Creating documents with Style

One of my favorite bits of user feedback about the Word 2003 styles UI was that some users (not many but some) thought that the control at the far left of the toolbar just reported the "health" of the document. "Why, yes, Doctor, this document is perfectly Normal." That control actually was one of the most important in Word and was used to apply styles.

Styles in 2007

In the ideal world, styles are applied based on the meaning of the text. For instance, in many documents, text is used as headings to provide structure for the material, so we have built-in styles for Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3 and so on. The numeric relationship of these styles is for a structured hierarchy (Heading 2 is meant to be a topic within a Heading 1 section and Heading 3 a meant to be within Heading 2). A document might also have text that is meant to be quotes with a distinct look. So two "quote" styles exist to format such text ("Quote," which doesn't provide any paragraph formatting and "Intense Quote," which makes the entire paragraph stand out from the surrounding text). Or a document might include sample HTML, which needs to be formatted with a special font and so we provide the HTML Code style.

In Word 2007, there's no mistaking that styles are meant for formatting your document. Located at the right side of the ribbon, a subset of styles is previewed in the Quick Style gallery. To format a paragraph, you simply click somewhere in the paragraph (or select it in its entirety) and select one of the styles. Not only are the traditional Heading 1, Heading 2, and so on available, but there are also new styles for providing formatting for text within a paragraph such as subtle emphasis, emphasis, and intense emphasis. As with all styles meant to be applied to text, and not the entire paragraph, you can select any range of text and then choose the appropriate style to apply.

Do I have to use styles?

This is a question that I get asked a lot. In my opinion, the answer depends on what sort of document you're creating. For short documents, including most emails, I think that you can get exactly what you want without using styles. But for longer documents where you want consistent formatting across many pages, I think styles make your life much easier. And perhaps more important is the fact that some features within Word, such as the Table of Contents, are designed to work best with documents that use styles.

The truth is that in previous versions of Word, it was often easier for people to apply formatting rather than use styles to get the look that they want. In Word 2007, the entire right side of the Home tab is dedicated to styles. You can apply a style much the way you bold text. You find the look you want and then click on it to apply it to your current selection. This makes is much easier to use styles to format your document. Word users will often refer to a document formatted with styles in this way as a "well-formatted' document. Other types of formatting, on the left of the Home tab, should be used only when there are one-time "exceptions" that you wish to apply.

One thing I want to make clear: There is no difference in the stability of documents when you use styles instead of direct formatting. By stability, I mean the likelihood that the document will encounter problems such as slower performance, crashing, or being unable to open. If you use styles, it is easier to get a consistent look across your document and integrate with other document-level features, but stability of the document remains unchanged.

Style Sets: Controlling the formatting of the text

Style sets are collections of styles that are designed to look good together and range from the very traditional to the modern. If you don't like the style set that is displayed in the ribbon, you can easily swap out the style set with the Change Styles button next to the gallery. The image below shows the same document with three different style sets: Word 2007 (Default), Manuscript, and Modern.

Sometimes, documents become difficult to manage when users mix the use of styles with their own manual formatting. They might apply styles to some of the text but then add formatting in other places or even "on top" of text that has a style applied. When this happens, documents not only stop integrating well with document-level features like Table of Contents, but may also start to look less professional as inconsistencies in formatting are introduced. Suppose you don't like the look of Heading 2 in your favorite style set. Is there some other solution to manual formatting?

The temptation to select a paragraph that uses a style and make changes to the formatting using font and paragraph controls isn't a bad one. The problem comes in when you then plan on finding the other similar paragraphs and making the same changes. This approach is tough because it requires remembering the formatting that you are adding and it breaks things. And, when you try to use features that are based on the styles, the formatting can "get in the way."

A better approach is to make the change to that first paragraph, right-click, select Styles, and then Update to Match Selection from the flyout. This updates the style definition so that every place where you used that style (in our example, all Heading 1 paragraphs) is updated with the changes you made. The actual command name changes to reflect the style that you'll be updating. In the image below, I was changing the look of the Heading 2 style in my document.

Stuart J Stuple

Office Blogs Comments

Comments: (5) Collapse

  • Hi Stuart, Thanks for your interesting blogs about formatting. I work as a DTP specialist and very interested in the topic. I want to ask about the "Show: Formatting in use" command that was available in the

    "Styles and Formatting" task pane in Word 2003. Can I find the same feature in Word 2007? I also suggest a feature that enable me to control the design and content of the blank page resulting from inserting an odd/even section break. Finally, I wnat to congratulate the office team on Microsoft Office system releasing to manufacturing. Good luck,


  • Hi Mona, The Show Formatting in Use command still exists - to get to it:

    1) Click on the dialog launcher (the small icon at the bottom right) of the Styles group on the Home tab.

    2) In the Styles pane, click on the link that says Options...

    3) The first drop-down list lets you filter the styles shown - "In Use" will show you what you want. Also, by default, we no longer show all unique combinations of direct formatting as styles in the list - if you want to see that, check the appropriate checkboxes in the same dialog to see the results of that formatting in the Styles pane. - Tristan

  • "Intense quote"? You do realize the rest of the entire world calls that a "block quote", right?

  • Stuart, am I blind? To me, the Word 2007 style set and the Manuscript style set (at least in your screen shots) look identical.

  • Suzanne--no, you're eyesight is fine. my new glasses, however, were already on order when this was posted. We'll get a new image up shortly (and then folks will wonder what we were talking about).


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