Is it better to use LibreOffice’s built-in styles or custom styles for body text?

I’m trying to figure out if it’s better to use (and modify) the basic styles LibreOffice Writer includes by default or use my own custom styles.

LibreOffice’s default template comes with a style called Text Body that seems to be meant as a default style for all text body (not hard to guess that). The sub-styles are a little trickier to figure out until you look at what they do. First Line Indent is an indented paragraph by default, while Text Body is a block paragraph by default. Text Body Indent (not shown in the screenshot) is an entire paragraph of indented text.

To be honest, this all seems a little backwards to me, because I write fiction and a fiction manuscript is rarely formatted into block paragraphs. So Text Body would have to be an indented paragraph for me, while First Line Indent would make a lot more sense as a paragraph with the first line indent set to zero (0″).

Basically, I would need to create a LibreOffice Writer template that does the opposite with body text as what the default template does. That could get confusing if I were to create new documents with these same style names based on the default template instead of my template.

So, instead, I’m using custom styles for the text body paragraphs in my manuscript, not as a sub-style of Text Body but as a sub-style of the default style.

Indent has a sub-style called First to allow for a flush first line at the start of chapters and scenes instead of an indented one, and a few other useful styles I want based on Indent.

My reasoning is that if I change the body style (Indent), I want the style for First, End, and Scene Break to change too.

Also, the custom style names make sense to me, and probably to any other self-publishing writer out there who knows anything about formatting fiction books.

However, the moment you manually apply “Autocorrect” in LibreOffice Writer with the default settings in place, it strips out all your custom styles. I have no idea what purpose this serves since it will destroy the formatting of a finished document—unless it’s really only meant to be applied to a document you’re trying to reformat and you want it stripped down to basics first.

I’ve been tempted to make Indent a sub-style of Text Body, but Indent would still be a custom style, so I don’t think that’s the way to go. And in the end, I want the cleanest style set possible when I export stuff as HTML, which will create CSS styles, or import the ODT file to Jutoh (how I’ll create my EPUBs). I want short, meaningful style names, and I don’t want dependencies or inheritances I’m not aware of to mess things up in some obscure ebook reader I can’t test with my formatted ebooks.

Now that I’ve written it all out, it seems apparent that I want to stick with my custom styles the way they are. They make sense to me, and the reasons for keeping them independent of the built-in text body styles of Writer’s default style make sense too.

Is there anything I’m overlooking for this decision?

I’m really just getting to know LibreOffice Writer 6 and it’s entirely possible I don’t know something that could affect how this works out. If that’s the case, let me know.

Where’d the link options go in the new WordPress editor?

Unless I’m missing something (entirely possible), you can no longer select a post from a list of older content by using the link options when you create or edit a link in the new WordPress editor. You can only search for the content, and if you can’t find it, well, you’d better open another browser window and prepare to hunt it down and get the link that way.

What the hell, WordPress?

The old way to add a link

The new way to add a link

If you’ll notice, the options bring up only the option to open the link in a new tab. You no longer get that helpful list of recent posts.

Blah. Just another way WordPress has degraded on the usability front. I’m just so disappointed with this new version that I’m seriously considering a change back to static HTML websites for the first time in years.

Reviews and comments about the new WordPress block editor

I wrote what I thought about the WordPress 5.0 update and the new block editor in my own previous post.

I’m not satisfied to be unhappy about the change all by my lonesome. So here are some links to other people’s reviews and thoughts about the new editor.

Reviewing Gutenberg: Is WordPress’ New Editor Up to Scratch?

Thorough and to the point. It addresses the topic from a viewpoint I share, but I am totally biased. I don’t like the editor.

Welcoming WordPress 5.0 And The New Editor

Mostly a positive look at WP 5 and the new editor, with a bit of a take-back at the end.

WordPress Gutenberg will be the end of WordPress

This one was written by someone who appears to have had so many of the same feelings I have about WordPress’s new update, Gmail and Google Calendar and their regression to a mobile first interface to the detriment of the desktop environment, etc, that I got sucked into reading lots of stuff there. (Gotta say, the article about the three-foot long erection was probably the highlight of my reading that day.)

I have a few more links that I want to post but I’ll have to get back to it. They’re on a tablet somewhere and I’m supposed to be writing fiction. Also, I’m hungry and the new WP editor has stolen enough of my time! :)

December 1–12 progress

I sat down tonight to write something after another day of not writing anything. I haven’t so far. Instead, here I am writing this, after spending about forty minutes looking at reports, messing with Gmail (I had forgotten you can still access Gmail through the basic HTML link for slow connections, so that was entertaining) and my calendar, and a few other trivialities. Not my best decision, by far. That forty minutes was supposed to be spent writing something for my book.

As a reminder, I pulled up my June 1–15 progress post.

The fact is, I need to start finishing books again. I’ve had way too much time off on the whole over the last couple of years and it’s time for me to start pushing myself again to do more.

I’m worried that I’m falling into the same patterns I seem to fall into after every book I finish lately, where I don’t write, and I start feeling more and more disconnected from the desire to write.

That June progress post is relevant in other ways too, because just this week one of my kids returned from college for the winter break and my routines have been completely upended. The quiet, distraction free environment I seem to need to be able to write is gone. It’ll be three more weeks of in-house disarray before things go back to what passes for normal for me these days.

I’ve written only 1,009 words from December 1 to December 12.

I’d like to take that time off and just say forget it until after the new year but I can’t. I know what will happen, because I saw it happen last year after I released a book. I didn’t write more than a few hundred words for five months. I know it might not happen again, but I don’t want to risk that, and besides, I want new routines. I want to spend my time writing another book. I want to go from one book to the next and not get caught up in this morass of feelings I’m feeling about the struggle to write.

No more struggle.

It’s not real. It’s not worthy of the angst it causes me.

But right now, unfortunately, I’m tired after a couple of really bad nights of sleep, this morning’s interrupted by an earthquake of all things and I’m going to bed instead of write something for my book. That 1,009 words won’t change because of anything I did tonight.

(Yes, a real earthquake. Doors jiggled and stuff rattled downstairs but I didn’t hear much up in my room, just a kind of whoosh after a hard shake. I pulled up the USGS Earthquakes website and just as I did, the earthquake showed up on the list of latest earthquakes.)

I’m falling asleep here, so goodnight.

 

Looking for a comments alternative for WordPress

Basically, the only reason I don’t want to move from WordPress to static HTML (after years of thinking WordPress would make it easier to post and give me options away from my computer but in reality almost never finding that to be true for me) is that I like having comments enabled.

The fact is, I rarely get comments. Out of 1,305 posts, I’ve gotten 27 comments here and since I respond to most comments, only half those aren’t me. In fact, I filtered and searched and 14 of the 27 were me.

So yeah, there’s not a really good reason to want comments enabled but I do.

I’ve tried Disqus in the past on other static sites and it worked, but it was a hassle. (I apparently think lots of things are hassles, but what can I say? I do.) And there are ads. But it is an option.

I’d like a better option. So if you know of an alternative—a way to get comments that isn’t a hassle for a static HTML website, I’m listening. :-)

On the other hand, I’m also seriously considering going plain old HTML anyway. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at an HTML5 site because I really stopped making sites before it was standard.

And finally, I’m keeping an eye on ClassicPress, but before I do anything with that, I’m going to need a little time. It seems there’s some bad blood there between the CP and the WP people or something because I’ve already found one person who’s writing code to help plugin authors break their plugins if they’re being used in ClassicPress. So, sounds like sabotage is a possibility? (Which really did just give me an idea for a murder mystery. Holy shit. I need to get out on the web more.)

Obviously I just don’t like change

So I’m all aggravated about the WordPress 5.0 block editor, and I log in to my Gmail account because in all the aggravation of writing that big test post with images in it, I’m making links to some books and I accidentally buy an ebook from Amazon that I don’t need. I’ve already read the book through the library, so of course I returned it immediately, but now I’m logging in to Gmail to check something and I realize there was a reason I don’t log in to Gmail anymore.

I use Thunderbird to check my email or I use my phone. Because Gmail’s web interface is the most godawful thing I’ve seen this decade. Unless you count Google Calendar, because that thing looks like it was made for a six year old. Anyway. Now I’m just depressed because obviously the taste of the people creating all this stuff is becoming so far removed from me that I’m thinking I’m pretty much guaranteed to have to learn to live with a whole lot of things I hate for the rest of my life.

The irony is that Google keeps sending me notices that one of my websites has accessibility issues because the text is too small to read (it says), but the text on the website in question is considerably easier to read than the soft, fuzzy, not really dark enough mess that is the text on Gmail’s page. Staring at that page just gives me a headache.

I really should have spent my evening writing. It would have been a lot more fun.

Revisiting a post: The “no timers” thing

I am finally settling into a nice work flow that does not rely on timers to keep me writing. I’m occasionally dipping into more than one story at a time, but I’m surprised at how often I’m staying focused on one book.

It’s obvious to me now that something was wrong then, but isn’t that how it always is?

I can’t remember at this point exactly when I decided I was going to seriously focus on not using timers, because I’d posted about abandoning them, then went back to using them, before deciding to give them up one final time.

On 8/10, I got rid of my time logs and sessions.

In September, I began using timers again.

Sometime in October, I ditched the timers one final time.

On 10/21, I gave up on daily writing.

On 11/14, I had my best one-day word count to date. I broke through the 6,000 words in a day barrier.

My word counts have steadily increased month over month despite (or because of) the changes in my routines.

8/31/18 7,840
9/30/18 13,358
10/31/18 20,602
11/30/18 31,928

I’m writing and I’m enjoying it, and I’m not driven by a timer! It feels wonderful.

Should I update to WordPress 5.0?

I am torn this morning about whether or not I want to update WordPress to version 5.0. I did the update on a smaller site I have (it has about 3 posts) and it went well. No issues to speak of. I also created a post with the new block editor (which I had already tried it out a little when it was called the Gutenberg plug-in). The post turned out fine.

My problem comes in with the actual editor. It’s a bit of a hassle for me. All the little boxes and blocks flaring to life as my cursor scrolls over them. I like seeing the WYSIWYG version and working in the “Visual” editor while being able to quickly flip to the “Text” editor (really, the code editor), and make whatever changes are needed there.

The new block editor is kind of a mess really. As far as I can tell, you can edit the HTML of each block but you can’t edit it as a whole. So lots of extra steps to move one bit of code to another place in the post compared to how it’s currently done.

Screenshot of options showing how to change from visual editor to code editor

NOPE. I just realized I am wrong about this. (I went to the little site that I updated and checked.)

I can select the code editor and see the entire post as code but the way to get to it is separated from the way to get to the HTML editor for each block.

So a bit of a hassle but not as bad as I feared.

Anyway, I’m just not sure I’m ready to change. Being wrong about the HTML editor doesn’t really change how busy the new block editor feels. And then I do have some sites where I use a custom theme I made myself from scratch. It’s held up really well through the upgrades but I’m kind of scared to try it on this one, because of the new structure.

I’m conflicted and I think my best option in this case is to wait until I’m not. I have a book to write and I’ve only written about 300 words today.

Dealing with issues that might come up because of an update going bad isn’t how I need to spend my day. I have too many websites to update to think nothing will go wrong (and I’ve had that happen often enough for me to know it’s a possibility). I hope it’ll be a seamless update for every one of them; I’ll be planning for it not to be!

Update: Well, I am not that happy with WordPress 5.0. I finally updated on a site with more posts and wrote one that used images and the first thing I found was that dragging and dropping an image once it was settled as a block within a paragraph block, it wasn’t coming out short of deleting and recreating it or going into the code editor and sorting through the junk (oh lord is there a lot of junk in there now) and then cutting and pasting it where I want it. [Yeah, I figured this one out, and let me just say that it was a PITA. I had to go search out the answer online. Make the image center aligned so it became its own block again, then move it above the paragraph you want it to merge into before you choose left or right alignment again. My god. Everything takes more steps in WP5. Even deleting a damn paragraph break takes extra keystrokes before two paragraph blocks will merge into one.]

I kind of think I’m not ever updating on any of my sites that matter to me. In fact, I’m now thinking I might just go back to static sites. Plain old HTML is looking pretty attractive right now. WordPress 5.0, not so much.

Looks like I’ll be stuck with the Classic Editor plug-in on the sites I did update until I make up my mind. One thing I can say for sure: I won’t be using WP5’s block editor as is. It wastes way too much of my time. I don’t write in damn blocks. I write, merge, delete, add, merge, delete, write, add, and shift text all over the place before I’m settled with a post. All those little blocks are meant for short-form writers. They sure as hell aren’t meant for me.

Update (the second): I have installed the 5.0 update (because I like keeping things updated for security reasons), but I did install the Classic Editor plug-in, and I’m going to stick with it. I’ve tried multiple additional posts with the block editor on a few sites as I updated them, and I just have to say that the new block editor is hideously inefficient. I tried to imagine what it would be like once I got used to it, but the sad truth is that it’s just a hassle. The blocks are unwieldy when I just want to do a few paragraphs, a quote, an image, and a quick publish. I won’t be using it. I guess someday I’m going to have to consider going back to static HTML or handwrite my own PHP site. But that worry is for another day!

Microsoft Word or LibreOffice Writer?

I’ve been telling myself for a while I needed to switch to LibreOffice Writer. I canceled my Office 365 subscription because I hated Word 2016 just that much. I spent three years as a subscriber and wasted good money on it and never could get used to it enough to actually use it. I used the OneDrive space and OneNote 2016. That was it.

I didn’t hate everything about it, not by far, but there was enough.

  • Lack of ClearType support. My computer really needs that—or maybe my eyes. Either way, the type in Word 2016 looks horrible and since I spend a lot of time staring at the type, that doesn’t work for me.
  • Styles and design tabs were reorganized into something that felt a lot less intuitive.
  • They made Excel green. I mean, I don’t hate green in principle, but I really hate that green. It doesn’t help that I love the blue of Excel 2007. (I am not so enamored with the gray of LibreOffice Calc, but hell, at least it isn’t green.)

There’s a more complete list of all the reasons I hate Word 2016, but suffice to say, I could not get used to it and never ended up writing more than half of one book in it.

HOWEVER.

Yeah. All caps.

I am finding it really difficult to switch to LibreOffice from Word 2007 and Excel 2007.

Calc is rough to look at every day compared to Excel 2007 while Writer has some annoying little glitches that make me want to open my documents in Word 2007 and just write.

  1. Writer jumps around sometimes, such as when I hide whitespace.
  2. Writer can’t find and replace ^P paragraph marks. That matters to me because I sometimes mistakenly put a space as the first letter of a paragraph and a quick search and replace before I do my final spell check takes care of that in Word.
  3. Lots of people say Word is unstable with large documents, but I haven’t found that to be true for me. I have a complete series file for each of my series. One is 570,462 words long. Opens just fine in Word, and searching the file is fast and easy.
  4. Calc loses my row height when I use the format painter to copy a format to a different cell. I’m really not sure what that’s about, but I use the format painter all the time, and ugh. I like my row heights the way they are and don’t want them changed, and they shouldn’t, because I’m copying a format from a row that’s already the height I like.
  5. I just really miss my routine. I like Word 2007 and Excel 2007.

My reasons for switching make sense, and I’ve already formatted a couple of paperbacks in LibreOffice Writer and YES, it is so much easier than Word once you figure out how the hell to use the page styles. You do have better control over the orphans and widows and hyphenation options. It really cut down on how much time it took to manually adjust my page spreads so things looked good.

But for the actual day to day writing? I miss Word 2007.

And as for Calc versus Excel, don’t even ask. I miss Excel 2007 like it’s a phantom arm. Calc can do everything I need it to do, and I still miss Excel 2007. That’s the one that’s killing me.

Sigh.

 

November 2018 progress

Despite my apparent failure when it came to NANO this year, November was actually a really solid month of writing. I did better than October. To find a better month when it comes to sheer word count, I have to go all the way back to October 2016.

So yeah, I’m pretty happy with November.

Words written in November: 31,928.

Most of those words were written the first half of the month. It was a strange month, for sure. But I finished a book in November too, so that’s good. It was my first of the year, so I’m especially happy about that.

And another bright note is that even as I finished that first book of 2018, I was getting deep into a second. That second book reached 21,886 words in November.

I’m not going to link to the other November progress posts since they’re the NANO posts, but here’s a link to that tag: NANO 2018. (Tags get reordered here a little too often so it’s possible this link will be defunct at some future date, so I’m saying sorry in advance. I love the idea of linking to tags but practically speaking, the links all break the moment I start futzing around with the tags.)