Printing Books in OpenOffice

Open Office is a great free word processing tool but understanding how to setup and print a book in a word processing program is pretty confusing. Desktop publishing programs like Microsoft Publisher are more friendly in that regard, but cost a lot of money. The best solution is for us to master the free tool so we can forget about buying Micro$$$oft products all together.

In order to print a book in OpenOffice you only need to set up the page and printing options correctly. Start a new document and…

Step 1: Right Click on a blank area of your page and click Page.

Step 2: Go to the Page Tab if not there already and change the paper format to Width: 5.50″ and Height: 8.50″ and Orientation to Landscape. You can change the margins to 5. or .6 all the way around if you want. The default option, which is .75 wastes a lot of space. Some people recommend not using a margin of less than .6, but I use .5 without any trouble. The Layout settings should be Page layout: Right and Left and the Format: 1,2,3… Click OK.

Step 3. Write your document as normal using whatever kind of headers, footers, footnotes, endnotes, and text body you want. If the sum of your pages is not a multiple of four when you are done however make sure you add a few blank pages to the end of your document until it is.

Master Notes: Open Office will add blank pages to the end of the document automatically during printing if you print after the method I am detailing here, but it is a good practice to add these pages manually so you will not run into problems printing the document in other programs.

Remember to add blank pages for aesthetics too between things like title pages and the start of chapters etc.

The first page with text on it will be a “right hand page” so make sure that all blank pages added for aesthetics are left hand pages (the pages right after right hand pages). In other words if you have a title page make sure that’s the first page and then follow it by a blank page and then the next page should have text. This is how professional books are done. It wastes space, but looks better.

Step 4. When you are ready to print click File-Print and on the General tab choose a Range and copies of one copy, but not all pages. Click Pages and enter a range as I explain to you below.

Master Notes: The amount of pages will be a range. This is bit complicated, but not that hard to figure out. The range will always be a multiple of four. If your book only has four pages then the range will be 1-4. That makes one sheet of paper with four pages printed on it. Folded in half that sheet of paper stands alone as a signature (a collected group of pages) of only one page. But if your book has eight pages you will need to print 1-8 which will make two sheets of paper, each with four pages on them which will be gathered together into one signature (that signature then, speaking redundantly, would be made up of two sheets of paper, with four pages on each sheet.) If your book has twelve pages you will need to print 1-12 and so on.

You may think then that we could simply tell the computer to print all the pages regardless of the length of the book. But we can not. Why not? Because we are making signatures. A long book can not be made up of one signature because when paper is folded in half the outer pages lose some of their marginal space in the middle of the page being folded over the inner pages. The inner most pages stick out a bit and the outer pages recede a bit which is why professionally produced books are guillotined to make the page edges basically even.

Regardless of whether the book is guillotined however the signatures can only be so large before the difference between the way the inner and outer pages are folded causes problems.

For that reason a signature can only be so large depending on the thickness of the paper and the strength of the crease which is used to fold the sheets in half.

How many sheets of paper your signature has is up to you. Too little and the paper will more easily tear when sewing the signatures together. Too many and the edge of your book will be seriously uneven unless you can guillotine it with a special machine and far too many will cause marginal difference from page to page which can cause problems or at least be detracting.

As a good starting practice try making your books from signatures that has only six sheets of paper (which means each signature would have 24 pages printed on it). Then go from there adjusting the page count by four pages at a time (one sheet of paper).

If you book has a lot of pages then set your range to 1-24 for the first printing. Then when that is done you’ll print 25-48 and so on.

Step 5. Go to the Page Layout tab and change Layout to Brochure. (The default Order is left to right, then down but it doesn’t matter because we are using the Brochure option).

And change Page sides to Include Front Sides / right pages for the first time you print pages 1-24 and then you’ll choose Back sides / left pages after you reinsert the pages that already have been printed for the first signature.

Step 6. Click OK.

Step 7. The pages 1-24 will print but front side only. When that is done take those pages out of the receiving tray of the printer and put them back into the feeding try without flipping them or turning them. On most printers when you reinsert the pages you’ll be able to see text on the side facing up. That is correct. Now print the same range against (1-24) but as described in Step 5 change the Page sides to Include Back sides / left pages. The thing which is confusing is the phrase “right pages” and “left pages” because in this case we are not regarding that (because we are in fact printing two pages on each page anyway so we don’t have to think about that at all in this case). We are only concerned with “front side” or “backside.” Since we already printed the front sides in Step 6 we print the backsides in Step 7.

Step 8. Fold the signatures as you would to make a book.

Step 9. Print the next range of pages 25-48; first the front sides and then the backsides. And continue in like manner until the book is done.

Step 10. Sew your signatures together and bind them into your cover as with any book.