I do all of my school papers in OpenOffice.org (for more on OpenOffice, look in Wikipedia) these days, specifically in OpenOffice Writer (the open source equivalent of Microsoft Word). I come upon the same problem fairly frequently, so I am posting my solution here for everyone.

Many paper formatting guidelines call for no header on the first page, with a header that includes the page number (and possibly other information, including name and professor) on subsequent pages. While it may seem difficult to do this in OpenOffice Writer, it is rather easy.

Create a header as your normally would; usually this is by clicking Insert -> Header -> Default and then Insert -> Fields -> Page Number. You should see your header on all pages of your document, including the first page.

Now, place the cursor within the first page of your document (ie- click within the first page of the document and then make sure you see a blinking cursor on the first page), and then select from the menu Format -> Styles and Formatting. Select the fourth icon at the top of the dialog box (if you hover over it, it says “Page Styles”). Now, double-click on “First Page”.

Once you double-click on “First Page”, the header on the first page will magically disappear, while keeping the header on each subsequent page intact.

For even more customizability, you can create an entirely different header for the first page instead of leaving it completely off.

To do this, again make sure your cursor is inside the first page of the document. Then click Insert -> Header -> First Page. Now, a header will appear on the first page of your document and you can place any text or fields (page number, etc.) within this first page-only header.

If you have any problems with this quick fix for headers in OpenOffice Writer, please leave a question in the comments section below and I will try my best to answer your query.

Also, look forward to more of these How To’s (for Open Office and other applications) in the near future.

Lastly, if you would like to try out OpenOffice, you can download it for free from the OpenOffice website or your can download a portable version here which you can unzip locally and delete after trying out this amazing piece of community-produced software.