Managing empty fields: the status quo
When doing mail merge, it’s often (even usually) desirable that if a database field is empty for a recipient, then the corresponding line be hidden in the generated document. LibreOffice has always allowed doing this using special Hidden paragraph fields – which is very flexible, though not too user-friendly, because of its complexity in creation and support. E.g., one needs to remember to move the field along with the database field when one edits the document; or change the field’s conditions when renaming database fields or combining fields in a single paragraph.
There are situations when using Hidden paragraph fields is even impossible. Since the condition in the said field depends on a registered database name, it cannot be used when there’s no registered database (which happens when one wants to connect to data sources dynamically, when one is actually performing the merge).
Meet the convenience
Today we have released the new Collabora Office 5.3-49, which includes the improvement that we at Collabora Productivity have implemented: now database fields also hide paragraphs themselves when the field value is empty: now there’s no need to use separate fields for that. This allows for easier creation and management of the auto-hiding empty database values.
With the change, we are also more interoperable with other office suites that behave that way, including Microsoft Office.
This feature is controlled by a new compatibility option, which is enabled by default in all new documents. If one wants to return to old behaviour, however, one can easily do that using Writer’s compatibility options.
As usual, the improvement is also available in the next major release of LibreOffice, which is to be released in August.