General Glossary

This glossary includes explanations of some of the most important terms you will come across in LibreOffice.

Use the glossary to look up unfamiliar terms found in any LibreOffice application.

Context Menu

To activate the context menu of an object, first click the object with the mouse button to select it, and then, . Some context menus can be called even if the object has not been selected. Context menus are found just about everywhere in LibreOffice.


Abbreviation for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. ASCII is a character set for displaying fonts on personal computers. It consists of 128 characters including letters, numbers, punctuation and symbols. The extended ASCII character set contains 256 characters. Each character has been assigned a unique number, also referred to as ASCII Code.

In HTML pages, only characters from the 7 Bit ASCII character set should appear. Other characters, such as German umlauts, are distinguished by way of a separate code. You can input extended ASCII code characters: the LibreOffice export filter performs the necessary conversion.

BĂ©zier Object

Developed by the French mathematician Pierre BĂ©zier, a BĂ©zier curve is a mathematically defined curve used in two-dimensional graphic applications. The curve is defined by four points: the initial position and the terminating position, and two separate middle points. BĂ©zier objects can be modified by moving these points with the mouse.

Complex Text Layout (CTL)

Languages with complex text layout may have some or all of the following features:

Currently, LibreOffice supports Hindi, Thai, Hebrew, and Arabic as CTL languages.

Enable CTL support using - Languages and Locales - General.


DDE stands for "Dynamic Data Exchange," which is a predecessor of OLE, "Object Linking and Embedding". With DDE, objects are linked through file reference, but not embedded.

You can create a DDE link using the following procedure: Select cells from a Calc spreadsheet, copy them into the clipboard and switch to another spreadsheet and select the Edit - Paste Special dialog. Select the Link option to insert the contents as a DDE link. When activating a link, the inserted cell area will be read from its original file.

Direct and Style Formatting

A style is a set of formatting attributes, grouped and identified by a name (the style name). When you apply a style to an object, the object is formatted with the set of attributes of the style. Several objects of same nature can have the same style. As consequence, when you change the set of formatting attributes of the style, all objects associated with the style also change their formatting attributes accordingly. Use styles to uniformly format a large set of paragraphs, cells, and objects and better manage the formatting of documents.

When you do not use styles, and apply formatting attributes to parts of text directly, this is called Direct formatting (also called manual formatting). The formatting is applied only to the selected area of the document. If the document has several paragraphs, frames, or any other object, you apply direct formatting on each object. Direct formatting is available with the Format menu and with the Formatting toolbar.

A direct formatting attribute applied on a object overrides the corresponding attribute of the style applied to the object.


Some windows in LibreOffice, for example the Styles window and the Navigator, are "dockable" windows. You can move these windows, re-size them or dock them to an edge. On each edge you can dock several windows on top of, or alongside each other; then, by moving the border lines, you can change the relative proportions of the windows.

To undock and re-dock, holding down the key, double-click a vacant area in the window. In the Styles window, you can also double-click a gray part of the window next to the icons, while you hold down the key.

Docking (AutoHide)

On any window edge where another window is docked you will see a button which allows you to show or hide the window.


In a form document, a control must receive focus from the user in order to become active and perform its tasks. For example, users must give focus to a text box in order to enter text into it.

There are several ways to give focus to a control:


Formatting refers to the visual layout of text using a word-processing or DTP program. This includes defining the paper format, page borders, fonts and font effects, as well as indents and spacing. You can format text directly or with Styles provided by LibreOffice.

Half-width and Full-width Characters

Half-width and full-width are properties used to differentiate characters used by some East Asian languages and scripts, mainly Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK).

The Han characters, Hiragana and Katakana characters, as well as Hangul characters used by these scripts are usually of square shape, and on fixed-width (monospace) display they occupy space of two Latin/ASCII characters. They are therefore called full-width characters, while the letters in Latin alphabet, digits, and punctuation marks included in ASCII character set are called half-width characters.

For historical reasons, a set of square-shaped Latin letters, digits, and punctuation marks are also defined and used in CJK typography, in addition to or in place of their half-width counterparts. They are called full-width forms. Similarly, there are also half-width forms of the usually full-width Katakanas and Hangul Jamos, and they have narrower shapes instead of square ones. A character's half-width and full-width forms are essentially two ways of writing the same character, just like uppercase and lowercase forms of Latin alphabet. LibreOffice supports conversion between half-width and full-width, as well as ignoring width difference when matching text strings.


IME stands for Input Method Editor. A program that allows the user to enter complex characters from non-western character sets using a standard keyboard.


You can use the Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) API to connect to a database from LibreOffice. JDBC drivers are written in the Java programming language and are platform independent.


Kerning means increasing or decreasing the amount of space between pairs of letters to improve the overall appearance of the text.

The kerning tables contain information on which pairs of letters require more spacing. These tables are generally a component of a font.


The External Links command is found in the Edit menu. The command can only be activated when at least one link is contained in the current document. When you insert a picture, for example, you can either insert the picture directly into the document or insert the picture as a link.

When an object is inserted directly into a document, the document size increases by (at least) the size in bytes of the object. You can save the document and open it on another computer, and the inserted object will still be in the same position in the document.

If you insert the object as a link, only a reference to the file name is inserted. The file size of the document increases only by the path and file reference. If you open your document on another computer, however, the linked file must be in exactly the same position as given by the reference in order to view the object in the document.

Use Edit - External Links to see which files are inserted as links. The links can be removed if required. This will break the link and insert the object directly.

Numeral System

A numeral system is determined by the number of digits available for representing numbers. The decimal system, for instance is based on the ten digits (0..9), the binary system is based on the two digits 0 and 1, the hexadecimal system is based on 16 digits (0...9 and A...F).


Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) is a protocol norm with which applications can access database systems. The query language used is Structured Query Language (SQL). In LibreOffice, you can determine for each database whether to use SQL commands to run queries. Alternatively, you can use the interactive help to define your query by mouseclick and have it automatically translated into SQL by LibreOffice.


Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) objects can be linked to a target document or may also be embedded. Embedding inserts a copy of the object and details of the source program in the target document. If you want to edit the object, simply activate the source program by double-clicking on the object.

If an OLE object is linked to a target document, then the target document must be available in the location specified in the link. Deleting or moving the target document will make it impossible to open the linked OLE object. You can use the Save URLs relative to file system option in the General section of Load/Save Options to configure your system to save links relative to your filesystem.


An object is a screen element containing data. It can refer to application data, such as text or graphics.

Objects are independent and do not influence each other. Any object containing data can be assigned certain commands. For example, a graphic object has commands for image editing and a spreadsheet contains calculation commands.


OpenGL represents a 3D graphics language, initially developed by SGI (Silicon Graphics Inc). Two dialects of this language are commonly used: Microsoft OpenGL, developed for use under Windows NT, and Cosmo OpenGL made by SGI. The latter represents an independent graphics language for all platforms and all kind of computers, even usable on machines without special 3-D graphics hardware.


Portable Network Graphics (PNG) is a graphic file format. The files are compressed with a selectable compression factor, and, as opposed to the JPG format, PNG files are always compressed without any information loss.

Page line-spacing (register-true)

In LibreOffice, the register-true feature is called Page line-spacing.

Page line-spacing refers to the coincident imprint of the lines within a type area on the front and the back side of a page. The page line-spacing feature makes a page easier to read by preventing gray shadows from shining through between the lines of text. The page line-spacing term also refers to lines in adjacent text columns, where lines in different columns use the same vertical grid, thereby aligning them vertically with each other.

Page line-spacing printing is particularly useful for documents that will have two pages set next to each other (for example, in a book or brochure), for multi-column layouts, and for documents intended for double-sided printing.

Primary key

A primary key serves as a unique identifier of database fields. The unique identification of database fields is used in relational databases, to access data in other tables. If reference is made to a primary key from another table, this is termed a foreign key.

In LibreOffice, you define the primary key in the design view of a table, by choosing the relevant command from the context menu of a row header for the selected field.


Rich Text Format (RTF) is a file format developed for the exchange of text files. A special feature is that the formatting is converted into directly readable text information. Unfortunately, in comparison to other file formats, this creates relatively large files.

Relational Database

A relational database is a collection of data items organized as a set of formally described tables from which data can be accessed or reassembled in many different ways without having to reorganize the database tables.

A relational database management system (RDBMS) is a program that lets you create, update, and administer a relational database. An RDBMS takes Structured Query Language (SQL) statements entered by a user or contained in an application program and creates, updates, or provides access to the database.

A good example of a relational database can be given with a database containing Customer, Purchase, and Invoice tables. In the Invoice table, there is no actual customer or purchasing data; however, the table contains references through a relational link, or a relation, to the respective customer and purchasing table's fields (for example, the customer ID field from the customer table).


Structured Query Language (SQL) is a language used for database queries. In LibreOffice you can formulate queries either in SQL or interactively with the mouse.

SQL Database / SQL Server

An SQL database is a database system which offers an SQL interface. SQL databases are often used in client/server networks in which different clients access a central server (for example, an SQL server), hence they are also called SQL server databases, or SQL servers for short.

In LibreOffice, you can integrate external SQL databases. These may be located on your local hard disk as well as on the network. Access is achieved through ODBC, JDBC, or a native driver integrated into LibreOffice.

Saving Relatively and Absolutely

In various dialogs (for example, Tools - AutoText) you can select whether you want to save files relatively or absolutely.

If you choose to save relatively, the references to embedded graphics or other objects in your document will be saved relative to the location in the file system. In this case, it does not matter where the referenced directory structure is recorded. The files will be found regardless of location, as long as the reference remains on the same drive or volume. This is important if you want to make the document available to other computers that may have a completely different directory structure, drive or volume names. It is also recommended to save relatively if you want to create a directory structure on an Internet server.

If you prefer absolute saving, all references to other files will also be defined as absolute, based on the respective drive, volume or root directory. The advantage is that the document containing the references can be moved to other directories or folders, and the references remain valid.

Spin button

  1. In form controls, a spin button is a property of a numerical field, currency field, date field, or time field. If the property "Spin button" is enabled, the field shows a pair of symbols with arrows pointing to opposing directions, either vertically or horizontally.

  2. In the Basic IDE, a spin button is the name used for the numerical field together with the two arrow symbols.

You can type a numerical value into the field next to the spin button, or select the value with the Up Arrow or Down Arrow symbols on the spin button. On the keyboard you can press the Up Arrow and Down Arrow keys to increase or reduce the value. You can press the Page Up and Page Down keys to set the maximum and minimum value.

If the field next to the spin button defines numerical values, you can also define a measurement unit, for example, 1 cm or 5 mm, 12 pt or 2".

Widows and Orphans

Widows and orphans are historical typography terms, which have been in use for many years. A widow refers to a short line at the end of a paragraph, which when printed, appears alone at the top of the next page. An orphan is, in contrast, the first line of a paragraph printed alone at the bottom of the previous page. In a LibreOffice text document you can automatically prevent such occurrences in the desired Paragraph Style. When doing so, you can determine the minimum amount of lines to be kept together on a page.

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