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How to update a style in LibreOffice to reflect changes in your document

If you regularly alter styles you use in LibreOffice, the software has a handy trick up its sleeve to make this considerably easier.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

As a professional writer, I have to regularly tweak the tools I use so they'll function exactly as I need them. Because I work with different editors, publishers, and sites, I often have to change styles within a document on the fly. 

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Here's an example. I was recently working with a document I'd received from an editor who was using MS Office that changed the settings of Heading 2 to something that wouldn't work for the publisher. Instead of having to go through the entire document, changing every chapter heading from the altered Heading 2 to what it needed to be, I simply changed the first Heading 2 and then updated the style. Once I'd done that, every Heading 2 reflected the change. That's far more efficient than having to do each one manually. And when you're working with a manuscript that is 30+ chapters, changing those one by one can be a chore. 

Even worse, had I missed one it wouldn't reflect well on me with the publisher.

Thankfully, LibreOffice makes this easy.

Let me show you how it works.

How to update a style in LibreOffice

What you'll need: To make this work, you'll need LibreOffice installed. This feature works across all platforms, so it doesn't matter if you're working on Linux, MacOS, or Windows. I'll demonstrate on Ubuntu Budgie Linux using LibreOffice version I would recommend you upgrade your version of LibreOffice to the most recent release, to ensure you have all the recent bug fixes and newest features.

1. Open a document

The first thing to do is open a LibreOffice document. This can be one you've been working on or a new test document. I'm going to show how this works with a test document.

2. Locate the style you want to change

I've created a test document with three instances of Test, each of which uses the default Heading 2 style (which is font: Liberation Sans, size: 16 pt, bold and left aligned).

Also: How to customize the formatting of LibreOffice comments for easier collaboration

3. Change the style

I want the altered Heading 2 to use the Ariel font and be center-aligned. It's not much of a change but it's enough to demonstrate how this works. I'll highlight the first instance of Test and make those changes.

A sample Heading 2 style in LibreOffice.

I've updated the Heading 2 style for the first Test entry.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Update the style

Once you have the style exactly as you need, click the Styles menu at the top of the LibreOffice window and then click Update Selected Style. You should see each instance of Test change to match the new changes you've made to Heading 2.

The LibreOffice Style menu.

Make sure to select Update Selected Style and not New Style from Selection.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

The caveat

Here's the one caveat to this feature. The updated style only applies to the current document. That's actually a good thing, if you work with different clients/publishers, each of which requires a difference in the same style.

Also: How to create a LibreOffice template

If you want to permanently change a style in LibreOffice (such that it works with every document you open), follow the steps in How to edit a paragraph style in LibreOffice (and why you should).

And that's all there is to quickly change a style (on a per-document basis) in LibreOffice. This feature has helped me quite a bit over the years, preventing me from having to edit each instance of a style within a document. Give it a try and see if it doesn't make your collaborative life a bit easier.

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