I frequently find myself in situations where I need to combine Word documents from multiple people into a single document. This becomes very time consuming when the original authors "hard code" their formatting and fonts into their document (for example, manually applying Bold, Underline, and a larger font size to headings in the document).
When you combine various hard-coded documents created in this way, you end up with a hodge podge of visual styles -- and a very unattractive document. The only way to make these hodge podge documents look consistent is to spend a lot of time manually adjusting the documents (you can save a little time by copying the format from one paragraph to another with the Format Painter tool in Word -- -- but that's still a big pain when cleaning up a long document).
Styles to the rescue
Based on my informal research, most people don't use Styles in Microsoft Word documents they create. I'd like to share a little about these powerful tools.
First, a little background: Styles are used for formatting in documents, but in a different way than describing how a block of text looks - instead, they describe the "role" a block of text has in a document. You "apply" styles to text to let Word know what role to assign to that text. For example:
- One block of text may have the role of "Title" in your document, so you apply the "Title" style to that text
- Other blocks of text may be "normal" in your document - you can assign them "Normal" or "Body Text" styles
There are a bunch of other common styles built into Word (and you can create your own if you'd like).
Once a document has been formatted with "Styles," you can easily update the look of a document by applying a different template. This is where the power really comes into play.
You can even save a Template that contains all your Styles, so you can quickly create attractive documents each time without having to redefine all the Styles again. Styles can be assigned hotkeys to make it easier to apply them - see my graphic sample to see some of the hotkeys I've assigned.
Learn about Styles and Templates
For more information on Templates and Styles, consult the help file with your version of Word, or check out the Office Online portal for tutorials. Microsoft offers Word 2003 Tutorials and Word 2007 Tutorials that are quite good.
I have a template that has served me well (see a sample picture above) - feel free to use this one - I've attached Word 2003 and Word 2007 formats below.
After you download and open one of these templates, do a "Save As..." and change the "Save as type:" value to one of the Template formats, as indicated below. This will automatically change the location to Word's default location for templates. Feel free to change the name of the file, if you'd like.