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4.1. Styles

Creating Word documents usually requires a small assortment of formatting styles, which you'll use over and over again throughout the document. In a short piece, reformatting your chapter titles (for example) is no big deal; just highlight each and then use the Formatting Palette to make it look the way you like.

But what about long documents? What if your document contains 49 chapter headings, plus 294 sidebar boxes, captions, long quotations, and other heavily formatted elements? In such documents—this book, for example—manually reformatting each heading, subhead, sidebar, and caption would drive you to distraction. Word's styles feature can alleviate the pain.

A style is a prepackaged collection of formatting attributes that you can apply and reapply with a click of the mouse. You can create as many styles as you need: chapter headings, sidebar styles, whatever. The result is a collection of custom-tailored styles for each of the repeating elements of your document. Figure 4-1 should clarify all of this.

Figure 4-1. Top: Suppose you want to call special attention to the highlighted paragraph. This before-and-after shot illustrates the beauty of a style: with a single click in the Style pop-up menu on the Formatting Palette, you can apply a special font, style, and paragraph border all at once. Better yet, you don't have to remember how you formatted a similar paragraph earlier. Bottom: Word does the remembering, and the formatting, for you.

After creating your styles, just apply them as you need; they'll be consistent throughout the document. During the editing process, if you notice you accidentally styled, say, a headline using the Subhead style, you can fix the problem by simply reapplying the correct style.

You'll appreciate styles even more when it comes time to change the formatting of a particular style. If you change a style's description, Word offers to change every occurrence of that style in your document.

Styles aren't one of Microsoft's masterpieces when it comes to ease of understanding. But grasping how they work, where they're stored, and when they change helps to explain many of Word's idiosyncrasies, and pays off handsomely in the long run.

4.1.1. Where Styles Are Stored

Every document has a collection of ready-to-use, built-in styles, whether you're aware of it or not. (To be more precise, every document is based on a template that stores a canned set of styles, as described in Section 4.1.) Word opens each new blank document with the Normal paragraph style preselected.

The styles available in your document are listed in several places: in the Font panel of the Formatting Palette, the Formatting toolbar, the Ruler toolbar, and the Format→Style dialog box (see Figure 4-2).

Figure 4-2. Choose Format→Style to see the styles available in your document. Each document comes with a few heading styles, such as the Normal style and Heading 1, because the Normal template has these starter styles built right in. (See Section 6.4 for more on templates.) Starting from a different template might produce a different set of starter styles.


There are many more styles in the Style dialog box than in the Formatting Palette or the toolbar menus, which contain only a selection of the most useful styles. To see that comprehensive list of styles without opening the Style dialog box, just Shift-click one of those menus.

4.1.2. Applying Styles

To apply a canned style to text you've already typed, highlight the text. For example, drag through some text, or click once inside a paragraph to select it. (You can also choose a style for a new paragraph before you begin typing it.)

Now choose a style from one of Word's style boxes, using one of the following methods (listed in ascending order of speed):

  • Press Shift--S to highlight the Style list in the Formatting Palette. Use the up and down arrow keys to step through the styles in the list until the one you're seeking is highlighted. Press Return to apply the style.


    You can save time by typing the name of the style and then pressing Return.

    For this very reason, some people use very short style names when they format a style. For instance, if you name a style GX, you only have to press Shift--S, type gx, and Return to apply the style—never having touched the mouse. Better yet, give the style two names, separated by a comma—one in English for your own reference in using the Style menus, the other its "keystroke name." For example, your Sidebar style might be called Sidebar, sb.

  • Click the arrow button next to the Style list in the Formatting Palette, then drag the mouse to highlight the desired style (see Figure 4-1). Click the style name to apply it.

  • Choose Format→Style; double-click one of the style names in the Styles list box (see Figure 4-2)—or click the style name once, then click Apply.


As you may have noticed, the Formatting Palette's Style pop-up menu displays the names of the styles in their actual fonts, sizes, and colors; even paragraph borders show up around the relevant style names.

You can open the Style list faster if you don't use this WYSIWYG feature. To turn it off, choose Word→Preferences→General panel, turn off "WYSIWYG font and style menus," then click OK; now all of the styles listed in the Formatting Palette appear in a demure Lucida Grande.

Of course, this also turns off the WYSIWYG font menus; you can't turn them off independently. (You can still summon a WYSIWYG font display on a case-by-case basis by pressing Shift before you open the menu, but that trick doesn't work for the Style menu.)

Finally, if turning off WYSIWYG font menus turns off WYSIWYG only in the Formatting Palette and toolbar Font menus, but not the Font menu in the bar, you need to install the Office X Service Release 1, as described in Office Up to Date.

4.1.3. Creating Styles by Example

There are two ways to create your own styles: You can use the Styles dialog box to build one from scratch, or you can "create by example"—that is, you can format the text in the document the way you want it, and then tell Word to memorize that formatting. The second method is usually easier.

For example, suppose you want to create a style for illustration captions. Start by typing out the caption, ending with Return to create a paragraph.

  1. Select the paragraph (by clicking inside it, for example).

    Now use the formatting controls to make it look exactly like you want it:

  2. Using the Formatting Palette or Format menu, choose the Century Gothic font, at 10-point size, italic, centered, indented on both sides.

    Chapter 3 offers details on using these controls.

  3. Click in the Style box on the Formatting Palette (or press Shift--S) to highlight it. Type the new style name (Picture Caption, for example), and press Return.

    To apply this style more quickly in the future, consider assigning it two names separated by a comma—the second one can be an abbreviation (see the Tip above).

That's it; your style is ready for use.

4.1.4. Creating Styles in the Dialog Box

For more control over what Word associates with a style, use the Style dialog box shown in Figure 4-2. To use it, choose Format→Style and then click New (or press -N). The New Style dialog box opens, as shown in Figure 4-3.

Figure 4-3. As you develop your new style, the Description in the middle of the New Style dialog box will change to indicate a written definition of the style.

Use the various controls here to define this new style:

  • Name. Give your style a name that reflects how you're planning to use it: Headline, Sidebar, and so on.

  • Based on. Choose Normal or whatever existing style is closest to what you envision for the new style. Basing your new style on an existing one has two payoffs. First, it saves you time, since some of the formatting is already in place; second, when you modify the underlying style (such as Normal), all styles based upon it change as well, keeping your document design coordinated. For example, if you base a heading on the Normal style, and then change the Normal font to Palatino, the heading style's font changes to Palatino as well.

  • Style for following paragraph is a big timesaver. Let's say the new style you're creating is a heading, and after each heading, you always return to typing in Normal style. Instead of manually changing the font back to Normal after each use of the Heading style, just choose Normal here. Now, whenever you press Return after using the heading style, the font automatically returns to Normal.

  • If you chose Paragraph in the Style type menu at upper right, the style will include the current settings for indents, tabs, and other aspects of paragraph formatting (as described in Chapter 3). If you chose Character formatting, then Word memorizes only the font and other type characteristics of your new style. You can apply a character-formatting style in a paragraph independently of the paragraph style.

  • Turning on Add to template stores your new style in the template on which your document is based (see Section 6.4). All new documents based on this template will offer this style, too, ready to go. (To find out which template you're using, choose File→Properties→Summary tab. The name of the template is shown near the bottom of the dialog box.)

  • Turn on Automatically update with caution. When this box is turned on, any formatting change you make to any one occurrence of text in this style will change the style's definition—and with it, every occurrence of the style in your document.

  • Shortcut Key opens the Customize Keyboard dialog box (see Section 17.3), where you can assign a keyboard shortcut to this style. For example, you can assign Control--Z to your favorite heading style and apply it with a quick tap of the left hand. If you frequently change styles as you type along, or if you have trouble using a mouse, this feature is a godsend.

Clicking the Format pop-up menu (or pressing -O) gains you access to the dialog boxes, where you actually format the style you're building:

  • Font opens the Font dialog box, described in Section 3.2.1.

  • Paragraph opens the Paragraph dialog box, described in Section 3.4.

  • Tabs opens the Tabs dialog box, described in Section 3.4.4.

  • Border opens the Borders tab of the Borders and Shading dialog box (Section 3.4.5).

  • Language lets you associate a foreign language with your style, for the benefit of the spelling checker and other proofing tools.

  • Placing a Frame around a paragraph gives it some of the qualities of text boxes. See Text Boxes and Text Frames for more detail on the differences between text frames and text boxes.

  • Numbering opens the Bullets and Numbering dialog box, which is described in Section The menu option's name, "Numbering," is only half accurate, since it's used for bulleted lists as well as numbered ones.

When you click OK after making changes in any of these formatting dialog boxes, you return to the New Style dialog box, where the Description information tells you which characteristics you've assigned to this style.

When you click OK again to return to your document, the newly created style's name appears along with all the others in the Formatting Palette; now it's ready to apply.

4.1.5. Changing, Deleting, or Copying Styles

There are several ways to change an existing style, listed here in order of speed:

  • Select some text in your document and make the desired changes to it. Then choose the style's name in the Formatting Palette and press Return.

    The Modify Style dialog box opens, as shown in Figure 4-4; click OK to update the style, and with it every occurrence of text in that style. (Use the Reapply option if you've made a mess of a certain paragraph, and you want it restored to its virginal, true-to-its-style condition.)

    Figure 4-4. Turning on "Automatically update the style from now on" has the same effect as the "Automatically update" box in the Style dialog box (see Section 4.1.4). It also means that you can change the style in the future without seeing this message again.

  • Choose Format→Style; click the style's name in the Styles box; click Modify (or press -M); and use the Format menu to make changes to the font, paragraph, and so on, just as if creating a new style (as described above). Deleting styles

To delete superfluous styles, choose Format→Style, then click the style in the Styles list box and click Delete.


Word won't let you delete certain built-in styles (such as Normal, Heading 1, 2, and 3, and so on). If you click one of these styles, the Delete button is grayed out.

To delete many styles at once, choose Format→Style and click Organizer (or press -O). The Organizer opens, as shown in Section 6.4.5. In the list box for the current document, -click the styles you want to delete, then click Delete. (If the list of styles you wish to delete are consecutive, click the first one, then Shift-click the last style name; click Delete.) Transferring styles

Once you've cultivated a crop of magnificent styles, you may want to spread their sunshine to other documents. You can do so in the Organizer dialog box, described in the previous paragraph and in Section 6.4.5, but that's a lot of trouble.

The sneaky, much faster way is to copy paragraphs formatted in the styles you want to transfer and then paste them into another document. Word automatically adds the pasted styles to the second document's list of styles. (If the document already contains a style of the same name, it ignores the new one you've pasted.)


If you're ever confused about which styles you've applied where, try this: Choose Word→Preferences→View panel. Set the "Style area width" to about one inch, then click OK. Now Word opens a new strip at the left side of your document window that identifies the style of every paragraph!

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