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How to customize the LibreOffice UI to best fit your style

LibreOffice is the premier open-source office suite that is not only compatible with Microsoft Office but also allows you to configure the interface to suit your needs and style.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Typing on laptop

Switching between the different interfaces is actually quite easy.

RunPhoto/Getty Images

I've been using LibreOffice for longer than I can remember. The free, open-source office suite has rarely failed me over the years. Beyond the ability to easily collaborate with those who use Microsoft Office, Office 365, Google Docs, Apple Pages, or just about any other office suite, one of the things I've appreciated about LibreOffice over the past few years is the ability to change the UI.

If you like an MS Office-like UI, LibreOffice has you covered.

Prefer a traditional menu-driven interface, the app is ready to serve.

Also: How to install the latest version of the free LibreOffice office suite on Linux

Or maybe you'd like something completely different? LibreOffice is there to make it work.

Switching between the different interfaces is actually quite easy. Before I show you how, let's explore the different UI variations that are available to LibreOffice.

The different user interfaces

With the latest version of LibreOffice (I'm using version on Ubuntu Budgie), there are seven variations to choose from, which are:

  • Standard Toolbar - This is your traditional UI with menus, toolbars, and a collapsed sidebar, and is geared toward those who prefer the classic interface.
  • Tabbed - This is similar to what Microsoft calls the Ribbon Interface.
  • Single Toolbar - This is a variation on the Standard UI, but simplifies it with only a single-line toolbar.
  • Sidebar - Uses the Stardard UI but adds a more expanded Sidebar. This UI should be considered by those who are well-versed in LibreOffice and want to be able to efficiently change the properties of a file.
  • Tabbed Compact - This is a compact version of the Tabbed UI.
  • Groupedbar Compact - Groups similar functions together in groups and displays your most frequently used features and menu.
  • Contextual Single - Displays all functions in a single-line toolbar with context-dependent options and content.

My preference is the Sidebar interface because I find it to be the most efficient way of accessing styles and other options for whatever file I'm working on. I do consider this a more advanced UI but that doesn't mean users who are new to LibreOffice should avoid it. Consider it to be an easier way to access more advanced options for the formatting and styles of a document.

The LibreOffice Sidebar UI.

The LibreOffice Sidebar interface is my UI of choice.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

The Sidebar option gives you quick access to document properties, styles, image gallery, page navigator, page format, Style Inspector, and the Manage Changes tool. I prefer this UI because I tend to focus mostly on the words and their formatting and this option gives me the most efficient access to those settings. On top of that, I can hide the sidebar when I need to focus primarily on the words. When I need to do some formatting, I unhide the sidebar and I'm good to go.

Also: How to deploy a cloud-based office suite to your home network

But how do you change the UI in LibreOffice? Let me show you.

Switching the LibreOffice UI

What you'll need: The only thing you'll need is an updated version of the LibreOffice office suite. It doesn't matter what operating system you are using, as the process is (almost) the same.

1. Open LibreOffice

This is the only variation between the steps for this process. With the Linux version of LibreOffice, you can open the individual components (Writer, Calc, Presents, etc.). If you're using either MacOS or Windows, you can only open the LibreOffice Control Center, which is where you can then open the individual components.

So, if you're on Linux, open LibreOffice Writer; or, if you're on either MacOS or Windows, open the LibreOffice entry found in either your desktop menu (Windows) or the Launchpad (MacOS). Once the control center is open, either open a previous Writer document or create a new one.

2. Open the User Interface switcher

With LibreOffice Writer open, click View > User Interface.

The LibreOffice View menu.

Accessing the User Interface options is done via the View menu.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Change the UI

In the resulting popup, select your preferred User Interface. The UI won't automatically switch (for a preview), so you'll either have to click Apply to Writer (to have the change only apply to LibreOffice Writer) or Apply to All (to have the changes apply to every LibreOffice component). 

The LibreOffice User Interface selector.

You'll get a small preview of what the different UIs look like if you click each.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Also: How to create a LibreOffice template

If you don't care for the UI you've selected, choose another and apply the change. Once you've found the UI you want, click Close and you're ready to work.

Congratulations, you've just made LibreOffice better fit your style and workflow. Although this might not seem like a major change, you'll find there's a UI option that will help make your work with LibreOffice more efficient.

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