You’ll be pleased to know that this preamble is coming to end, but before we begin you had better make sure you have the tools to hand that we are going to use. As this guide is about LibreOffice (and/or OpenOffice), you are clearly going to need it. I will deal slightly later with why it is a good tool for formatting your novel, you’ll just have to trust me for now, as the explanation requires understanding a few technical details that we haven’t covered yet. But in case you’re reading this without knowing what LibreOffice is (‽), for now, all you need to know is that LibreOffice is a free, easy to use, feature packed office suite that knocks spots off of Microsoft Office. It is based on OpenOffice, which is another free office suite, which, a few years ago, was owned by SUN Microsystems, a large software company. When, slightly later, it was sold to NOVEL, another very large software company, they proceeded to piss off everyone who was working on it, causing them all to leave and set up LibreOffice.
As a result, LibreOffice can be thought of as the latest version of OpenOffice, so if you already have OpenOffice, replace it with LibreOffice. If you already have LibreOffice, make sure it is the latest version. If you don’t have either, go get LibreOffice. If for some reason you can’t upgrade OpenOffice to LibreOffice, they are currently both so similar that this guide should work for it too. Some of you might already have Microsoft Office, you can install LibreOffice alongside it, but you are better off just uninstalling Microsoft Office as it is a security risk and LibreOffice can read and write to all the Microsoft Office files (yep, the money you spent on Microsoft Office was completely wasted, deal with it).
Other than LibreOffice, you will also need an operating system to run it on. I’m going to be using Ubuntu and recommend it to you. It is free and can be installed alongside your old operating system (or can replace it). Go get it from www.ubuntu.com. However, if you don’t want to do this, you can use any operating system, just substitute in the programs I use with the equivalents supplied by your operating system.
The main tool, aside from LibreOffice, that you are going to need is a text editor (please note, a text editor is very different from a Word Processor!) I’m going to be using gedit. Any text editor will do, but one which understands XML will be a bonus (as they can do things like flag up formatting errors, which will save you lots of head scratching if you make a typo.) You will also need something to test the output with. If you have a kindle, use that else you will need a kindle emulator, you can get amzon’s from here or a quick google will find others. You will also need a PDF viewer and/or a printer to test the print copy, and it is worth grabbing Calibre too, as it can view many formats and has lots of useful tools for fiddling about with various different ebook formats. That should be all you need to get started.