in Writing tips

OpenOffice or LibreOffice drop caps

Drop-caps in LibreOffice/OpenOffice… Wonderful things, when they work. Nasty, evil things when they don’t. I hasten to add, you should never use this for commercial print as it lacks certain subtle, but important, features. I suggest you learn LaTeX instead – it’s well worth scaling the steep learning curve. There’s a brief tutorial and sample project here

I used this for an early print-test, so if you just want some quick-and-dirty solutions, feel free to follow this guide.

For my printed novel, I wanted drop-caps at the beginning of a chapter. Unfortunately, it causes problems if the first paragraph is a single, short sentence. For longer paragraphs, a drop-cap spanning two or more lines works fine but if the paragraph is short the first character doesn’t get dropped to span the lines. Instead, it is shrunk to normal proportions, and sits above the next paragraph.

The workaround for this problem is to use an alternative/soft line-break.

In this tutorial I am using print marks to show newlines and spaces.

Create the paragraph as normal and set it to use drop-caps (note the grey boxed drop-cap):dropcaps1


As you can see in the above image, the drop-cap (the A) is shrunk. So…I temporarily delete the line break as below, making the two paragraphs into one long paragraph.dropcaps2


Now, pressing shift-enter will break the line without breaking the text into separate paragraphs as below – this enables the drop-cap to fall onto the next line:dropcaps3


The downside is that the justify (I’m using justified text) looks horrid, so the solution is to left-justify the text for the paragraph:dropcaps4


And…voila! One nice drop-cap that spans two lines without being a continuation of the same paragraph. Ideal for chapters that begin with dialogue or a short line.