LibreOffice Writer can use a dark theme — both for its UI and for the document itself:
It can also look much less cluttered, if you want it to:
Note that you can hide the main toolbar and Manjaro/Xfce’s taskbar, too. They are here just to give an idea of how it looks.
The procedure to make LO Writer use a dark theme and look less cluttered is exactly the same under Linux, Mac and Windows, which is great. But the result will vary depending on your operating system: almost everything works fine under Linux, while under macOS and Windows there are some visual gliches (part of the toolbars can on occasion stay light), and side panels don’t come with a dark theme at all.
Use a dark theme
Under Linux, if your desktop/window manager already uses a dark theme, LibreOffice should already be using a dark theme (at least it was the case under the Ubuntu I tried, and it is the case too under my Manjaro laptop).
If it doesn’t use it, or if you’re working under Windows or macOS, you can configure LibreOffice to use its own dark theme. It’s more of grayish color than a dark one, but at least that’s something. You will find it in Tools→Options→LibreOffice→Personnalization, check the Preinstalled Theme and select the grayish theme.
If you have trouble seeing your icons after activating this gray theme, go to Tools→Options→LibreOffice→View and select another Icon Style (anything ‘dark’ should do).
Great! Writer now has a dark UI. What about the document itself?
Make the document dark themed
Using this method should not impact your ability to print or share your documents with other people, as far as I can tell it only changes the way you see the document not the document itself — I have not tested it thoroughly, though. Here, a print preview in Writer of our test ‘dark’ document:
And the same test document opened in Word 365, on macOS:
So, to make the document use dark colors you go to Tools→Options→Application Colors. The bare minimum to change is:
- Document background, aka the color of your page.
If you use black or one of the darker gray, your text color should automaticaly witch to a lighter color. But you’re not limited to that and you can use any color you fancy: you’ll just have to remember to define a specific color for the text itself that works well with the background color you just defined:
- Font color. Automatic will make your text switch its color to stay contrasted against your dark background (only with the darker gray and black background). If you select any other background color you must manually change the font color.
- Application background, aka Writer’s empty space around your document. I make the same color as the document itself. So, as soon as I turn off text markers and the shadow around the page, Writer really starts to look like a text editor: see below.
Just don’t close this window yet, you may want to tweak two more settings in this list.
Hide the remaining clutter
I don’t like my screen to be filled with stuff all the time. Also, since I don’t write for print, I don’t care much about the ‘page’ — its margins and borders are of no use to me: I only care about word count and basic styles (headings, italics, bold, links, even images…). That’s why, most of the time, I don’t use a word processor but a text editor, and Markdown for basic styles, but when I use a traditional word processor, I like it to behave like a styled text editor.
- To remove the shadow/border around the page (and make it look like the second screenshot in this post): Tools→Options→LibreOffice→Personnalization and uncheck Shadow, somewhere in the list of colors (you can also define another color, btw).
- To remove the text markers on each page, uncheck Text boundaries, below in this list.
You can now close this window. We won’t need it anymore.
- To remove the empty top and bottom margins and the empty space between two pages (neat, when on a smaller screen, to be able to see more text), go to View→Hide Whitespace. Alas, the feature is bugged and you’ll need to reactivate it every time you (re)open a document, but at least it’s there.
- To remove any toolbar, go to View→Toolbars. You will have to do it for each toolbar you want to remove.
- To hide the rulers, go to View→Rulers. If you need them later, press Shift+Ctrl+r.
There are other ways to keep Writer less cluttered and make it look exactly like you want it to. Learning to use Styles is very useful, as it is to modify margins, to select another paper format: A5 is narrower than A4, and it is also much more suited if you intend to share your finished document as PDF that will be read on tablets, btw since it will give yoyu a better approximation of what the final PDF will look like on the reader’s screen.
But the most efficient trick to reduce clutter is to learn Writer’s many keyboard shortcuts, or to create your own when there is none for a specifc command you often use. Not only shortcuts let you kept hidden all the menus and panel but, no matter what you want to do, they are also much faster than using a mouse to click through menus and on buttons.
For example, unless you make constant changes in your custom Styles, you probably don’t need to see the Style drawer that often. Press F11 to toggle its visibility when you need to see it, press it again to send it back to oblivion.
Even better: since you can assign your own keyboard shortcuts to every single Style (and to almost any of Writer’s menus), you don’t even need to access the Style drawer to apply a Style (you only need it to modify a Style). To define a shorcut fo your Styles (and/or menus) go to Tools→Customize… — it’s a bit messy to configure them, but once it’s done you don’t have to do it anymore.
Here are some of the shortcuts I most frequently use:
- Show/hide the Navigator, in order to list my headings and quickly go from one to another: F5 or Ctrl+F5.
- Quickly apply any style: I defined custom shortcuts to the few I really need: Shift+Ctrl+N for “Default Text” (using the same shortcut as the Normal style, under Word that, after all theses years is ingrained in my fingers), Shift+Ctrl+A for heading 1, Shift+Ctrl+B for heading 2, and so on.
- Show/hide the Style Panel, for the rare occasions when I need to use a Style without a direct shortcut: F11.
- Center text, Ctrl+E.
- Show/hide the Status bar, I use it for a single reason: to see the actual word count. Since I can’t customize it and remove all the other information it throws at me, I’d rather hide it the rest of the time. I assigned the F2 shortcut (why not F1? Because one can not reassign F1 (the integrated help).
- Toggle full-screen view. If you don’t feel confident to remove all your toolbars and panels, this one is great since it will temporarily hide everything and (including your OS’s menu/taskbar) and let you write in full screen: Shift+Ctrl+J.
- Switch to Web View: press Alt+V then press w. See next section for more info on Web view.
- Switch to Normal (page) View: press Alt+v, then n.
Writer comes with two view modes: Normal and Web view (the first two entries in the View menu).
Normal View will display the document like any word processor would do: as one or more pages with margins, a fixed paper size, page breaks and everything that give you the illusion to see a sheet of paper on your screen — the WYSISWYG part of any word processor.
Web view, on the contrary, gets rid of the page and leaves you with only your text (and images), Styles and an infinite scroll of text, without borders or margins, without page breaks. Of course all of these still exists and are preserved, it is just a different way of displaying your content.
I find Web view mode very useful when I take notes while reading some PDF or doing research: I want my PDF as big as possible and make Writer as narrow as possible, since I don’t need that much space to take my notes but I want the PDF to be comfortable to read.
Don’t mind the colors: I have a very bad eyesight and I can’t read (or write) dark text on a light background. So, like my word processor, my PDF reader uses custom (inverted) colors too ;)
- Is it possible to do the same for Microsoft Word? Sure, I wrote aout it here: A True Dark Mode for Microsoft Word.
- You’ll also find some info on my ‘Apple’ blog, in regards to accessibility, dark mode and inverted colors for macOS and iOS