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ODF::lpOD::TextElement - Basic text containers


All the text content of a document belong to paragraphs. Paragraphs may be included in various structured containers (such as tables, sections, and others) introduced in other manual pages. Some particular paragraphs have a hierarchical level and are called headings. A paragraph have a style, but some text segments in a paragraph, so-called text spans, may have particular styles. In addition, a paragraph may include special markup elements, namely bookmarks, index marks, bibliography marks, and notes.

Paragraphs and headings are represented by odf_paragraph and odf_heading objects in the lpOD library. odf_heading is a subclass of odf_paragraph, which in turn is a subclass of odf_element.

Paragraph creation and retrieval

Text element creation

A paragraph can be created with a given style and a given text content. The default content is an empty string. There is not default style; a paragraph can be created without explicit style, as long as the default paragraph style of the document is convenient for the application. The style and the text content may be set or changed later.

Paragraphs are instances of the odf_paragraph class, that is a short name for ODF::lpOD::Paragraph.

A paragraph is created (as a free element) using the odf_create_paragraph function, with a text and a style optional parameters. It may be attached later in a context through the standard append_element or insert_element method:

        $p = odf_create_paragraph(
                text    => 'My first paragraph',
                style   =>'TextBody'

odf_create_paragraph() is an exported alias for the create constructor of the odf_paragraph class, so the three following instructions are equivalent:

        $p = odf_create_paragraph(
                text => "the text", style => "stylename"
        $p = odf_paragraph->create(
                text => "the text", style => "stylename"
        $p = ODF::lpOD::Paragraph->create(
                text => "the text", style => "stylename"

A heading may be created in a similar way using odf_create_heading. However, this constructor allows not only the text and style options, but much more parameters:

  • level that indicates the hierarchical level of the heading (default 1, i.e. the top level);

  • restart numbering, a boolean which, if true, indicates that the numbering should be restarted at the current heading (default FALSE);

  • start value to restart the heading numbering of the current level at a given value;

  • suppress numbering, a boolean which, if true, indicates that the heading must not be numbered (default FALSE).

The option names may be used "as is" (between quotes) or with underscore characters instead of white spaces (i.e. "start value" may be replaced by start_value, and so on).

Each of these properties may be retrieved or changed later using get_xxx or set_xxx accessors, where xxx is the name of the optional parameter (and where any space is replaced by a "_").

If a start value is set using the set_start_value accessor, then the restart numbering boolean is silently set to TRUE.

The following example creates a level 2 heading that will be numbered 5 whatever the sequence of previous headings:

        my $h = odf_create_heading(
                text                    => "The new level 2 heading"
                style                   => "Heading2",
                level                   => 2,
                'start value'           => 5,
                'restart numbering'     => TRUE

A heading is an instance of odf_heading (alias ODF::lpOD::Heading).

Text element retrieval

Paragraphs and headings may be retrieved using dedicated context-based methods.


Returns a heading element. By default, the returned element is the first heading in the context. However, optional attributes allows the user to specify search conditions:

  • level: restricts the search to the headings of the given level;

  • position: The sequential zero-based position of the heading among other headings in the order of the document; negative positions are counted backward from the end; this option allows the application to select another heading than the first one of the given context;

  • content: a search string (or a regexp) restricting the search space to the headings with matching content.

This instruction returns the last level 1 heading:

        $h = $context->get_heading(
                level           => 1,
                position        => -1


Takes the same arguments as get_heading, without the position, and returns the list of the heading elements that meet the conditions.

Alternatively, get_headings() can return all the headings up to a given level. To do so, the user must set a all boolean option to TRUE (knowing its default value is FALSE). As an example, the following instruction returns all the headings whose level is not greater than 3:

        @contents = $doc->get_headings(level => 3, all => TRUE);

Without specified level, get_headings() returns all the headings whatever the value of the all option.


A paragraph can be retrieved in a given context using get_paragraph with the appropriate content and/or position options like a heading, but without the level option. However, an optional style parameter allows to restrict the search to paragraphs using a given style. The example below returns the 5th paragraph using the "Standard" style and containing "ODF":

        $p = $context->get_paragraph(
                style           => "Standard",
                content         => "ODF",
                position        => 4


Without argument, returns all the paragraphs in the context. Restrictions are possible using the same options as get_paragraph without, of course, the position option.

Paragraph & heading property accessors


The style of a paragraph or a header may be read or changed at any time using get_style or set_style. With set_style, the argument is the name of a paragraph style that may exist or that will be created later.

Text content


The paragraph/heading version of set_text produces the same effects as the common set_text method (see ODF::lpOD::Element), with additional features.

The tabulation marks ("\t") and line breaks ("\n") are allowed in the given texts. Multiple contiguous spaces are allowed, too, and silently replaced by the corresponding ODF-compliant constructs. For example, the instruction below stores a multi-line content in a paragraph:

        $paragraph->set_text("First line\nSecond line\nThird line");

Caution: Remember that set_text deletes any previous content in the calling element.


Like the common get_text method (see ODF::lpOD::Element), the paragraph- based version of get_text returns the text content of the paragraph. However, in a paragraph (or heading), get_text processes the tabs, line breaks, and multiple space elements in a ODF-compliant way. it returns the whole displayable text content of the paragraph, without markup (the exported text is "flattened" whatever the possible use or various text styles in the paragraph). However, the various objects possibly inserted in the text, such as notes, text fields and so on, are not exported by default.

If the recursive option is set to TRUE, get_text() provides a flat export of the concatenated text contents of all the elements included in the paragraph (including notes, fields and so on).

Other properties

All the properties that may be set through odf_create_heading may be read or set later using corresponding get_xxx or set_xxx attributes. These properties are allowed for headings only.

Text processing inside a paragraph

The traditional string editing methods (i.e. regex-based search & replace functions) are available against the text content of a paragraph.

search() is a element-based method which takes a search string (or a regular expression) as argument and returns the offset of the first substring matching the argument in the text content of the element. A null return value means no match. In case of success, the method returns a data structure whose attributes are the text node (segment), the offset in the segment (offset), and the matching substring itself (match).

The search space includes all the text children and descendants of the calling context.

replace() is a context-based method. It takes two arguments, the first one being a search string like with search(), the second one a text which will replace any substring matching the search string. The return value of the method is the total number of matches. If the second argument is an empty string, every matching substring is just deleted without replacement. If the second argument is missing, then nothing is changed, and the method just behaves as count_matches() (see below). This method is context-based, so it recursively works on all the paragraphs, headers and spans below the calling element; the calling element may be any ODF element, including the elements that can't directly own a text content. It may be called at the document level. The return value is the number of replacements done.

count_matches(), whose argument is a search expression, returns the number of matches in the context. Note that this number is not the number of elements whose content matches the expression, because several matches may occur in the content of the same element.

Text spans and hyperlinks

A paragraph may contain special markup elements. A text span is a particular substring whose style is not the paragraph style; it's a "sub-paragraph" with its own style. A hyperlink is a variant of text span; it associates a text segment with a URL instead of a style.

Text spans

A style span is created through the set_span method from the object that will contain the span. This object is a paragraph, a heading or an existing styling span. The method must be called with a style named parameter whose value should be the name of any text style (common or automatic, existing or to be created in the same document). set_span may use a string or a regular expression, which may match zero, one or several times the text content of the calling object, so the spans can apply repeatedly to every substring that matches. The string is provided through a filter parameter. Alternatively, set_span may be called with given offset and length parameters, in order to apply the span once whatever the content. Note that offset is an offset that may be a positive integer (starting to 0 for the 1st position), or a negative integer (starting to -1 for the last position) if the user prefers to count back from the end of the target. If the length parameter is omitted or set to 0 the span runs up to the end of the target content. If offset is out of range, nothing is done; if offset is OK, extra length (if any) is ignored. The following instructions create two text spans with a so-called "HighLight" style; the first one applies the given style to any "The lpOD Project" substring while the second one does it once on a fixed length substring at a given offset, $p being the target paragraph:

        $p->set_span(filter => 'The lpOD Project', style => 'HighLight');
        $p->set_span(offset => 3, length => 5, style => 'HighLight');

See ODF::lpOD::Style for details about the text styles.

The return value of set_span() is the newly created text span object (if any). This object, whose class is odf_text-element (alias ODF::lpOD::TextElement) may be used as the context for a subsequent call of set_span() (knowing that spans may be nested) or other markup insertion methods such as set_hyperlink(), set_bookmark(), and so on. The return value is undef in case of failure.

set_span() may work repeatedly even if offset is defined, if the repeat option is set to TRUE. So the instruction below applies the given text style to every matching substring whose location is after the given offset:

                filter  => 'lpOD',
                style   => 'HighLight',
                offset  => 15,
                repeat  => TRUE

Symmetrically, set_span() will not work repeatedly if repeat is explicitly set to FALSE, even if offset is not defined.

If either offset is not defined or repeat is set to TRUE, set_span() returns the list of newly created text spans, or the first one only in scalar context.

Note that set_span() can't apply a style to a substring split over two or more text nodes. For example, if the given filter is "Open Document" and if there is a bookmark or any other markup element between "Open" and "Document", there is no possible match. For the same reason, there is no match if the substring is already split due to a previously defined span.

To illustrate this last principle, the following instruction, that should create a span covering the whole content of the calling paragraph, will stop at the first visible or invisible internal markup, because ".*" means the whole content of a text node, not the whole content of the paragraph:

                filter  => ".*",
                style   => "HighLight",
                repeat  => FALSE

The numeric offset is not the only area restriction parameter. Thanks to the start mark and/or end mark options, this area may be delimited by previously existing markup elements. As an example, the following sequence applies a style to the whole text content between two bookmarks (supposedly existing in the paragraph):

        $bm1 = $p->get_bookmark("BM1");
        $bm2 = $p->get_bookmark("BM2");
                filter          => ".*",
                style           => "HighLight",
                'start mark'    => $bm1,
                'end mark'      => $bm2

The given delimitation marks may be bookmarks, index marks, bibliography marks or any other elements (including previously existing text spans). If start mark is set, end mark is not mandatory and vice versa.

If start mark and offset are provided, then the offset is counted from the position of the start mark.

Warning: A text span can cover a flat text segment only; as a consequence, set_span() can't install a text span that would include any breaking object, such as a tabulation mark ("\t"), a new line ("\n"), a multiple space, a text bookmark, and so on.

A hyperlink span is created through set_hyperlink, which allows the same positioning options as set_span().

However, there is a url parameter instead of a style one. The value of url is any kind of path specification that is supported by the end user's ODF viewer; this value is not checked.

A hyperlink span can't contain any other span, while a style span can contain one or more spans. As a consequence, the only one way to provide a hyperlink span with a text style consists of embedding it in a style span.

As an example, the instruction below applies the "HighLight" text style to every "ODF" and "OpenDocument" substring in the $p context:

        $p->set_span(filter => 'ODF|OpenDocument', style => 'HighLight');

The following example associates an hyperlink in the last 5 characters of the $p container (note that the length parameter is omitted, meaning that the hyperlink will run up to the end):

        $p->set_hyperlink(offset => -5, url => '');

The sequence hereafter show the way to set a style span and a hyperlink for the same text run. The style span is created first, then it's used as the context to create a hyperlink span that spreads over its whole content:

        $s = $p->set_span(
                filter  => 'The lpOD Project',
                style   => 'Outstanding'
                filter  => ".*",
                url     => ''

The set_hyperlink() method allows additional options regarding the link properties, namely:

  • name: a significant name, distinct from the URL;

  • title: a link title;

  • style: a text style, corresponding to the "unvisited" state;

  • visited style: a text style, to apply when the state is "visited".

    Note that the two style-related options, if set, override the default styling for the "visited" and "unvisited" states.

Bookmarks and index marks

A bookmark is either a place holder that specifies a particular offset in the text of a paragraph, or a named text segment that may spread over more than one paragraph. An index mark is a particular bookmark that may be used in order to create a document index.


A position bookmark is a location mark somewhere in a text container, which is identified by a unique name, but without any content. Its just a named location somewhere in a text container.

By default, the bookmark is created and inserted using set_bookmark() before the first character of the content in the calling element (which may be a paragraph, a heading, or a text span). As an example, this instruction creates a position bookmark before the first character of a paragraph:


This very simple instruction is appropriate as long as the purpose in only to associate a significant and persistent name to a text container in order to retrieve it later (with an interactive text processor or by program with lpOD or another ODF toolkit). It's probably the most frequent use of bookmarks. However, the API offers more sophisticated functionality.

Note that a large part of the positioning options allowed for bookmarks work with almost all the objects that may be inserted within a text content, such as index marks, bibliography marks, and others. So a basic knowledge of the set_bookmark() positioning logic is recommended, even if you don't need to put bookmarks in your documents.

The offset can be explicitly provided by the user with a offset parameter. Alternatively, the user can provide a regular expression using a before or after parameter, whose value is a search string (or a regexp) so the bookmark is set immediately before or after the first substring that matches the expression. The code below illustrates these possibilities:

        $paragraph->set_bookmark("BM1", before => "xyz");
        $paragraph->set_bookmark("BM2", offset => 4);

This method returns the new bookmark element (that is an odf_element) in case of success, or a null value otherwise.

When the bookmark must be put at the very end of the calling element, the offset parameter may be set to 'end' instead of a numeric value.

For performance reasons, the uniqueness of the given name is not checked. If needed, this check should be done by the applications, by calling get_bookmark() (with the same name and from the root element) just before set_bookmark(); as long as get_bookmark() returns a null value, the given bookmark name is not in use in the context.

There is no need to specify the creation of a position bookmark; set_bookmark() creates a position bookmark by default; an additional role parameter is required for range bookmarks only, as introduced later.

The first instruction in the last example sets a bookmark before the first substring matching the given expression (here "xyz"), which is processed as a regular expression. The second instruction sets a bookmark in the same paragraph at a given (zero-based), so before the 5th character.

In order to put a bookmark according to a regexp that could be matched more than once in the same paragraph, it's possible to combine the offset and text options, so the search area begins at the given offset. The following example puts a bookmark at the end of the first substring that matches a given expression after a given offset:

        $paragraph->set_bookmark("BM3", offset => 4, after => "xyz");

Thanks to the generic set_attribute() and set_attributes() methods, the user can set or unset any arbitrary attribute later, without automatic compliance check. In addition, arbitrary attributes may be set at the creation time (without check) using an optional attributes parameter, whose content is a hash ref of attribute/value pairs (like with set_attributes()).

A bookmark can be retrieved by its unique name using get_bookmark() from any element (including the root context).

The ODF element that contains the bookmark then can be obtained as the parent of the bookmark element, using the get_parent() method from the retrieved bookmark. Alternatively, get_element_by_bookmark(), whose argument is a bookmark name, directly returns the element that contains the bookmark. However, a bookmark may belong to a text span, that in turn may belong to another text span, and so on. In order to directly get the real paragraph or heading element that contains the bookmark (whatever the possible intermediate hierarchy of sub-containers), an additional get_paragraph_by_bookmark() method is available.

In the following example, the first instruction returns the text container (whatever its type, paragraph, heading or text span) where the bookmark is located, while the second one returns the paragraph or the heading that ultimately contains the bookmark (note that in many situations both will return the same element):

        $element = $context->get_element_by_bookmark("BM1");
        $element = $context->get_paragraph_by_bookmark("BM1");

get_element_by_bookmark() may be used with a tag option that specifies either the XML tag of the needed element, or a regexp that represents several possible elements. This feature is intended for users who have some knowledge of the OpenDocument XML vocabulary. If tag is provided, get_element_by_bookmark() returns the first element that directly or indirectly contains the bookmark, if any. For example, the instruction below returns the section that contains the specified bookmark, knowing that text:section is the standard tag for a section:

        $section = $context->get_element_by_bookmark(
                "BM1", tag => 'text:section'

The next example (using a regexp) returns the nearest object that contains the bookmark and whose tag ends by "cell" or by "frame", practically meaning a table cell or a draw frame, whose respective tags are table:table-cell and draw:frame:

        $object = $context->get_element_by_bookmark(
                "BM1", tag => qr'cell$|frame$'

The return value is undef if the bookmark is not found in the context or if it's not contained in a matching tag.

The remove_bookmark() method may be used from any context above the container or the target bookmark, including the document root, in order to delete a bookmark whatever its container. The only required parameter is the bookmark name.

A range bookmark is an identified text range which can spread across paragraph frontiers. It's a named content area, not dependent of the document tree structure. It starts somewhere in a paragraph and stops somewhere in the same paragraph or in a following one. Technically, it's a pair of special position bookmarks, so called bookmark start and bookmark end, owning the same name.

The API allows the user to create a range bookmark within an existing content, as well as to retrieve and extract it according to its name. Range bookmarks share some common functionality with position bookmarks

A range bookmark may be inserted using set_bookmark() like a position bookmark. However, this method must be sometimes called twice knowing that the start and end points aren't always in the same context. In such a situation, an additional role parameter is required. The value of role is either start or end, and the application must issue two explicit calls with the same bookmark name but with the two different values of role. Example:

                offset  => 12,
                role    => "start"
                offset  => 3,
                role    => "end"

The sequence above creates a range bookmark starting at a given offset in a paragraph and ending at another offset in another paragraph.

Knowing that the default offset is 0, and the last offset in a string is 'end', the following example creates a range bookmark that just covers the full content of a single paragraph::

                "AnotherBookmark", role => 'start'
                "AnotherBookmark", role => 'end', offset => 'end'

A range bookmark may be entirely contained in the same paragraph. As a consequence, it's possible to create it with a single call of set_bookmark(), with parameters that make sense for such a situation. If a content parameter, whose value is a regexp, is provided instead of the before or after option, the given expression is regarded as covering the whole text content to be enclosed by the bookmark, and this content is supposed to be entirely included in the calling paragraph. So the range bookmark is immediately created and automatically balanced. As soon as content is present, role is not needed (and is ignored). Like before and after, content may be combined with offset. In addition, the range bookmark is automatically complete and consistent.

Note that the following instruction::

        $paragraph->set_bookmark("MyRange", content => "xyz")

does exactly the same job as the sequence below (provided that the calling paragraph remains the same between the two instructions):

                "MyRange", before => "xyz", role => "start"
                "MyRange", after => "xyz", role => "end"

Another way to create a range bookmark in a single instruction is to provide a list of two offsets through the offset optional parameter. These two offsets will be processed as the respective offset parameters of the start en end elements, respectively.

        $paragraph->set_bookmark("MyRange", offset => [3,15]);

When two offsets are provided, the second offset can't be before the first one and the method fails if one of the given offsets is off limits, so the consistency of the bookmark is secured as soon as set_bookmark() returns a non-null value with this parameter.

Alternatively, it's possible to provide a length option. If this option is set and greater than 0, it's regarded as the range. As an example, the two following instructions produce the same effect:

        $paragraph->set_bookmark("MyRange", offset => [3, 8]);
        $paragraph->set_bookmark("MyRange", offset => 3, length => 5);

Note that if length is set while offset is not set, the range bookmark will start at offset 0.

The offset and content parameters may be combined in order to create a range bookmark whose content matches a given filter string in a delimited substring in the calling element. The next example creates a range bookmark whose content will begin before the first substring that matches a "xyz" expression contained in a range whose the 5 first characters and the 6 last characters are excluded:

                "MyRange", content => "xyz", offset => [5, -6]

When set_bookmark creates a range bookmark in a single instruction, it returns a pair of elements according to the same logic as get_bookmark (see below).

If the start offset is not before the end offset, a warning is issued and nothing is done.

The consistency of an existing range bookmark may be verified using the check_bookmark context-based method, whose mandatory argument is the name of the bookmark, and that returns TRUE if and only if the corresponding range bookmark exists, has defined start and end points and if the end point is located after the start point. This method returns FALSE if anyone of these conditions is not met (as a consequence, get_bookmark() may succeed while check_bookmark fails for the same bookmark name). Of course, check_bookmark always succeeds with a regular position bookmark, so, with a position bookmark, this method is just en existence check.

A range bookmark is not a single object; it's a pair of distinct ODF elements whose parent elements may differ. With a range bookmark, get_bookmark() returns the pair instead of a single element like with a position bookmark. Of course, the first element of the pair is the start point while the second one is the end point. So it's possible, with the generic element-based parent method, to select the ODF elements that contain respectively the start and the end points (in most situations, it's the same container).

The context-based get_element_by_bookmark, when the given name designates a range bookmark, returns the parent element of the start point by default. However, it's possible to use the same role options as with set_bookmark(); if the role value is 'end', then get_element_by_bookmark() will return the container of the end point (or null if the given name designates a position bookmark or an non-consistent range bookmark whose end point doesn't exist).

A get_bookmark_text() context-based method, whose argument is the name of a range bookmark, returns the text content of the bookmark as a flat string, without the structure; this string is just a concatenation of all the pieces of text occurring in the range, whatever the style and the type of their respective containers; however, the paragraph boundaries are replaced by blank spaces. Note that, when called with a position bookmark or an inconsistent range bookmark, get_bookmark_text() just returns an null value, while it always returns a string (possibly empty) when called from a regular range bookmark.

A range bookmark (consistent or not) may be safely removed through the remove_bookmark() method (which deletes the start point and the end point).

A range bookmark can be safely processed only if it's entirely contained in the calling context. A context that is not the whole document can contain a bookmark start or a bookmark end but not both. In addition, a bookmark spreading across several elements gets corrupt if the element containing its start point or its end point is later removed.

The remove_bookmark() method (which can be used at any level, including the document root) allows the applications to safely remove balanced and non-balanced range bookmarks. Nothing is done if the given bookmark is not entirely contained in the calling context element. The return value is TRUE if a bookmark has really been removed, or FALSE otherwise.

In addition, clean_marks() automatically removes non-balanced range bookmarks (as well as non-balanced index marks). Caution: this method is potentially harmful, knowing that a bookmark may be non-balanced in a given element while it's consistent at a higher level, knowing that its start and end points may belong to different paragraphs. On the other hand, it's always safe from the document root or body element.

Reference marks and fields

Reference marks

References marks are created according using set_reference_mark(), according to the same logic as bookmarks. The first argument is the unique reference name and all the options are the same as with set_bookmark(). Note that it's possible to create point references as well as range references.

When setting a range reference, it's recommended to put the start and the end in the same paragraph or heading.

Reference marks may be retrieved in the same way as bookmarks through the context-based get_reference_mark() and get_reference_marks() methods.

Reference fields

A reference mark, like a bookmark, may be the target of a reference field, that is a particular dynamic text field. A reference field is intended to display an information regarding a reference mark that is located elsewhere. A reference field may be set using set_reference() with the same positioning options as bookmarks or text fields, and the following specific named parameters:

  • type: the type of target, that may be reference (the default) or bookmark;

  • name: the name of the target bookmark or reference mark;

  • format: specifies what information about the reference is displayed; supported values are page (the default), chapter, direction, text, category-and-value, caption, and value; see section 6.6.5 in ODF 1.1 specification for details about these values.

As an example, the following sequence, assuming that $p1 and $p2 are two distinct paragraphs, puts a reference mark in $p1 and inserts a field that displays the chapter number of $p1 immediately after a given substring in $p2:

                type    => 'reference',
                format  => 'chapter'
                name    => "Here",
                after   => "see chapter "

Index marks

Index marks may be handled like bookmarks but their functionality differs. There are three kinds of index marks, namely:

  • lexical marks, whose role is to designate text positions or ranges in order to use them as entries for a lexical (or alphabetical) index;

  • toc marks, created to become the source for tables of contents (as soon as these tables of contents are generated from TOC marks instead of headings);

  • user marks, which allow the user to create custom indices (which could be ignored by the typical TOC or lexical index generation features of the office applications).

An index mark, just like a text bookmark, is either a mark associated to an offset in a text, or a pair of location marks that defines a delimited range of text.

An index mark is created in place using the set_index_mark() context-based method, according to the same basic logic as set_bookmark(), with some important differences:

  • because an index mark is not a named object, the first argument of set_index_mark is not really a name, like a bookmark name; this argument (which remains mandatory) is either a technical identifier, or a significant text, according to the kind of index mark;

  • for a position index mark (which, by definition, has no text content), the first argument is a text string that is displayed in the associated index (when this index is generated);

  • for a range index mark (which, by definition, has a text content), the first argument is only a meaningless but unique key that is internally used in order to associate the two ODF elements that represent the start point and the end point of the range; this key should not be displayed by a typical interactive text processor, and is not reliable as a persistent identifier knowing that an ODF-compliant application could silently change it as soon as the document is edited;

  • an additional type option, whose possible values are 'lexical', 'toc', and 'user', specifies the functional type; the default is 'lexical';

  • when the 'user' type is selected, an additional 'index name' parameter is required; its value is the name of the user-defined index that will (or could) be associated to the current index entry; this name could be regarded as the arbitrary name of an arbitrary collection of text marks;

  • According to the ODF 1.1 specification (§7.1.3), lexical bookmarks may have additional keys, so-called key1 and key2, and a boolean main entry attribute; these optional properties may be set (without automatic check) using the optional attributes parameter that allows the applications to add any arbitrary property to a bookmark or an index mark (the value of this parameter is a attribute/value hash ref);

  • if the index name argument is provided, the mandatory value of type is 'user'; as a consequence, if index name is set, the default type becomes 'user' and the type parameter is not required;

  • every 'toc' or 'user' index mark owns a level property that specifies its hierarchical level in the table(s) of contents that may use it; this property may be provided using a level optional parameter; its default value is 1;

  • according to the ODF 1.1 specification, the range of an index mark can't spread across paragraph boundaries, i.e. the start en end points must be contained in the same paragraph; as a consequence, a range index mark may (and should) be always created using a single set_index_mark;

  • like set_bookmark, set_index_mark returns a pair of ODF elements when it creates a range index mark; if the application needs to set particular properties (using the set_attribute generic method or otherwise) to the index mark, the first element of the pair (i.e. the start point element) must be used.

See set_bookmark() for details about the index mark positioning options.

The example hereafter successively creates, in the same paragraph, a range TOC mark, two range index marks associated to the same user-defined index, and a lexical position index mark at the default offset (i.e. before the first character of the paragraph):

                "id1", type => "toc", offset => [3,5]
                "id2", index_name => "OpenStandards", content => "XML"
                "id3", index_name => "OpenStandards", content => "ODF"
                "Go There", type => "lexical"

Note that the last instruction (unlike the preceding ones) uses a possibly meaningful text as the first argument instead of an arbitrary technical identifier. Because this instruction creates a lexical index entry, the given text will appear in the document as a reference to the paragraph as soon as a standard lexical index is generated (by the current program or later by an end-user office software).

There is a get_index_marks() context-based method that allows the applications to retrieve a list of index entries present in a document or in a more restricted context. This method needs a type parameter, whose possible values are the same as with set_index_mark(), in order to select the kind of index entries; the 'lexical' type is the default. If the 'user' type is selected, the name of the user-defined index must be provided too, through a index name parameter. However, if index name is provided, the 'user' type is automatically selected and the type parameter is not required.

The following example successively produces three lists of index marks, the first one containing the entries for a table of contents, the second one the entries of a standard lexical index, and the third one the entries dedicated to an arbitrary user-defined index::

        @toc = $document->get_root->get_index_marks(type => 'toc');
        @alphabetical_index = document->get_root->get_index_marks;
        @foo_index = $document->get_root->get_index_marks(
                index_name => "foo"

Bibliography marks

A bibliography mark is an element that specifies a relationship between a particular place in a paragraph and a bibliographic data structure. The lpOD API provides methods allowing to handle such objects.

A bibliography mark is a particular index mark. It may be used in order to store anywhere in a text a data structure which contains multiple attributes but whose only one particular attribute, so-called the identifier is visible at the place of the mark. All the other attributes, or some of them, may appear in a bibliography index, when such an index is generated (according to index format).

A bibliography mark is created using the set_bibliography_mark method from a paragraph, a heading or a text span element. Its placement is controlled with the same arguments as a position bookmark, i.e. offset, before or after (look at the Bookmarks section for details). Without explicit placement parameters, the bibliography mark is inserted at the beginning of the calling container.

Unlike set_bookmark(), set_bibliography_mark() doesn't require a name as its first argument, but it requires a named type parameter whose value is one of the publication types listed in the §7.1.4 of the ODF 1.1 specification (examples: 'article', 'book', 'conference', 'techreport', 'masterthesis', 'email', 'manual', 'www', etc). This predefined set of types is questionable, knowing that, for example, the standard doesn't tell us if the right type is 'www' or 'manual' for, say, a manual that is published through the web, but the user is responsible for the choice.

Beside the type parameter, a identifier parameter (that is not a real identifier in spite of its name) is supported. This so-called identifier, unlike a real identifier, is a label that will be displayed in the document at the position of the bibliography entry by a typical ODF-compliant viewer or editor and that will provide the end-user with a visible link between the bibliography mark in the document body and a bibliography index later generated elsewhere. Nothing in the ODF 1.1 specification prevents the applications from creating the same bibliography mark repeatedly, and from inserting different bibliography marks with the same "identifier".

The full set of supported parameters correspond to the list of possible attributes of the bibliography mark element, defined in the §7.1.4 of the ODF 1.1 specification. All them are text: attributes, but set_bibliography_mark allows the use of named parameters without the text prefix (examples: author, title, editor, year, isbn, url, etc). The instruction below inserts in a paragraph, immediately after the first occurrence of the "lpOD documentation" substring, a bibliography entry that represents the lpOD documentation, and whose visible label at the insertion point could be something like "[lpOD2010]" in a typical document viewer:

                identifier      => "lpOD2010",
                type            => "manual",
                after           => "lpOD documentation",
                year            => "2010",
                month           => "december",
                url             => "",
                editor          => "The lpOD Team"

The positioning parameters as the same as with set_bookmark() (the after parameter is used in this example), according to the same logic as for a position bookmark.

set_bibliography_mark() returns an ODF element whose any property may be set or changed later through the generic element-based set_attribute() method.

Knowing that there is no persistent unique name for this class of objects, there is a context-based get_bibliography_marks() method that returns the list of all the the bibliography marks. If this method is called with a string argument (which may be a regexp), the search is restricted to the entries whose so-called identifier property is defined and matches this argument. Each element of the returned list (if any) may be then checked or updated using the generic get_attribute(), get_attributes(), set_attribute(), and set_attributes() methods.


Footnote and endnote creation

These notes are created in place using the element-based set_note() method, that requires a note identifier (unique for the document) as its first argument, and the following note-specific parameters:

  • class or note_class: the class option, whose default is footnote;

  • citation: the citation mark (i.e. a formatted string representing the sequence number, see "Note citation" in ODF 1.1 §5.3.1);

  • label: the optional text label that should be displayed at the insertion point of the note; if this parameter is omitted, the displayed note label will be an automatic sequence number;

  • body: the content of the note, provided either as a list of one or more previously created ODF content elements (preferentially paragraphs), or as an already available note body element (produced, for example, by cloning the body of another note);

  • text: the content of the note, provided as a flat character string;

  • style: the name of the paragraph style for the content of the note.

The text and style parameters are ignored if body is provided, because body is supposed to be a list of one or more paragraphs, each one with its own style and content. The body option allows the applications to reuse an existing content for one or more notes in one or more documents. Without the body parameter, a paragraph is automatically created and filled with the value of text. If neither body nor text is provided, the note is created with an empty paragraph.

The list of ODF elements provided through the body parameter may contain almost any content object; neither the OpenDocument schema nor the lpOD level 1 API prevents the user from including notes into a note body; however the lpOD team doesn't recommend such a practice.

It's possible to create a note as a free element with odf_create_note, so it can be later inserted in place (and replicated for reuse in several locations in one or more documents), using general purpose insertion methods such as insert_element().

By default, set_note() inserts the new note at the beginning (i.e. as the first child element) of the calling element. However, it's possible to specify another position within the text content of the element, using the same positioning options as the set_bookmark() method, namely position, before, after, and so on (see set_bookmark()).

As an example, the following instruction inserts a footnote whose citation mark is an asterisk, with a given text content, immediately after the "xyz" substring in a paragraph:

                class   => 'footnote',
                after   => 'xyz',
                label   => '*',
                text    => 'The footnote content',
                style   => 'Note body'

set_note() returns the newly created object, that is available for later use.

Footnote and endnote retrieval

Once set somewhere in a document, a note may be retrieved the context-based get_note() method, with the note identifier as argument.

It's possible to extract a list of notes using the context-based get_notes(). Without argument, this method returns all the notes of the context. However, it's possible to provide the class, citation, and/or label parameters in order to select the notes that match them. The following example extract the endnotes whose citation mark is "5" in a given section:

        @end_notes = $section->get_notes(
                class           => "endnote",
                citation        => "1"

This method may allow the users to retrieve a note without knowledge of its identifier.

Footnote and endnote methods

Read accessors

  • get_id() the note identifier (generic element method);

  • get_class() the note class;

  • get_citation() the note citation;

  • get_label() the note label;

  • get_body() the root of the note body, as a single container; this object may be used as a context element for appending or removing any object in the note body; the real content is made of the children elements of the body; it may be cloned in order to be reused as the body of another note in the same document or elsewhere.

Write accessors

  • set_id(new_id) changes the identifier (generic element method); be careful, set_id() with a null value erases the identifier (but, with a defined value, allows to restore it at any time).

  • set_class(footnote|endnote) allows to turn a footnote into a endnote or vice versa.

  • set_citation() changes the note citation mark;

  • set_label(new_label) changes the note label;

  • set_body() takes the same kinds of content as the body parameter of set_note(); provides the note with a new body; any previous content is deleted and replaced; if set_body() is used without argument or with a null value, the previous content is replaced by a single empty paragraph.

Annotation creation

An annotation is particular note that has neither identifier nor citation mark, but which may be put like a footnote or a endnote at a given offset in a given text container. On the other hand, it stores a date and an author's name.

Annotations are created using set_annotation(), that takes the same positioning parameters as set_note() and set_bookmark(), and the following other parameters:

  • date: the date/time of the annotation (ISO-8601 format); if this parameter is omitted, the current system date applies by default;

  • author: the name of the author of the annotation (which may be an arbitrary application-provided string); if this parameter is omitted, lpOD tries to set it to the user name of the process owner and, if such an information is not available in the run time environment, the annotation is created with an empty string as the author name (not recommended);

  • content: a list of one or more regular text paragraphs that will become the content of the annotation (beware, unlike set_note(), set_annotation() requires a list of paragraphs and doesn't accept a previously existing note body or other non-paragraphs ODF objects);

  • text: a flat string, that will become the text content of the annotation; if text and content are both provided, the text value will become the content of the first paragraph of the annotation;

  • style: specifies a paragraph style for the content.

The example below inserts a "Hello" annotation after the 4th character of a paragraph:

    $para->set_annotation(text => "Hello", offset => 4);

set_annotation() returns the newly created object, that is available for later use.

Annotation retrieval

Annotations may be selected is through the context-based get_annotations() method that takes date and author as optional parameters.

Without parameter, this method returns the full list of the annotations that appear in the context. The use of one or two of the optional parameters allows to restrict the list according to the given date and/or author.

While a typical human writer using an interactive editing application should never be able to put two annotations in the same time in the same document, an automatic document processing application can do that. So the date/author combination should not be regarded as an absolute identifier; as a consequence, get_annotations() always returns a list (possibly containing a single paragraph or nothing).

Annotation methods

Read accessors

  • get_date() returns the stored date.

  • get_author() returns the stored author's name.

  • get_content() returns the content as a list of paragraph(s).

Write accessors

  • set_date(new_date) changes the stored date; without arguments, the current date applies.

  • set_author() changes the stored author's name; without argument, the process owner applies.

  • set_content() replaces the current content using the argument, that is a list of one or more paragraphs.

An annotation object may be used as a regular context element in order to change its content through generic context-based element insertion, deletion of updating methods. No particular check is done, so the user should ensure that inserted elements are always paragraphs.

Tracked changes

Tracked change retrieval

lpOD applications can retrieve all the change tracking data which may have been stored in text documents by ODF-compliant editors. On the other hand, lpOD doesn't provide any automatic tracking of the changes made by lpOD-based applications.

A tracked change may be retrieved in a document using the get_change() and get_changes() document-based methods.

Every tracked change is stored as a ODF change object that owns the following attributes:

  • id: the identifier of the tracked change (unique for the document);

  • date: the date/time of the change (ISO-8601 format);

  • author: the name of the user who made the change.

An change may be individually retrieved using get_change() with a change identifier as argument.

The get_changes() method, without argument, returns the full list of tracked changes. The list may be filtered according to date and/or author optional parameters.

If a single date is provided as the date parameter, then the result set contains only tracked change elements that exactly match it, if any. However the user may specify a time interval by providing a list of two dates as the date parameter; so any tracked change whose date belongs to the given interval is candidate. An empty string, or a 0 value, is allowed as start or end date, meaning that there is no inferior or superior limit.

get_changes() returns only the tracked changes whose author exactly matches the given author parameter, if this parameter is set.

The document-based get_change() and get_changes() methods look for tracked changes in the document CONTENT part only, and works with text documents only.

In addition, lpOD provides get_change() and get_changes() as context methods, allowing the applications to call them from any arbitrary element, so the search is directed and restricted to a particular context. If the calling element is not able to track the changes, these methods always return nothing but they are neutral. If the calling element contains tracked changes, they work like their document-based versions in the given context. This feature allows the users to retrieve tracked changes in page headers and footers, knowing that these changes are registered in the contexts of the corresponding page style definitions, and not in the document content.

Tracked change methods

Each individual tracked change object, previously selected, own the following methods:

  • delete(): deletes the tracked change, i.e. removes any persistent information about the tracked change object from the document.

  • get_id(): returns the identifier.

  • get_date(): returns the date.

  • get_author(): returns the author's name.

  • get_type(): returns the type of change, that is insertion, deletion, or format-change.

  • get_deleted_content(): returns the content of the deleted content as a list of ODF elements, if the change type is deletion (and returns a null value otherwise).

  • get_change_mark(): returns the position mark of the change; if the change type is deletion, this object is located at the place of the deleted content; if the change type is insertion or format-change, it's located at the beginning of the affected content.

  • get_insertion_marks(): if the change type is insertion or format-change, returns a pair of position mark elements, respectively located at the beginning and at the end of the affected content (this pair of elements may be used in a similar way as the start and end elements of a range bookmark, in order to determine the limits of the affected content); it returns nothing if the change type is deletion.

Text Fields

A text field is a special text area, generally short-sized, whose content may be automatically set, changed or checked by an interactive editor or viewer according to a calculation formula and/or a content coming from somewhere in the environment.

A table cell may be regarded as an example of field, according to such a definition. However, while a table cell is always part of a table row that is in turn an element in a table, a text field may be inserted anywhere in the content of a text paragraph.

Field creation and retrieval

A text field is created "in place" using the set_field() element-based method from a text container that may be a paragraph, a heading or a span; set_field() requires a first argument that specifies the kind of information to be associated (and possibly displayed) with the field.

Regarding the positioning, this method works in a similar way as set_bookmark() or set_index_mark() introduced in the Bookmarks and index marks section.

By default, the field is created and inserted before the first character of the content in the calling element. As an example, this instruction creates a title field (whose role is to display the title of the document) before the first character of a paragraph:


A field may be positioned at any place in the text of the host container; to do so, an optional offset parameter, whose value is the offset (i.e. character sequential position) of the target, may be provided. The value of this parameter is either a positive position, zero-based and counted from the beginning, or a negative position counted from the end. The following example puts a title field at the fifth position and a subject field 5 characters before the end:

        $paragraph->set_field("title", offset => 4);
        $paragraph->set_field("subject", offset => -5);

The set_field() method allows field positioning at a position that depends on the content of the target, instead of a position. Thanks to a before or a after parameter, it's possible to provide a regexp that tells to insert the new field just before of after the first substring that matches a given filter. The next example inserts the document subject after a given string:

                after   => "this paper is related to "

More generally, set_field() allows the same positioning options as set_bookmark() for simple position bookmarks.

In addition, set_field() allows a search (or replace) parameter that specifies a substring that should be replaced by the field.

set_field() returns the created ODF element in case of success, or null if (due to the given parameters and the content of the target container) the field can't be created.

A text field can't be identified by a unique name or ID attribute and can't be selected by coordinates in the same way as a cell in a table. However, there is a context-based get_fields() method that returns, by default, all the text field elements in the calling context. This method, when called with a single content parameter, that specifies the associated content, returns the fields that match the given kind of content only, if any. For example, this instruction returns all the page number fields in the document body:

        $document->get_body->get_fields("page number");

Field data types

The value of a field has a data type. The default data type is string, but it's possible to set any ODF-compliant data type as well, using the optional parameter type. According to ODF 1.1, §6.7.1, possible types are float, percentage, currency, date, time, boolean and, of course, string.

If the selected type is currency, then a currency additional parameter is required, in order to provide the conventional currency unit identifier (ex: EUR, USD). As soon as a currency parameter is set, set_field() automatically selects currency as the field type (so the type parameter may be omitted).

Note that for some kinds of fields, the data type is implicit and can't be selected by the applications; in such a situation, the type parameter, if provided, is just ignored. For example, a title or subject field is always a string, so its data type is implicit and can't be set.

Common field properties and methods

Some fields may be created with an optional fixed boolean parameter, that is 'false' by default but, if 'true', means that the content of the field should not be automatically updated by the editing applications. For example, a date field, that is (by default) automatically set to the current date by a typical ODF editor each time the document is updated is no longer changed as long as its fixed attribute is true. This option is allowed for some kinds of text fields.

A numeric text field (ex: date, number) may be associated with a display format, that is identified by a unique name and described elsewhere through a numeric style; this style is set using the style parameter with set_field().

While a field is often inserted in order to allow a viewer or editor to set an automatically calculated value, it's possible to force an initial content (that may be persistent if fixed is true) using the optional value and/or text parameters. If the data type is string, the value is the same as the text. For a date or a time, the value is stored in ISO-8601 date format. For other types, the value is the numeric computable value of the field. The text, if provided, is a conventional representation of the value according to a display format.

Text fields use a particular implementation of the generic get_text() method. When called from a text field element, this method returns the text of the element (as it could have been set using the text property), if any. If the element doesn't contain any text, this method returns the value "as is", i.e. without formatting.

The generic set_text() method allows the applications to change the text content of the element at any time.

Document fields

According to the ODF vocabulary, document fields are text fields that "can display information about the current document or about a specific part of the current document".

This definition could be extended knowing that some so-called document fields may host contents that are not really information about the document.

The kind of document field is selected using the mandatory argument of set_field() or get_fields().

The whole set of allowed document fields is described in the section 6.2 of the ODF 1.1 specification. Some of them are introduced below with their associated properties (the so-called content key means the field kind selector that must be provided when creating a field with set_field()).

Date fields

Content key: date. Supports fixed (that should preserve the stored date from automatic change each time the document is edited).

A date field may contain either the current date or, if fixed, an arbitrary other date.

A date field may be adjusted by a certain time period, which is specified using the adjust parameter. If the time period is negative, it gets subtracted from the value of the date field, yielding a date before the current date. The value of adjust must be a valid duration.

This example inserts a field that displays the date of the day before yesterday, due to a date adjust value that specified a negative value of 48 hours, 0 minutes and 0 seconds:

                style   => "DateStyle",
                adjust  => "-PT48H00M00S"

Note that the display format is controlled by the given style (that is, of course, a date style), and that a date field may be more precise than the date of the day; whatever the displayed information, a date field is able to store a full date and time value.

Time fields

Content key: time. Supports fixed.

A time field behaves like a date field, but it stores the current time or an arbitrary fixed time only. The adjust parameter, if provided, must be set with a valid time duration, like with a date field.

Page number fields

Content key: page number. Supports fixed.

This field displays, by default, the current page number. If fixed, it can contain an arbitrary other page number. It allows an adjust, telling the editing applications to display the number of another page, if this page exists. In addition, it supports a select argument that may be set to current (the default), previous, or next, and that specifies if the value is the number of the current, the previous or the next page.

Page continuation fields

Content key: page continuation.

This field conditionally displays a continuation string if the current page is preceded or followed by another page. It requires a text parameter, that is the continuation text to display, and a select parameter, that specifies what is the page whose existence must be checked.

The example below creates a field that displays "See next page" if and only if the current page is not the last one:

        $paragraph->set_field("page continuation", select => "next");

Sender and Author fields

Content key: various (see below). Supports fixed.

The API allows to set various fields whose purpose is to display in the document body or in the page headers or footers some information whose source is not precisely specified but which regard the so-called "sender" and "author" of the document. Some of this information may come from the document metadata.

The general form of the corresponding content keys is sender xxx or author yyy, where "xxx" may be firstname, lastname, initials, title, position, email, phone private, fax, company, phone work, street, city, postal code, country, state or province, and "yyy" may be name or initials.

Every sender and author field is created with the appropriate content key and the optional fixed flag only.

The following example tells the editing applications to print the initials of the document sender (if such an information is available) immediately after a given string:

        $paragraph->set_field("sender initials", after => "Issued by ");

Of course, every sender- or author- field may be fixed and can display a given value provided using the text optional parameter.

Chapter and sheet name fields

Content key: chapter or sheet name.

A chapter field displays the name and/or the number of the current heading in a document where chapters make sense, while sheet name fields, in spreadsheet documents, display the name of the current sheet (or table).

For a chapter field, set_field() allows two parameters, namely display and level:

  • display specifies the kind of information related to the current chapter that the field should display; possible values are number, name, number-and-name, plain-number, plain-number-and-name (see ODF 1.1 §6.2.7);

  • level is an integer value that specifies the level of the heading that is referred to by the field; default is 1.

This examples inserts a field that displays the name of the current level 1 heading::

        $paragraph->set_field("chapter", level => 1, display => "name");

For a sheet name field, no parameter but the sheet name argument is needed; the field just displays the name of the current sheet. Note that this field makes sense for spreadsheet documents only but that the calling element for set_field() should be a paragraph attached to a cell and not a cell, knowing that a text fields belongs to a paragraph. Example::

        $paragraph->set_field("sheet name");

Declared variable fields

A text field may be associated to a so-called "variable", that is, according to ODF 1.1 (§6.3) a particular user-defined field declared once with an unique name and used at one or several places in the document. However, the behavior of such a variable is a bit complex knowing that its content is not set once for all.

A variable may appear with a content at one place, and with a different content at another place. It should always appear with the same data type. However, the ODF 1.1 specification is self-contradictory about this question; it tells:

"A simple variable should not contain different value types at different places in a document. However, an implementation may allow the use of different value types for different instances of the same variable."

More precisely, ODF allows several kinds of variables, including so-called simple, user and sequence variables. The present lpOD level 1 API supports the two first categories. While a simple variable may have different values (and, practically, different types) according to its display fields, a user variable displays the same content everywhere in the document.

In order to associate a field with an existing variable, set_field() must be used with the first argument set to variable, and an additional name parameter, set to the unique name of the associated variable, is required. If the associated variable is a user variable, the value and type parameters are not allowed. If the variable is simple, then it's possible to set a specific value and/or type, with the effects described hereafter. The associated variable may not exist when the field is created (it may be created later), so it's not automatically checked when the field is created through set_field().

The following example sets a field that displays the content of a declared variable whose name is supposed to be "Amount":

        $paragraph->set_field("variable", name => "Amount );

When a field associated to a simple variable is inserted using set_field(), its content is set, by default, to the existing content and type of the variable. If a value and/or text parameter is provided, the field takes this new content, which becomes the default content for subsequent fields associated to the same variable, but the previous fields keep their values. The same apply to the field type, if a new type is provided. Beware, by subsequent and previous we mean the fields that precede or follow the field that is created with a changed content in the order of the document, not in the order of their creation.

It's possible to insert a variable-based field somewhere without displaying its value through a text viewer. An optional display parameter may be set to none, that makes the field invisible, or to value (the default) to allow the GUI-based applications to display the value.

On the other hand, all the fields associated to a user variable take the same value. Each time the content of the variable is changed, all the associated fields change accordingly. The API doesn't allow the application to change this content through the insertion of an associated field. If needed, the variable content may be changed explicitly using another method.

If the lpOD-based application needs to install a variable that doesn't exist, it must use the document-based set_variable() method, that takes a mandatory first argument that is its unique name, a type (whose default is string) and of course a currency parameter if type is currency. Because set_variable() doesn't set anything visible in the document, it doesn't take any positioning or formatting parameter. A value parameter is needed in order to set the initial content of the variable.

The example below "declares" the variable that is used by a text field in the previous example::

                type    => "float",
                value   => 123

A class parameter may be provided to select the user or simple kind of variables; the default is user.

A declared variable may be retrieved thanks to its unique name, using the get_variable() document-based method with the name as argument, and a named class parameter that restricts the search to the user or simple variables. If class is not provided, get_variable() looks among both the user and simple variables.

The returned object, if any, provides get_xxx()- and set_xxx()-like accessors, where xxx stands for value, type, or currency, that allow the user to change these properties at any time.

A document-based get_variables() method, with a class named parameter, returns all the variables of the given variable class; without parameter, it returns the list of the user and simple variables.


Developer/Maintainer: Jean-Marie Gouarne Contact:

Copyright (c) 2010 Ars Aperta, Itaapy, Pierlis, Talend. Copyright (c) 2011 Jean-Marie Gouarne.

This work was sponsored by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (

License: GPL v3, Apache v2.0 (see LICENSE).

1 POD Error

The following errors were encountered while parsing the POD:

Around line 849:

Non-ASCII character seen before =encoding in '(§7.1.3),'. Assuming UTF-8