So, you’re using the 2007 Microsoft Office release and
you’re already using Themes in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You know that
themes provide fonts, colors, and graphic effects to your documents in all
three programs, as well as slide master, layout, and background formatting in
PowerPoint. But, what really goes into the details of a theme?
If you’re ready to dig deeper into themes, this article
can help. Here, you can explore how the components of a theme fit together,
what settings are used to determine various formatting gallery entries (such as
Shape Style or SmartArt Styles), and what you need to know to create a complete
custom theme for yourself.
Note: This article makes some assumptions about
your experience with themes in the 2007 Office release, and with your Microsoft
Office experience in general. If you’re looking for more basic information,
just want to fill in a few blanks, or you’re ready to go even further—find
links to additional resources at the end of the article.
Also note that customizing some theme components
requires editing your document’s XML code (known as Office Open XML). For the
purposes of this article, I’ll tell you when theme elements can only be edited
in XML and I’ll provide some tips for those already using Office Open XML.
However, you don’t need Office Open XML experience for this article, as the
article doesn’t actually take you into the theme’s XML. The additional resource
links at the end of the article include some resources for learning the basics
of working with Office Open XML.
In this article
• Saving a Theme from PowerPoint
• Understanding Theme Files
Using the Browse for Themes feature
to easily share themes
Extracting theme components from a
• Creating Custom Theme Effects and
How theme effects really work
Understanding the Background Styles
Learning how to edit a theme’s XML
• Additional Resources
Office Open XML Essentials
When you save a custom theme from Word or Excel, you’re
saving the theme colors, theme fonts, and theme effects that are currently
applied in the active document. While a theme created from a PowerPoint
presentation includes those settings, that theme will also include whatever
slide master, slide layout, and background gallery settings are active in the
presentation at the time of the save.
The reason for this additional content when themes are
saved from PowerPoint is that themes are actually PowerPoint-based
functionality. Think of them as the evolution of PowerPoint design templates.
So, if you save a theme from a Word or Excel document, consider completing that
theme by applying it to a PowerPoint presentation and then adding master and
layout formatting. Once you have all desired theme elements in place in your
active PowerPoint presentation, just resave that theme. To do this, on the Design tab, click to expand the Themes gallery, and then click Save Current
Theme. In the Save Current Theme dialog box, select the theme file
you’re replacing and then click Save, just as you would when replacing a
document by using the Save As dialog box.
Though you save a theme as a .thmx file, a theme typically
includes four related files: the .thmx file itself, an .eftx file for the theme
effects, and two .xml files—one for theme fonts and one for theme colors.
The .thmx file includes all theme elements, so you can
share an entire theme just by sharing that file. So, why do the other three files
exist? The idea is that you can mix and match—create your own theme by
combining colors, fonts, and effects from different themes.
You also may need just one component of a theme in some
cases. For example, say that you’re creating a set of Word templates for your
company. If your company’s colors are very light, you may want to have a
second, darker set of theme colors that a user can apply to a document they
need to send by fax.
Note: Remember that you can create your own theme
color or theme font sets from Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. To do this, click to
expand the Theme Colors or Theme Fonts gallery in the active
program (find the Themes group on the Page Layout tab in Word or
Excel, or the Design tab in PowerPoint), and then click the Create
New Theme Colors (or Fonts) option at the bottom of the gallery. You
can also right-click any custom theme colors or theme fonts that appear in the
gallery for the option to edit them.
The Browse for Themes option at the bottom of the
Themes gallery in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint enables you to apply the theme
fonts, theme colors, and theme effects elements from any 2007 release Word,
Excel, or PowerPoint document to your active document, workbook, or presentation.
For example, a theme saved in an Excel workbook can be applied to a Word
document—or a theme saved in a PowerPoint presentation can be applied to an
Excel workbook. Theme-ready 2007 release files actually carry the cross-Office
components of a theme along with them, so you don’t have to share your actual
theme files in order to share many elements of your theme.
Note: When a theme is applied to a Word or Excel
file, slide layout and slide master formatting are not stored in that document.
(Background Styles, however, are included.) So, if you want to use the Browse
for Themes feature to apply a complete theme for use in PowerPoint—be sure to
share either a .thmx file or a PowerPoint 2007 file. Note also that the
collection of slide masters and slide layouts included in a PowerPoint 2007
file are considered part of the active theme for that file, whether or not they
have ever been saved in a theme file.
You open a 2007 Office release document and then click the
Theme Colors gallery in the applicable program, but no set of theme colors is
selected. When this happens (or you get similar results in the Themes, Theme
Fonts, or Theme Effects galleries), keep in mind that the theme components
contained in a document may not be installed on your computer—such as if you
open a document that was created on another computer using a custom theme or if
you use custom theme components in a document and later delete those theme
components from your computer.
However, if you want to reuse theme components stored in a
document, you can save them directly from the document itself. For example,
when you click Create New Theme Colors at the bottom of the Theme Colors
gallery, the dialog box that opens displays the set of theme colors currently
available in the active document.
If you’ve been creating your own custom themes, theme
colors, or theme fonts, you’ve probably noticed by now that you can’t save
custom theme effects from Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. Additionally, you can’t
customize the Background Styles gallery from within PowerPoint. However, that
doesn’t mean that you can’t customize them.
Naysayers may tell you that you can’t customize all
aspects of a theme—just as many people may tell you that you can’t customize
the Ribbon. However, for advanced Office users, both of those statements are
You may already know how easy it is to customize the
Ribbon through Office Open XML—if not, check out the additional resources links
at the end of this article for more information on that subject. Well,
customizing theme effects and background styles through Office Open XML can be
a bit more complex than customizing the Ribbon (depending on what it is you want
to customize), but more advanced Office users are likely to find it no more
difficult than tasks such as creating nested fields in Word or nested functions
in Excel—and probably easier than some of the complex document work you may
Theme effects control the styles that you see in most of
the graphic Quick Style galleries throughout Word, Excel, and
PowerPoint—including Shape Styles and WordArt Styles (in Excel and PowerPoint
only), SmartArt Styles and Chart Styles in all three programs, and Table Styles
Notice that styles are different from one gallery to the
next even within the same theme. For example, SmartArt Styles include styles
named Subtle, Moderate, and Intense (among others)—whereas Chart Styles are
numbered and don’t necessarily match all of the formatting in the SmartArt
styles. These differences make sense because it may not be practical to have
some of the same formatting on a chart that you have on shapes in a diagram.
So, how are all of those styles determined?
If you examine the XML file that stores theme information
in a 2007 release document, template, or theme file, you’ll see three sets each
of line, fill, and effect formatting. The three sets correspond to subtle,
moderate, and intense effects. Theme functionality in Office then takes the
line, fill, and effect settings and combines them in a variety of ways to
automatically populate the gallery entries. So, for example, you can adjust the
line formatting stored in a presentation’s active theme effects and then see
the changes implemented throughout Quick Style galleries wherever that line
formatting is included in a style.
So, the good news in terms of the way Quick Style gallery
entries are created is that you only have to specify a handful of graphic
effect settings and most of the work is done for you. The not so great news is
that you can’t really specify the formatting in each individual Quick Style
gallery position. The best way to control the look of the styles in specific
gallery positions is to apply a style to see which theme effect elements (i.e.,
line, fill, and effect settings) are included in that style and then alter
those specific effects in the theme’s XML. However, if you alter settings to
control the style in a given gallery position, be sure to review any other
graphic Quick Style galleries that you may need to use in your theme to ensure
that your changes don’t have an unwanted impact in other galleries.
Important: When customizing theme effects, note
that the subtle, moderate, and intense effects don’t always work as a set. In
fact, they’re mixed and matched much more often than they appear together in
Quick Style galleries. So, a given quick style may combine subtle fill with
moderate line and effects or moderate effects with intense fill — even if the
style name uses the term subtle, moderate, or intense. It’s important to look
at how your customized theme effects manifest in the various Quick Style
galleries to make certain that you’re happy with the results.
· To quickly review the look of quick styles throughout a gallery,
just create one example of the type of graphic for which you want to review
styles. Then, select the graphic and point to each quick style throughout the
applicable gallery (such as SmartArt Styles). Remember that the 2007 Office
release has the Live Preview feature, so you don’t even need to apply
formatting to see how it will look on your graphics.
· Though you can only edit theme effects in the theme file’s XML,
you don’t have to write the XML from scratch. Try, for example, formatting a
shape with the settings you want to include in your theme effects and then
copying those effects from the XML of the document containing your shape into
the XML for your theme.
· Keep in mind that you also get more formatting flexibility when
you customize some types of formatting using Office Open XML. For example, you
may notice that certain picture styles have shadows that you can’t match
exactly through the Shadow tab of the Format Picture dialog box, because the
shadows use settings not available from within Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.
Similar to the added flexibility you can often find when you use VBA to
accomplish Word, Excel, or PowerPoint tasks unavailable from within the
program’s user interface, you may find added flexibility when you know how to
customize formatting through Office Open XML.
When you look at the Background Styles gallery in
PowerPoint, you see twelve styles, right? Not exactly. Actually, you see four
versions each of three styles—subtle, moderate, and intense. The styles on the
top row are the subtle styles, middle are moderate, and bottom are intense.
In the XML file that stores theme information, you can
specify three types of backgrounds, selecting from solid, gradient, or image
fills. For each of those three background types, you have the further option to
recolor the background in each of the four text\background colors that are part
of a theme colors set (that is, light 1, light 2, dark 1, and dark 2).
If you don’t yet have experience with the basics of Office
Open XML, I recommend getting the essentials down first. Office Open XML is
much easier to learn than you might expect, particularly for advanced Microsoft
Office users, because it’s built around the features of the Office programs
that you already know. Find resources to help you get started with Office Open
XML, including articles, webcasts, and my book for the 2007 Office release, in the
section that follows.
If you already know the basics of working with Office Open
XML, one of the easiest ways to get to know the XML behind document themes is
to learn by example. For example, when I wanted to learn how to use a textured
fill in theme effects, I made a copy of the built-in Paper theme’s .thmx file
and explored the contents of its ZIP package. By default, find the built-in
document themes in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Document Themes 12. Font,
color, and effects settings for the theme are stored in a file named
theme1.xml. To find that file, open the theme folder inside the theme’s
ZIP package and then open the theme subfolder that resides inside that
or Customize a Document Theme (Microsoft Office Online How-To Article)
brand to Office documents with themes (Microsoft Office Online Demo)
Ribbon: Create better documents using the 2007 Office release (Microsoft At
Tips & Tricks: Breaking Into Your Office Open XML Format Documents
(Microsoft Office System Webcast)
Office Document 2007 Edition Inside Out (book)
Office XML Formats (blog)
Doug Mahugh: Open
XML File Formats (blog)