A long time ago, I wrote a popular article called Getting
Started with Styles. In it, I showed how to use one of my favorite styling
tricks back then. In versions prior to WordXP, you could easily create
new styles on the fly. You needed only to format a paragraph the way
you wanted and then type a style name into the style window in the formatting
toolbar and hit enter. Bingo...new style!
Even better, if you needed to change a style, you could change the formatting,
click in the style window to select the current style, hit enter and a dialog
box would appear asking you whether you wanted to redefine the current style
to the new formatting...or revert the current paragraph back to its original
style. Just hit enter to accept the default of Redefine and all would be
Through Word 6, 95 and 97...I happily styled away my docs with keyboard moves
so quick you could hardly follow what I was doing...as I zipped through
document style formatting.
Then Word XP came on the scene and my fast formatting days came to a screeching
The obnoxious Task PAIN reared it's ugly face in my favorite program and destroyed
the way I worked. Apparently, not enough users had taken the time to properly
learn how to use styles. So Microsoft, again, bent to the will of the novice
user and changed the way the program worked to make Word more user
friendly for newbies.
Bitter? Yes. Sorry, but this is just one of the many features I've
enjoyed that has been changed to cater to the, apparent, majority of
people who don't learn how to use software correctly and then loudly complain
because it's confusing.
But rather than try to fight with the new, time consuming style Task Pane,
I simply continued to use Word 2000 for my work.
Enter Word 2003. Okay, I love Office 2003. Granted, Word 2003 didn't get
any major overhaul, but I found myself using the program more often than
not. But whenever I needed to work with styles, my frustration with the Task
Pane continued. It was time for action. There just had to be a way
to get back to my previously efficient way of quickly working with styles.
With a little digging and experimenting, I found a much easier way
to handle styles in Word 2003. And yes, these same options are available
in Word XP, I just didn't care enough at the time to look for them!
To quickly access these style commands, you'll want to make them easy to find
when you need them. Yes, they are somewhere on the Formatting Task
Pane, but I usually turn that off to give me more screen Real Estate.
To make my life easier, I have my own style toolbar to help me get the job
done faster. You can use a custom toolbar, or add the commands to keyboard
shortcuts, or add them to a new, custom menu. Whatever you find easiest.
I prefer a little toolbar that I can easily move around the screen to keep
handy where I need it.
Create a Custom Style Toolbar
To create your own toolbar, just open the Customize dialog
box by either right clicking in a vacant area within a toolbar or
> Customize. Click New. A tiny toolbar will appear
on which you can drag the commands.
When you name the toolbar, be sure you check and make sure that you are adding
this new toolbar to the correct template. If you are adding it to
a custom template, be sure you have that DOT (template) open and selected.
If you want it available all the time, add it to the Normal.dot (your master/global
template), as I'm doing in the image below.
Note! If you don't understand the difference between the types of templates,
or templates themselves, read this article: Normal.dot
Template - Explained
Once you have created your new toolbar (or menu), you just need to find the
commands you want to add. For our speed styling solution, click on the Format category
and scroll down the Commands along the right until you find
each of the following commands:
- Style by Example
- Modify Style
- Redefine Style
- Rename Style
All but the Style command seem to be grouped together. Don't confuse
the Style command with the Styles
and Formatting command that is grouped with the others
in the image above. If you add the Styles and Formatting command, it'll only
display the blasted Task Pane. You'll have to scroll around to find the final
Style command, but it is in there. It is represented by the large, blue A
with the smaller A above, as you can see in the image of my style toolbar
Now that you have these wonderful commands nice and handy, you can kick up
your formatting speed!
Note! In the above image, I have several other images for
my code documentation styles. These are not part of this article. But for
those of you curious about these styles and images, you can learn all about
how to add styles like these in this article: Adding
Images to Your Style Toolbar
You can now quickly and properly work with styles.
Note! I say properly, because a lot of people think they
understand styles, but then discover that...when they start modifying
text, they suddenly have a bunch of styles that have a pile of additional
formatting tacked onto them. Ahhh...another wonderful Microsoft feature! Again,
this one falls into the category of "if you they can't learn to
do it right, change the software to shut them up!" People
who didn't understand how to use styles would pile on the formatting and
then not understand why the styles didn't change. So to further bring
this issue to light, Word now adds all that renegade formatting to a
distorted version of the original style. You would need to actually modify or redefine the
original style to get rid of those excess styles. But that's a lot of
clicking in the Task Pane. With our new toolbar, it's much faster.
Let's test out our new device!
Quickly Create a Style on the Fly
Type some text in a blank Word doc. Be sure you have your new, handy-dandy
toolbar close by. Mess around with the text to drastically change the way
it looks. You can quickly add bold with Ctrl + B, italic with Ctrl
+ I and
even quickly increase the font size by holding down Ctrl +
Shift and tapping on
the > (greater than) key (decrease the font size by tapping
on the < less than
key). Add borders and shading, if you want. Go wild!
When finished, click the Style by Example button on your
toolbar. Bingo...instant style!
In fact, if you look up at the style window on the Formatting toolbar, you'll
see that this style is now named Style1. Cool...but not very descriptive.
Renaming Your Style
Click on the Rename command and the Rename
Style dialog box appears to
easily let you change the name to something that has more meaning.
Type more text. With your cursor still located within that new paragraph of
text, click the Style button (that one with the two A's that you had to dig
around for) and the ol' Style dialog box will appear. This makes it much
easier to find the style you want by the name, versus those very difficult
to read formatted style names you get in the Task Pane. Click on the name
of the new style you just created and...
...voila! The new text also now has the new style applied and they both look
alike. But more importantly, not only do they look alike, they are
now linked by the same style. If you change the style, all text styled
with this named style will conform to the new look. Well, that is...if you
modify the style correctly.
And yes, if you add the style name directly to your toolbar, you can save
clicks by not having to even open the style dialog box. But it's still a
handy button to keep on your toolbar.
There are several ways you can properly modify your new style. The most obvious
is to click on the Modify Style button on your new toolbar and make the necessary
adjustments through this dialog box.
But a faster way is to just change the look of one paragraph formatted with
that style and click the Redefine button you have on your toolbar.
This style will now be redefined with the new formatting applied to your selected
sample and all text with that style applied will now switch to look like
the text you just changed.
And if you know what you're doing with styles, there's an even faster way
to change your styles...modify the style so it automatically updates!
I love this feature, but it can be dangerous if you forget you have it turned
on. However, if you're experimenting with the look of a style, or doing a
lot of styling on the fly and need to make frequent overall adjustments,
this is a great time saver.
While your cursor is within the bounds of the style you'll need to change,
click the Modify Style button. Check the Automatically
Update checkbox. And,
unless you only want these changes applied to this particular document, be
sure to also check the Add to Template option.
Now you can just make whatever changes are necessary to one chunk of styled
text and all the text using that style will instantly be updated...no extra
clicking needed. Just remember to turn off the auto update feature later
so you don't get yourself in trouble if you forget it's turned on.
A Few More Style Tips
Another issue you'll want to keep in mind is using Character styles.
Sure, it's really easy to just select a word and hit Ctrl + B to make it
bold. But if you have a paragraph that starts out with a bold word created
in this way, when you click the Redefine Style button, that bold will be
added to the style and the entire paragraph will become bold. Probably not what
If you take the extra time to create a Character style
for bold and italic, you won't have to worry about this problem
if you apply bold and italic formatting through the use of a character style.
Just toss those styles on your toolbar or reset the shortcut
keys and it'll be just as easy to apply a proper style versus applying direct
formatting that can cause you major headaches in a complex document.
You'll want to pay attention to the Style based on option. By default, all
styles are based on the Normal style. As you create new styles from within
your document, styles will base themselves on various other styles, depending
on how you created the new style.
Sometimes having one style based on another
is good. Say you have a lot of paragraph styles. If you decide to change
the overall font, this can work to your advantage as all the based on
styles will also recognize this major change. But it can also be bad if you
decide you're going to grab one paragraph and restyle it for a new style.
If you make the mistake of having auto update on or click redefine rather
than Style by Example, you could make a mess of things as other styles will
change. If those styles are pages away, you may not notice this until you're
proofing and wondering what the heck happened. I usually try to base all
my styles on (no style) ...or carefully consider which is
based on which...and that the reasons are valid.
And remember, a fast way to have styles automatically applied is to have one
follow another. This isn't always practical. But in many cases it
can be used to make document creation go more quickly. If you know that every
title style will be followed by your same text style, modify the title style
and set the text style as the next chained style. This way, as soon
as you hit the enter key after your title style, the text style will automatically
be applied to the next paragraph.
Here are a few other articles you might want to check out that provide
additional information on styles and toolbars.
Need further help getting your complex Word docs formatted? Join
our free Word Doc Design support group! See this link for details: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Word_DocDesign/.
Chapman is not only a Word expert and VBA developer,
but is also a Word document specialist. If you have complex documents
you'd like redesigned to look more professional and make them a lot easier
to use and update, Dian can help you get there. She has over 15 years
experience creating complex books, manuals and custom templates using
Word. Make this the year you finally get those business documents organized
and looking professional! See Dian's consulting
page for more information
or to request a quote. Or have Dian teach you or your employees how to
do it right through customized