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, and bibliography marks.

Other kinds of elements may be included too, but there are not introduced in the present developement release.

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.

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'

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

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 regex) 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.


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. Restictions 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.

With the present development version, style creation is not supported (or more exactly requires low-level programming).

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 processed the tabs, line breaks, and multiple space elements in a ODF-compliant way.

The recursive option (set to TRUE) is generally recommended (while not mandatory), knowing that the text of a paragraph is often split in various text spans (i.e. paragraph sub-elements), in order to get the text as it's seen by the end-user.

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.

Internal text markup elements

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. 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 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.

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 uses 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');

A hyperlink span is created through set_hyperlink, which waits for the same positioning parameters (by regex or by offset and length). However, there is no style, and a url parameter (whose value is any kind of path specification that is supported by the application) is required instead. 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'
                offset  => 0,
                url     => ''


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.

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 regex) 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");

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 dependant 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 regex, 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.

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.

Index marks

Index marks may be handled like bookmarks but they functionality differ. 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"

Not 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 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.


Copyright (c) 2010 Ars Aperta, Itaapy, Pierlis, Talend.

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

lpOD is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of either:

a) the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version. lpOD is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details. You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with lpOD. If not, see

b) the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License"); you may not use this file except in compliance with the License. You may obtain a copy of the License at

1 POD Error

The following errors were encountered while parsing the POD:

Around line 588:

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