Fiverr) to design an ebook ecover for the front page of your ebook.

In the below screenshot you can see the first page of this ebook containing a full page ebook cover.

Then the second page contains a header (Dan Lok’s Instant Subject Lines) and footer (Copywriting notice and page number).

Ebook Example

Let’s specify the first page of our ebook to be completely different than the rest of the pages. So it won’t have any header or footer.

It will have a unique style of its own.

Press F11 on your keyboard or click Format > Styles and Formatting from the menu. 

This opens the Styles and Formatting window (which we’ll use all the time in this tutorial). Then click the fourth icon (page styles) and double click on First Page.

That’s it.

Styles And Formatting

Headers & Footers

Now let’s setup the Header and Footer for the rest of the pages of our ebook.

Launch once again the Styles and Formatting window with F11.

Click the fourth icon (page styles), right click on Default and select Modify.

Check Footer On to enable it. Then select the Header tab and Check Header On to enable it.

Click Ok

Header And Footers

Now you’ll see two new boxes on the second page and every other page you create. One at the top of each box (the header) and one at the bottom (the footer).

This is the header box, (the thin one):

This is the footer box (the thin one):

In these boxes you can enter text or images. Whatever you place in your header or footer will appear on every page of your ebook (apart of the first page because we assigned it a different page style).

You can increase the height of these boxes if you want to place big images. 

To do that open the Styles and Formatting window (F11), click the fourth icon (page styles), right click on Default and select Modify. 

Click the Header tab and make sure ‘AutoFit Height’ is checked. Then click Ok.

You can do the same thing for the Footer.

Now you can hit enter to increase the size the section or backspace/delete to decrease.

Header / Footer Customization

You can also change the background color of the header or footer section and give it a border.

Open the same menu as before and click either the Header or Footer tab, whichever you want to modify. Then click on More… 

Click Borders tab to add a border. In ‘Line Arrangement’ area select the 2nd box to create a border on all sides of the header box. In ‘Line Style’ select the width of the border and under ‘Line Color’ select the color for the border.

Click on ‘Background’ tab to change the background color.

The click Ok. 

Header Background

In the footer you can enter the current page number.

Click the footer box and type the word Page separate by a space. Then click Insert > Field >  Page Number

Page Numbers

The exact page number will be listed for all pages automatically. You don’t have to type it in.

You can also insert the total number of pages of your ebook.

For example: Page 1 of 100.

To do that click Insert > Fields > Page Count.

The total page count will be automatically updated as you add new pages to your document.

The text you add in the header or footer can be customized – you can change font family, size, colour, alignment, etc. 

Play around with the following options in the toolbar to customize the text:

Customize Text

At this point I suggest we convert our document to an ebook to see how it looks. But before you have to add some content.

Add something in the header (e.g. your ebook title) and the footer (e.g. Page Numbers). 

You can keep it as simple as possible for now. Then add some content in the first 3 pages of your document.

You can copy & paste some wikipedia articles if you don’t yet have any content for your ebook.

Then click on File > Export As Pdf, and click Export.

Open the pdf file with Adobe Reader and check to see that the pages look good. 

If not you have the option to adjust the margins or page height/width.

Let’s discover how to do that.

Adjust Page Margins

You can adjust the page margins if you want to. This is the space between the boxes where you type content and the page outline. 

There’s top, bottom, right and left margins, marked by arrows (in this screenshot the bottom margin is not visible):

Page Margins

Let’s reduce the top margin.

Open once again the Formatting and Styles menu with F11.

Right click on Default and click Modify. Note that in order to change the margins for the first page you have to select First Page, right click and then modify.

Click on the Page tab and in the Margins section, ‘Top’ box input 1.00 cm (the default is 2.00 cm) and click Ok.

You’ll see the size will now shrink.

Customize Margins

You can adjust the bottom, right and left margins in the same way.

Adjust Page Size

In the same window you can adjust the page width and height.

Page Size

Feel free to play around with the Margin and Page Size settings and convert your document once again to a pdf to test and see if you’re satisfied with the way it looks.

Format Chapter Headings

Now let’s customize the content of our ebook, therefore the chapter and subchapter headings and paragraphs.

Select your heading and open the Styles and Formatting window (F11). This time click the first icon. Find ‘Heading 1’ and double click on it.

Now you may not like how your heading appears. If you don’t, press F11 again, right click on Heading 1 and select Modify. There’s a lot of options to customize the way your heading appears.

For this example we’ll change the font type, size, style, color and alignment.

Click the Font tab, and then choose a new font. You can see a preview in the same window.  

Then select bold because that’s appropriate for chapter headings. Input 21 pt for font size. You can adjust this if you find it small or large.

Click on Font Effects tab and under Font Color choose a color.

Finally click on the Alignment Tab and select Center. Click ok. Your heading should be updated automatically. If not double click Heading 1 to apply the new changes.

Header Customization

Advanced Tip – Creating Custom Colors:

First pick a color you like and to find one you can search “color picker” in Google to use Google’s own tool.

Color Palette

It also tells you the Red Green Blue (rgb) values for your color. This is required for the next step.

Then click Tools > Options and select Colors. Click Edit and input the rgb values:

Custom Colors

Click ok and enter a new name for this new color. I used Custom Blue. Then click Add.

Save Color

Now if we go to the same window to modify our Heading 1, in the Font Effects tab we can select our new custom color:

Custom Color

You can use this custom color for anything else not just Heading 1 color. For example for your body text color, header or footer background color, etc.

You can adjust the space between the Chapter heading (Heading 1) and the first paragraph. To do that press F11, click the first icon, right click on Heading 1 and select modify. 

Click Indents and Spacing tab and adjust the number in the Spacing section, ‘Below Paragraph’ text box. Then click ok.

Heading Customization

Now each time you write a chapter heading select the text and click on Heading 1 from the toolbar:

Chapter Headings

The new formatting styles you specified will be applied automatically.

If you cannot see this toolbar click View > Toolbars > Formatting. If you don’t see that option in the toolbar, right click the toolbar, click Visible buttons and click Apply Style.

Format Subchapter Headings

The Heading 1 style is applied to chapter headings. Sometimes you want to add subchapters.

You can assign them the Heading 2 style.

Select the text of your subchapter and open the Styles and Formatting window (F11). Click the first icon (Paragraph style) and double click on Heading 2.

Now right click on Heading 2 and select modify. You’ll be able to change the format of subchapters in this window just like you did for the chapter headings (Headings 1).

Heading Customization

Now when you need to add a new subchapter select the subchapter text and click Heading 2 from the toolbar. 

The formatting effects you specified will be applied automatically to your new subchapter text.

Heading Selection

You can add more levels of subchapters below Heading 2 if you want to. 

For example you can have a chapter heading (Heading 1), subchapter heading (Heading 2) and another subchapter heading (Heading 3)… 

You can assign these subchapters the Heading 3 style and customize it the same way you did for Heading 1 or Heading 2.

Using these Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, or even Heading 4… is important because you can update all these heading styles and formatting at once. 

For example if you want to change the text color of your chapter headings you just update the Heading 1 style (F11 > Right click on Heading 1 and click Modify).

You can press F5 to open the Navigator window. In the Headings section you can see all your headings. If you double click any heading in the list you will go to its specific page.

Preview Headings

Headings will be automatically added to your table of contents if you add one (this is explained further below).

Format Body Text

Now let’s change the formatting of the main text of our document.

When you write in OpenOffice Writer hit ENTER only once if you want to start a new paragraph. Then you can specify the space between paragraphs in the following manner.

Open Styles and Formatting (F11) and select the first icon, then right click on Default and select Modify. 

Click Indents and Spacing tab and adjust the number in the Spacing section, ‘Below Paragraph’ text box. Then click ok. 

The bigger the number you input the larger the space between paragraphs.

Paragraph Customization

Open the same window again and you can select the Font tab to adjust the body font family, style, size.

Font Customization

Format Lists

You have some options to choose from when make a list. Start by writing down your list. Put each one in a new paragraph.

Then select all of them and click either of the two options on the toolbar. Click the first icon to use numbers or the second one to use bullets.

Format Lists

Then the Bullets and Numbering toolbar will appear.

Click the last icon on this toolbar to customize the bullets. You can choose any of the various bullet styles in the Bullets tab, or any of the various number styles in the Numbering Type tab. 

You can also choose a graphic for your bullets in the Graphics tab. If you select a graphic you can adjust it’s width and height in the Options tab.

List Customization

Insert Page Breaks

Sometimes you want to make sure that a new chapter starts on a new page and its heading remains always at the top of the page.

You can press ENTER on your keyboard multiple times until you start a new page. 

But this is not the correct way, because later on as you add or delete content to your document the chapter heading will move down or up, it won’t remain at the top of the page.

The best way is to insert a Page Break.

Write your chapter heading and place the cursor before the first letter. Then click Insert > Manual Break and select Page Break. 

The heading will move to a new page and it will remain there no matter what editing you do to your document.

Page Breaks

You can adjust the space between the Chapter Heading and the top of the page in the Styles and Formatting window (F11). Right click Heading 1 and select modify. 

Then in the Indents and Spacing tab adjust the number in the Spacing section, ‘Above Paragraph’ text box.

Heading Customization

Insert And Format Images

Click Insert > Picture > From file… to insert a picture. Alternatively click the ‘Insert image from file’ icon on your toolbar.

Advanced Tip – Adding ‘Insert image from file’ Icon To Toolbar: 

First make sure the toolbar is visible. Click View > Toolbars > Insert – there should be a checkbox next to Insert to show that the toolbar is on.

Enable Toolbar

The toolbar may be on but invisible due to limited space. 

Maximize OpenOffice Window and then try to move one of the other toolbars, until the Insert toolbar becomes visible.

Drag a toolbar from its left edge to move it.

Move Toolbar

This is the icon you need to press to insert an image:

If you don’t see that icon, right click toolbar, click Visible Buttons and click ‘From File’. Now you should see it.

Customize Toolbar

After you insert an image you can access its formatting settings by double clicking it.

Click the Type tab and make sure in the Anchor section it’s set as ‘To Paragraph’. 

This is the typical setting you want to use. In this way the image acts like a paragraph. 

As you add text above or below the image it moves with the text.

If you set it’s anchor as ‘To Page’ it will remain fixed in the same position no matter what you do.

Click ok.

Image Customization

Now drag the anchor icon to add the picture after a specific paragraph.

Image Alignment

You can optionally adjust the position of the image by dragging it wherever you want to. However this is not recommended. 

Instead click the alignment icons to align it to the left, center or right of the page.

Alignment Icons

Then you can adjust the space between the picture and the paragraphs above or below it as well. Double click the image and select the Wrap tab. 

Adjust the number in the Spacing section, ‘Top’ or ‘Bottom’ boxes.

Image Spacing

Wrapping Image

You can wrap text around the image, so that for example the image is on the left and the paragraphs go to the right.

Double click the image and select the Wrap tab. Select After to achieve this effect.

Then align the image to the left (from the toolbar icons or right click image > Alignment > left). You can also drag the image yourself and place it where you want.

You can adjust the space between the image and the right side text from the same Wrap tab at the bottom in the Spacing section, ‘Right’ text box.

Image Wrapping

Linking Image

You can link an image to a website url. Double click the image to access its settings. Select the hyperlink tab and input the website address in the URL box and click ok.

Adding Border To Image

Double click the image to access its settings, then click the Borders tab. Select the second icon in the Line arrangement section to set a border all around the image.

Then specify border width and color.

Image Border

Adding Image Captions

Right click the image and select Caption.

Enter the text for the caption. In the category select None. If you select anything else for example ‘Illustration’ this text will appear in the caption. 

For example: Illustration: Domestic Cat. Then click ok.

You can format the caption text to adjust it’s font family, size, style, color, etc., from the toolbar or right click the text and select Character.

Pasting Content From Clipboard

If you try to copy some text from the Internet or a word document and paste it in your OpenOffice document the text won’t be formatted with the styles you customised.

To fix that select all the text you pasted and click Format > Default Formatting. Alternatively you can select Edit > Paste Special (keyboard shortcut SHIFT + CTRL + V) to paste your copied content, and a menu will appear. 

Select ‘Unformatted Text’ and click ok.

Note that when you use any of these two options any links within the pasted content are automatically removed. So you may have to re insert them.

When pasting content from the web open the Styles and formatting window (F11) and make sure the text is assigned the default style and not the Text body style.

Inserting Table Of Contents

When you insert a table of contents it will add the text of your Headings (Heading 1, Heading 2…) in your table of contents, along with the page number of their location. 

So it is important to apply Headings styles to your chapter and subchapter headings.

Place the table of contents on a new page, perhaps the second page of your document. Click Insert > Indexes and Tables > Indexes and Tables…

In the Title box enter the title for your table of contents, e.g. Table of Contents.

Then click OK.

You can modify the font size, style, color of your table of contents chapter and subchapter headings. 

To edit chapter headings right click the chapter headings in your table of contents and click Edit Paragraph Style… 

To edit chapter subheadings right click chapter suheadings and click Edit Paragraph Style…

Table of Contents

When you’re writing your document if you edit any of your document headings, add new ones or perhaps change their location (page number) you need to update your table of contents. 

Right click the table of contents and select Update Index/Table.

Advanced Customization

You can customize your table of contents furthermore.

Let’s discover some of the settings.

Right click your table of contents and select Edit Index/Table.

In the Entries tab you can specify what to include in your table of contents and in what order. 

The default adds chapter headings a list of dots (…) and then the page number.

Table of Contents

Each icon in the Structure row represents an item in your table of contents.

Table of Contents Customization

For example:

E – this is your chapter/subchapter headings, e.g. Domestic Cats.

T – this is the list of dots (…)

# – this is the page number of your chapter/subchapter headings.

You’ll probably see more items in your own table of contents. You can delete unwanted ones.

For example if you don’t want the list of dots (…) click the T icon and press delete on your keyboard.

To add an item place your mouse cursor in the white box before or after an item, for example after E and then click the new item you want to add using the buttons, e.g. Tab stop

TOC Customization

Place Links In Table of Contents

You can make each chapter or subchapter in your table of contents clickable. This means users can click the chapter name and they go to that chapter.

In the Structure row place your mouse cursor before the first icon, then click the Hyperlink button. A new button (LS) appears. 

Then place your mouse cursor after the last icon and click the Hyperlink button again. 

A new button (LE) appears. (Note: If you have many icons you may have to press the right arrow button to see the last one).

When you make any changes to the icons press the All button. Then click Ok.

TOC Customization

Here’s why you need to click this button:

Your table of contents consists of up to 10 levels. 

The first level updates the way your table of contents displays your chapter headings (Heading 1), the second level is for your subchapters (Heading 2), and so on.

You can click 2 to customize the way subchapters look in your table of contents. 

But when you click the All button you apply the structure you specified for level 1, to all levels, so they all look the same.

If you need to customize your table of contents even further, perhaps to add a background colour, or spit it into columns refer to Writer’s own documentation.

Pin Windows To Sidebar

When you press F11 to open styles and formatting window, or F5 to open navigator window, you can pin these windows to the right or left sidebar. 

Drag the window to the sidebar and it will stick. Then you can adjust its size or completely hide it. You can upin it by clicking somewhere along it’s border and dragging it out.

If you pin windows on the sidebar you don’t have to press F11 each time.

Pin Windows

Give Your Ebook A Title

Click File > Properties and select the Description tab. Insert your ebook title in the Title box. 

When you open your ebook with Adobe Reader the title appears at the top of the Window.

Ebook Title

Exporting Document To Pdf

Click File > Export As Pdf.

In the Initial Tab select Page Only in the Panes section. In this way when you open your ebook Adobe Reader won’t open any other toolbars/sidebars that your users have to manually close one by one.

In the Magnification section select Zoom Factor and set it to 100%. In this way your ebook pages are displayed at their original size, not too big or too small.

In the Page Layout select Continuously because in this way users can go to the next page smoother. The pages will be listed in a continuous vertical column.

Test these settings to see their effects for yourself, maybe you prefer one thing over another.

Click Export and give it a file name.


I hope you find this guide useful. Keep in mind that as you use this software, i.e. with practice your skill in using this software improves.

You know what you need to design a professional ebook. 

But if you have the time there are more features and settings you can explore. I suggest Writer’s own documentation to do that as well as Writer’s forum.

If you have any questions about creating and designing your ebooks leave them in the comments below.

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About The Author

More than 7 years ago Jack made his first few sales online as an affiliate marketer. His site ranked on Google for dozens of keywords, so later on, he built courses and software to teach his SEO “secrets”.

He also won a Flip Camera in an affiliate contest.

Now he reveals all the insights he’s discovered throughout the years about Internet marketing, in his free guides and products!

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