Chapter Headings & Drop Caps in LibreOffice Writer

Drop Caps are EASY to do in LibreOffice! Especially if you import the Paragraph Styles from an existing template. You can import the styles from the file I made while working on this article. 

To do the exercise in this post, download these files: 

Plain, unformatted Writer document: Drop Caps Unformatted File

Formatted document:  Drop Caps working file .  

Fonts:  Drop Caps Fonts. Roboto Thin and Cronos Pro. Go ahead and install these fonts (if you don’t have them already) so your document will look the same as the example.

Then open the file you downloaded called “Drop-Caps-unformatted file.odt” It will look something like this:


All the text is uniform, but the page is kind of plain. We’re going to snazz it up. We’ll start by applying a fancy Paragraph Style to the chapter heading.

First step: import the Paragraph Styles from “Drop-Caps-working-file2.odt”. Hit F11 on your keyboard to bring up the “Styles and Formatting” box. Then with your mouse, click the button as shown and then click “Load Styles”.

Load Paragraph Styles


You will be brought to the Load Styles dialog box.

Load Paragraph Styles 2


After you click the button, you’ll be able to browse your computer for an odt file.

Load Paragraph Styles 3

For now, browse to the file “Drop-Caps-working-file2.odt” that you downloaded from the top of this post, and with your mouse, click the “Open” button. For the remainder of this exercise, this is the only odt file you will need to have open on your computer.

Then, view the Styles and Formatting box again and you’ll see your new Paragraph Styles which you’ve just loaded. (The new “Heading 1” style also loaded but is not shown in this image.)

Styles Dialog box with new styles


Next, let’s bedazzle that chapter heading in about 3 seconds.

While your “Drop-Caps-working-file2.odt” is open, select some text in the chapter heading:

Select Chapter 1


Then in the Styles and Formatting dialog box (make sure you’re in the Paragraph Styles section), find and double-click the “Heading 1” style. Suddenly you have a fancy chapter heading! This is because the text has taken on the properties of the new “Heading 1” paragraph style.

Roboto Thin Chapter Applied

(If it doesn’t work in a different document, there might be Direct Formatting applied to the chapter heading. In this case, highlight the entire chapter heading text and press CTRL+M on the keyboard to clear it.)

Next step, body paragraphs!

First we’ll apply a Paragraph Style to the body paragraphs. The style used in this case is called “_Body”. I always name my styles with an underscore as the first character so that they stay at the top of the Styles and Formatting box.

You can select some text in one paragraph at a time, or use the mouse to select a lot of paragraphs at once.

Select Paragraph

Then go to the Styles and Formatting box and double click “_Body”.

Styles Dialog box with new styles

Suddenly the paragraphs are formatted!

Body Paragraph Applied



At this point, if you were doing the whole book, you might go through and make sure the _Body style was applied to all paragraphs for the rest of the book.

Then we go back to the first paragraph of the chapter and select some text in it (in the first paragraph). Then in the Styles and Formatting box, double click _First Paragraph. The style will change, and suddenly we have drop caps! This is again because the _First Paragraph style has drop caps set up in it.Drop Cap 1 character style applied 2

Then it is a task of going through each chapter and applying the _First Paragraph style to the first paragraph of each chapter.

But there are two things that can interfere with our pretty drop cap style: short first lines, and first lines that begin with quotation marks.

Here is what happens if you have a first paragraph that begins with quotation marks.

style applied but paragraph has quotes


And here is an example of a short first line.

Short first line

The lines that begin with quotes is an easy problem to solve. Simply apply the Paragraph Style named “_First Paragraph Quotes”.


Drop Cap 2 character style applied 2


The only way this style is different from “_First Paragraph” is that the drop caps are the first two characters instead of only the first single character. If you choose to modify the “_First Paragraph Quotes” paragraph style and click on the “Drop Caps” button, you’ll see what I mean.

Dropcaps style 2 character 3 lines

To fix the problem of short first lines we must do some extra work. Instead of the regular paragraph break, we want a line feed break. Do that by deleting the paragraph break. Then the two paragraphs will run together and that’s not good either. So put the mouse cursor where the paragraph break should be and, on your keyboard, press SHIFT+ENTER.

Notice the image below.

Drop Caps short first line 1

After we delete the paragraph break and replace it with SHIFT+ENTER, the drop cap looks great but we have another problem. The text in the first line wants to justify to the right, and it leaves huge spaces between the words.

Drop Caps short first line 2

But this is also fixable. You can try adding a bunch of spaces at the end of the first line, and it might help, but the proper way to do it is to replace each space in the first line with a non-breaking space.

To make a non-breaking space, press SHIFT+CTRL+SPACEBAR.

After you have replaced the regular spaces with non-breaking spaces, it will look like the image below. Notice that with “Non-printing characters” turned on, the non-breaking space is identifiable because it now is gray in color (but this gray color will not be printed!)

Drop Caps short first line 3

And here is what the chapter page looks like!

Drop Caps short first line 4

The font used in the chapter heading and drop cap is “Roboto Thin”, and the body font is Cronos Pro. The chapter heading and paragraph styles will change if you change those Paragraph Styles, and the drop cap font will change if you change the Drop Cap Character Style! This makes it really easy to try out different fonts on your book to see how they will look.


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