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Get Started with Styles

The Annoyance:

Okay, I've got the hang of direct formatting: bold, italic, and all the font jazz; indents, line spacing, keep-with-next-and-don't-leave-it-hanging-out-alone-at-the-end-or-start-of-a-page, space before and after, and all that. But I can't get the hang of styles. How do I add them to the formatting I've applied?

The Fix:

You don't—it's the other way around. Styles should be the basis of all the formatting you apply in Word. You'll be able to lay out your documents far faster, and with much less effort, by using styles rather than direct formatting.

Here's the best way to start using styles:

  • Make a list of all the different paragraph types you'll need to use in a particular set of documents: headings, body text, various types of lists (numbered, bulleted, sublists, etc.), figures, tables, captions, notes, and so on. You will create paragraph, list, and table styles for each of these items.

  • Make a second list of all the items within paragraphs that will need different formatting applied—for example, bold, italic, bold and italic, subscript, superscript, or underline. You will create character styles for all of these items.

  • Create a new template for the documents (see "Templates" in Chapter 2). Save it, but don't close it.

  • In the template, create a new paragraph, list, or table style (or modify an existing style) for each of the elements. See "Create a new style" and "Modify an existing style," next, for specifics.

  • Still in the template, create a new character style for each of the character styles you identified.

  • Turn off the "Update automatically" option for each style (more on this shortly).

  • Test the template by entering text in it and applying the styles. Change the styles as necessary.

  • Delete the text in the template, and set the remaining paragraph to the style with which you want each new document based on the template to start.

  • Save the template, close it, and start a document based on it.

Create a new style

To create a new style, take the following steps:

  1. With the template open, choose Format → Styles and Formatting to display the Styles and Formatting task pane, and then click the New Style button to display the New Style dialog box (see Figure 4-10). In Word 2000, choose Format → Style, and then click the New button in the Style dialog box.

  2. In the New Style dialog box, type a descriptive name for the style and specify the style type: Paragraph, Character, Table, or List.


    By giving your styles names that start with a word they have in common, you can make them appear close to each other in Word's style lists. For example, styles named "Body Italic" and "Body Special" will appear close to each other and be easy to apply, whereas "Italic Body" and "Special Body" will be widely separated and harder to find in the list.

    Figure 4-10. Set up the formatting of a new style in the New Style dialog box. The Modify Style dialog box offers almost exactly the same controls.

  3. For a paragraph style or a table style, select the style on which the new style is based. The new style picks up all the formatting of the base style, which you can then change as needed. This enables you to create new styles quickly, but bear in mind that if you change the base style afterwards, the new style will inherit those changes. For a paragraph style, select the style for the following paragraph as well. For example, after a heading style, you might want a body text style.

  4. Use the controls in the Formatting area to adjust the font formatting, alignment, spacing, and indentation. To make further adjustments, click the Format drop-down list and choose the appropriate item from the pop-up menu.


    The "Add to template" box controls whether a change you make to the style in a document is added to the document's template. When you're editing a style within a document, you must check this box to make Word save the changes back to the style in the template. When you're editing a style in the template itself, you don't need to check this box (although there's no harm in checking it).

  5. If you want Word to update the style automatically when you change a paragraph that has the style applied, and then reapply the style throughout the document, check the "Automatically update" box. Usually it's best to uncheck this box and to update your styles manually. (This box doesn't apply to character styles.)

  6. Click the OK button to close the New Style dialog box, and then save your changes to the template.

Modify an existing style

You can modify either one of the styles you've already created or one of Word's built-in styles. To do so:

  • In Word 2003 or Word XP, choose Format → Styles and Formatting, click the style, click the drop-down arrow button, and choose Modify from the pop-up menu to display the Modify Style dialog box.

  • In Word 2000, choose Format → Style to display the Style dialog box, select the style in the Styles list, and click the Modify button to display the Modify Style dialog box.

If you're working in a document rather than in the template itself, remember to check the "Add to template" box if you want Word to apply the change to the template as well as to the document in which you're working.

Remove Formatting with Default Paragraph Font/Clear Formatting

The Annoyance:

Maybe I'm just dumb, but when I tried to apply the "Default Paragraph Font" to my body text paragraphs in Word 2000, the style didn't change. I tried it again, but still no good.

The Fix:

The Default Paragraph Font item in the Style drop-down list and Style dialog box looks like a style, but in fact it's not: what it actually does is remove any additional formatting that has been applied to the paragraph so that it matches the current style definition. (You might also say that it simply reapplies the current style to the paragraph.)


Press Ctrl+Spacebar to restore the font formatting of a selection to the style's default font formatting. Press Ctrl+Q to restore the paragraph formatting of a selection to the style's paragraph formatting.

Bypass the Styles and Formatting Task Pane

The Annoyance:

The new task pane for styles in Word 2003 and Word XP is difficult to use, especially if you want to change the attributes of a large number of styles at the same time. The extra styles added when you bold a word become confusing. I think Word calls these "formats," but they appear in the same list.

The Fix:

You can bypass the Styles and Formatting pane if you want. Choose Tools → Customize, click the Commands tab, and verify that the correct template (for example, Normal.dot) is selected in the "Save in" drop-down list. Click Format in the Categories list, then drag the Style... item (the one with the ellipsis after it, not the Style drop-down list) to a menu or toolbar. You can then go directly to the Style dialog box.

Make the Style Drop-Down List Show the Styles You Want

The Annoyance:

Sometimes the Style drop-down list contains a really short list of styles, and usually the style I want isn't there. Other times, the list is way too long and I have to scroll for miles to find the style I want.

The Fix:

Word is set to show only the styles used so far in the document—the idea being that these are the styles you're most likely to want to apply next. To display the full list, choose Format → Styles and Formatting and then select "All styles" in the Show drop-down list in the Styles and Formatting task pane. Click the X button to close the task pane, and then try the Style drop-down list again. To switch back to the shorter list of styles, choose "Available styles" in the Show drop-down list.

In Word 2000, the Style drop-down list shows only the styles used so far in the document. You can't change this setting, but you can force Word to display the full list by Shift-clicking the Style drop-down list.


Even if you press Ctrl+Shift+S to select it, the Style drop-down list tends to be a clumsy way of applying styles to a document. To apply styles quickly, create a custom menu (perhaps called Style) or toolbar that contains the styles you use consistently. Also consider creating keyboard shortcuts for the styles you use the most.

Quickly Change One Style to Another

The Annoyance:

Our annoying affiliate has sent us a slew of documents that use the wrong styles. I need to change all the styles to the right ones for our marketing communications template.

The Fix:

Word's Replace feature can change the styles for you, and a macro using Replace can whip through all the documents in less time than it takes to make a cup of decent coffee. (Chapter 8 shows you how to record macros and edit them.) But Word 2003 and Word XP offer another possibility that you should know about: choose Format → Styles and Formatting, click the offending style name, click the drop-down arrow, and choose the "Select all instances" option. With all the instances of the style selected in the document, click the style to which you want to change these items. You probably won't want to use this feature for changing entire documents, but it's good for lighter-duty work.

Stop a Style Change in One Document from Affecting Other Documents

The Annoyance:

I used to be able to redefine styles for the current document just by making a local formatting change, reapplying the style, and specifying that I wanted Word to update the style definition rather than reapply the existing definition. By default, that changed the style definition only in the current document; if I wanted the change to extend to all documents, I had to specifically say so by responding to a prompt asking whether I wanted the changes made to apply to all Word documents. Now it seems to do the latter by default, which is insane.

The Fix:

I don't think that what you've described is actually happening, although the complex relationship between styles in documents and their templates, and the thorny issue of which styles get updated when, can make this appear to be happening. Let's take a look at how Word updates styles and how you can use styles most efficiently in your documents.

Update styles manually rather than "by example"

You can update styles in Word in two ways: "by example" (i.e., by changing the formatting of an instance of the style, and then reapplying the style, usually from the Style drop-down list), or by working in the Modify Style dialog box. Updating styles by example tends to be easier, because you can see the effects of the changes you make, but using the Modify Style dialog box is far less ambiguous, because you can specify whether to add the style change to the template and you can see whether the "Update automatically" box is checked or unchecked for the style. For this reason, it's best to always use the Modify Style dialog box to change styles.

If you do update a style by example and if the "Update automatically" box is unchecked for the style, Word displays a different Modify Style dialog box (see Figure 4-11) to let you decide whether to update the style or reapply it as it stands. You can also choose whether to automatically update the style from now on.

Figure 4-11. The Modify Style dialog box lets you choose whether to update the style with the formatting applied to the current selection or reapply the style as it stands to the selection.

Use styles efficiently

To use styles efficiently within your documents, follow these guidelines:

  • Create styles only in your templates. Don't create styles in your documents—that's a recipe for confusion.

  • Don't use the "Update automatically" option on your styles. Update them manually.

  • Update styles only in the template.

  • Standardize style names across your templates so that every style name has a consistent meaning and usage.

  • If possible, avoid applying direct formatting on top of styles. Create further styles as necessary to achieve the same effect as the direct formatting would.

Redefine the Normal Style

The Annoyance:

Why can't I redefine the Normal style by example like all the other styles?

The Fix:

I don't know, but it sure is annoying. Perhaps it's because so many other styles are based on the Normal style; any change you make to the Normal style cascades down to each of the other styles based on it.

Here's how to redefine the Normal style:

  • In Word 2003 and Word XP, choose Format → Styles and Formatting, right-click the Normal item in the Styles and Formatting pane, click the Modify button, and work in the Modify Style dialog box.

  • In Word 2000, choose Format → Style to display the Style dialog box. Click the Normal item in the Styles list, click the Modify button, and work in the Modify Style dialog box.


You can quickly access the Style drop-down listbox on the Formatting toolbar or the Style dialog box by pressing Ctrl+Shift+S. In Word 2003 and Word XP, press this key combination once to select the Style drop-down listbox if it's displayed, or to display the Style dialog box if the Styles drop-down list is not displayed. In Word 2000, press it once to select the Style dialog box.

Control the Style When You Paste

The Annoyance:

I pasted a paragraph formatted with a Note style, and Word changed it into an item in the nearby numbered list. Hello?

The Fix:

Word is trying to be friendly, but you need to train it to know your needs a bit better. I'm guessing that your Note style includes a bullet that causes Word to consider it part of a list. To fix the problem immediately, click the Paste Options Smart Tag and choose Paste List Without Merging. Word will restore the formatting of the paragraph you pasted.


Word 2003 and Word XP have the smart-cut-and-paste features; Word 2000 does not.

To prevent Word from changing the style the next time you paste a list-like paragraph, choose Tools → Options, click the Edit tab, and then click the Settings button to display the Settings dialog box for smart cut and paste (see Figure 4-12). Uncheck the "Merge pasted lists with surrounding lists" box, and click the OK button to close each dialog box.

Figure 4-12. Uncheck the "Merge pasted lists with surrounding lists" box to prevent Word from changing the style of list paragraphs you paste into another list.


The other option you should know about here is the "Smart style behavior" box, which is useful when you're pasting text from one document to another. If you check this box, Word compares the style name of the text you paste with the style names in the destination document. If the names match, Word applies the style in the destination document. So, if you copy a Body paragraph from a document that uses 10-point font for that style to a document that uses 13-point font for Body, Word applies the 13-point style to the text. This behavior is usually helpful, but if you don't like it, uncheck the box.

Make the Pasted Text Take the Destination's Style

The Annoyance:

When I add text from another document or web page into a Word document, I want the current style in my Word document to control the style of the pasted text. But instead, I end up with the pasted text being in "Normal (Web)" style or some other style with the wrong font.

The Fix:

In Word 2003 and Word XP, you can click the Paste Options Smart Tag and choose Match Destination Formatting from the pop-up menu to make the pasted text take on the current style.

If you've turned off Smart Tags, or if you're using Word 2000, you're pretty much stuck using Paste Special to paste in the text without any formatting (choose Edit → Paste Special → Unformatted Text), unless you're prepared to create a macro for doing so. If you do a lot of pasting, creating a macro might be worthwhile (see "Create a 'Paste as Unformatted Text' Macro" in Chapter 8 for details). When you paste unformatted text, it receives the style currently applied to the paragraph in which you paste it.

Watch Out When Formatting Starts to "Slip"

The Annoyance:

The formatting in my documents sometimes "slips"—for example, I applied boldface to some text, but it changed back to the regular font after I edited another section of the document and then returned to it.

The Fix:

This isn't a fix, but an emergency warning. Formatting slipping like this means that the document is getting corrupted. Save the contents of your document in another format before the corruption gets worse. Choose File → Save As, select Rich Text Format in the "Save as type" drop-down list, and save the document as a rich text file. Close the document, and copy the rich text document to a backup medium. Then create a new Word document, choose Insert → File, insert the contents of the rich text file, and save the document. Check the document all the way through for missing text.

Avoid Layout Changes on Different Computers

The Annoyance:

I created my report at home and formatted it to look great, with the graphics and page breaks in just the right places. But when I opened it at work, the layout had changed. All that work wasted!

The Fix:

The problem is most likely that you're using different printer drivers on your home computer and work computer. If you need to ensure that a document's layout is exactly the same on two computers, use the same printer driver on both computers. If you need to be able to lay out the document at home and print it at work, check which printer driver your work computer is using, install that driver on your home computer too, and set that printer as the default printer while you create and work on the document. It doesn't matter if you don't have the printer, as long as you don't try to print the document to it.


To set a printer as the default, choose Start → Printers and Faxes, right-click the printer, and choose "Set as Default Printer" from the shortcut menu.

If you need to ensure that a document's layout stays the same on computers on which you can't install printer drivers, your best bet is to save the document in PDF format. You'll need Adobe Acrobat or an application with similar capabilities (such as Jaws PDF Creator, available at http://www.jawspdf.com, or GhostWord, available from http://sourceforge.net/projects/ghostword and other sources) to create the file, but people will then be able to view it exactly as you intended on most major operating systems.


If creating a PDF isn't an option, you can avoid some potential changes in your documents by not using double tabs (set suitable tab stops instead) and hard page breaks (use the paragraph layout options instead). Your documents will still tend to look slightly different on different computers, though.

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