The art of styles

The Styles Task Pane is so useful I keep it open all the time, even though most common styles are also available through the Gallery. The tablet PC I use when away from my desk only has a small screen (1,024 x 768) and with Word maximised, the Styles Gallery only shows four items, with the rest available under the drop-down arrow. The Task Pane, on the other hand, when docked at screen right, shows 14 styles in preview mode and 23 if just names. The Task Pane doesn’t have to take up much horizontal space, and there’s still room to show the full width of an A4 page at 100% zoom.

The art of styles

In Word 2003, you show the Styles Task Pane from the “Format | Styles and Formatting…” menu or by clicking the Styles and Formatting button on the left of the Formatting toolbar. It has a “New Style…” button at the top, and the options for controlling what styles are shown at the bottom in a drop-down list called “Show”. Its “Custom…” option lets you choose what to see in the main list. In Word 2007, the Styles Task Pane is shown by clicking the dialog box launcher button at the bottom right of the Styles group on the Home Tab, or you can also use the rather complicated keystroke or the slightly easier . Its New Style button is at the bottom alongside the Style Inspector and Manage Styles buttons. To choose what formats to show, click the blue hyperlink in the bottom-right corner. In both versions of the Styles Task Pane, the styles will sprout a drop-down arrow as you hover over them, and clicking this (or right-clicking) takes you to a menu where you can update, edit or delete the style, or select all text formatted in this style and count how many times it’s been used.

Style sets and themes

Word 2007 comes with a new selection of standard styles including Title, Subtitle, Emphasis, Subtle Reference and more. Using these along with the older styles such as Normal and Heading 1 through 9 gives your documents a big boost. Not only do you get good formatting straight away, but you also get two extra ways to change the look of your document with just a couple of clicks.

The first method is called style sets. Under the Change Styles button on the Home tab of the Ribbon you’ll find a list of style sets, each of which defines Word’s built-in style names differently. These sets have names such as Elegant, Distinctive, Fancy and so on, and you’ll see live previews of your document as you hover over the names of each. The Elegant Style Set, for instance, employs a wide left margin with headings in small caps and titles and subtitles starting way to the left of the main text. A change of style set will also affect any custom styles you have in your document if, as is usually the case, your custom styles were based on the built-in styles. For example, you might have created a style called Legalese based on Normal, but with the font size set at 8pt rather than 11pt. If the chosen style set redefines Normal to have different margins or a different font, Legalese will inherit these changes. If, however, Legalese wasn’t based on a built-in style but defined all attributes itself, changing the style set won’t alter it at all.

A second way to instantly change the look of your document is to use themes, which define the fonts used for headings and body text, the colours used for headings, highlights, contrast and so on, and the effects used for textboxes and graphics. Twenty themes are built into Office 2007 (shared with PowerPoint, Excel and Access) and another six are available to download on the Microsoft Office website, with a link to the right place on the Themes menu on the Page Layout tab in Word 2007.

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