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Document Design with Style in Word 2003

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Designing your own document designs gives you control of the finished product. To use Word styles, all you need to do is master a few basic design principles. They're easy. Honest. Laurie Rowell gives you the scoop on defining and applying these styles to give you the look you want.

For some reason that I never can figure out, plenty of people use Word without ever applying styles to make the formatting easier. They zip along and make font and paragraph changes in the Format menu; and add bullets, shading, tabs, and columns on the fly.

But if you do this 20 times in a report with each heading or subheading and 50 times for all your paragraphs of text, it becomes tedious—distracting you from what you are writing and slowing down your progress. It makes more sense to make this process automatic and apply a style to your text that is really the one you want to use.

When you type text, Word stores it with formatting information. In short, any time you type text in Word you are using a style. If you do not change it, your text will be presented using the default style called Normal, which—unless someone has changed it—is set in Times New Roman, 12 points. In Word 2003, when you make ad hoc changes to your text, new styles are created as you go. Word 2003 calls them by catchy little names that you can see in your Styles list, names like this one:

Normal + First line: .5", Before: 12 pt, After: 12 pt.

As a result, this impromptu mucking about with formatting can make a right thorough dog's breakfast of your styles list (which, coincidentally, I was just about to talk about).

Setting Up Styles

A style is a bundle of formatting information that can be applied to highlighted text as many times as necessary in a document. In Word 2003, these styles can be made to appear in the task pane, as shown in Figure 1, by clicking Styles and Formatting on the Format menu. The Show list box at the bottom of the task pane lets you select the subset of the styles you want to view. To keep down the mess that I have to look at, I generally choose to show Available formatting or Formatting in use.

Figure 1Figure 1 Display formatting styles in the task pane.

On the list of styles, you can right-click any style and select Modify to change its specifications. The Modify Style dialog box appears (see Figure 2), offering you options for font, spacing, and justification so that you can make this style whatever you want it to be.

Figure 2Figure 2 Select font, spacing, and justification in the Modify Style dialog box.

Keep in mind that if you click the Format button in this dialog box you will see a pop-up menu with even more options for changing the appearance of the text. For example, you can select Font from this menu, which will cause a new dialog box to appear with a few more font options available for you to choose from, making this an excellent stage in our discussion to talk about fonts and what they can do for you.

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