Creating and Sharing Custom Microsoft Word Styles


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In the last post on Microsoft Word’s Styles feature, we learned how to apply Styles to the text in your documents and how using Styles can enhance legal document readability and enforce consistent document standards.

Using the skills developed in the last Styles post, you can tweak an existing Style set to your liking. But how do you save it for future use? And can others in your workgroup use it, too?

Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.

Before we discuss sharing your new Styles (using Word 2010 to demonstrate), though, we’ll need to talk about how and where they’re saved on your computer.

The relationship between Styles and Templates

Microsoft Word Styles live, so to speak, in Microsoft Word Templates, which are files containing document specifications such as margins, page size, default font, paragraph justification, etc. The default in Word is the Normal template—unless you specify otherwise, that’s what every new document you create is based on.

Normal’s not the only choice you have, though. Word has a number of templates built in (everything from fax cover sheets to a letter to Santa) and other templates are available online.

Even so, individual users can create (and even share) their own templates. That enables you to develop a customized layout (including your own Styles), save it, and make it available for colleagues and employees to use for faster, more consistent document creation.

Creating new Quick Style Sets

The easiest way to create a new Quick Style Set for future use is to pick an existing one, tweak it to your liking, then save it under a new name.

First, pick a Quick Style set that’s pretty close to what you want. In this example, we’ll use the Word 2003 set as a foundation, since it has the traditional single spacing and other features seen in many legal documents:

Microsoft Word Templates also have color and font sets. You may wish to switch to one that’s closer to the end result you’re looking for. To start, pick Grayscale as the color set (so headings won’t be blue or some other color) and switch the font to the Office Classic set:

Now, go through the various Styles, right-clicking each one and making adjustments to the font, spacing, justification, and other settings:

Finally, to eliminate the clutter in the Quick Styles Gallery, right-click on any Styles you won’t be using and choose Remove from Quick Style Gallery:

Saving your new Quick Styles Set

Now save these settings as a new Quick Styles Set:

Once it’s saved, it’s available to you via the Change Styles drop-down:

Sharing your Quick Styles Sets

Depending on the version of Windows you’re using, the template files for Quick Styles are stored in a particular folder on your hard drive. As a rule, though, they’re stored here:

Windows XP: Documents and Settings[username]Application DataMicrosoftQuickStyles

Windows Vista and Windows 7: Users[username]AppDataRoamingMicrosoftQuickStyles

If your setup is different, though, you can go to File | Options | Advanced | File Locations to see where Word is storing your templates:

(The Quick Styles Sets are actually stored in the QuickStyles folder under the Microsoft Folder, whereas the other user templates are stored in the Templates folder under Microsoft as shown above. Clicking Modify in this dialog box as shown above will give you the complete file path so you can find your QuickStyles folder.)

This information gives you a clue about how you can share your Templates and Quick Styles Sets. You can copy the template file (in this example, Pleading.dotx) from your QuickStyles folder onto some portable media (flash drive, CD, etc.) and distribute it to other users’ QuickStyles folder to give them instant access to your new Quick Styles Set via the Gallery.

You’ll notice above, however, that there is a space allocated for Workgroup templates. You can copy the .dotx file into a folder on a network drive, then set everyone’s Workgroup Templates setting to that folder. To use your Quick Styles settings, other users will need to use that template to create a new document rather than the Normal template.

Your font and other Styles settings won’t be visible as a separate Quick Style named in the Gallery; rather, they will be the default settings for that template.

And, yes, it is possible to create templates that restrict users to a limited number of Styles, and these skills can be used to create sophisticated templates for your own use (and perhaps your workgroup’s, too). Start using these techniques in your documents and see how much time you can save by having your own customized Microsoft Word Quick Styles ready to use with just a click or two.



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  • Are styles shareable between a Mac and PC?

    • Daniel

      Yes, styles are shareable between a Mac and PC. You can copy any styles from any Word document or template into any other, regardless of platform, using the Organizer.

  • Deborah’s easy overlooks some important details, concerning Word and Windows. So read on here if you want to secure and migrate your customizations with a little simple file work.

    What we all noticed is that unlike every preceding version of Office, right back to pre-Windows days (remember those floppy template crashes?) developers were selling what we now call “Style Sets” and later “Themes” (rolled into one) well in advance of the Microsoft release. It was 2011 before the bandwagon caught up with Office 2010, and even now, 2012 autumn, the dance is only half a jig, if you take my meaning.

    Anyway, there is a much less scary and easy way to do half the layout and build a custom ‘Style Set’, with the only detractor being that your Set may not be listed in “Style Sets” (every Windows installation is resource-dependent).

    The system pointer is the QuickStyles folder that Word 2010 creates when you add any new style to the Quick Styles panel on the Home ribbon.

    To create a new Quick Style, click any style preview in Quick Styles panel. Next, click the Quick Styles dropdown-arrow. A rustic little Apply Styles dialog opens, where you can unselect “AutoComplete style names”.

    Do not take a shortcut here and type a new name over the name of the selected style preview! Now click the Styles button. In the rustic Styles dialog your preview style is outlined. Right click or open the outlined style’s dropdown-arrow and select Modify.

    In the Aero dialog for Modify Style, change the style Name and using the Format button change something (anything) so a new style is applied. You have to click the Format button or this won’t work. Click OK and close your two rustic dialogs and you will see a new style preview in the style panel and a new folder.


    Now open
    and save as
    Copy Normal/dotx to whatever other name you like and then follow the instructions laid out by Deborah or Daddyman to create new Style Sets.

    CAVEAT! (Microsoft used to love that word.) Secure your customizations by creating a backup folder that deploys Windows 7+ ingenious API’s across multiple Windows installations. In this backup folder on another disk or USB or Network machine, create an Administrator link to QuickStyles folder. In QuickStyles folder create a link to your Style Sets backup. Using your right mouse button, drag and copy your Style Sets to your backup. And include a backup copy of your backup link. Ready, set go!

    You all should know, I just did a fresh windows and Office on a new machine and guess what? Simply creating a QuickStyles folder and pastig your dotx files in there sort of works. But in the same boot cycle the uptake is sloppy across new and old desktop docx files, so to be safe, do your thing with those rustic style dialogs and Word will thank you with lovely new Style Sets.

    There you go Please read over Deborah and Daddyman so you get an even better feel for where word goes with customization. Thanks.

    OH! Prajwal’s two (2) links are also useful and are the base for my solution.

    NOTE. The curious mix of rustic and Aero dialog across this solution sort of underlines that 2010 custom Style Sets are “not supported”. If anything goes wrong, you are on your own. But for a fee …

  • burb – Deborah, you should know that using this Normal.dotm-dotx hack there is no problem with Style Set previews displaying in the Home ribbon Style panel Preview box.
    Simply open
    and save as
    Now any existing Normal.dotx customizations appear in the style Preview box.
    Reference to your contribution from:

  • BUT! you must manual direct Word to create the QuickStyles folder, or the rest won’t fall in place. By all means test this yourself, creatig and deleting QuickStyles while watching Word construct and remove Style Sets. Please update your method to include this method, respecting Microsoft support (Prajwal). Let’s hope 20’next includes something improved.

    Tea time ‘ byee ~mark

  • I have commented both public KB’s with incentives (lol) now we wait for dev KB knockback and a whole new winged-out Microsoft rendition. Thanks for some insporation!

  • Emma

    If I create a document using a custom template saved on my computer, and then send that document to a third party (on a non-networked computer – e.g., a client), will the styles be displayed correctly?

  • Ed Bentall

    I have a style I’ve created. It appears on my quick style ribbon when I open a new document, so it’s definitely in the ‘normal’ template, but when I open a file sent to me on email for example, it isn’t there. How do I ensure it appears regardless of what file I’m working on?

    • legalofficeguru

      See 2.7 under It’s tricky, but that’s the answer.

      • Ed Bentall

        Oh Jeez…! Well thanks for the reply on a historic feed! This looks a bit beyond me, but I’ll give it a go :) I had come across this link before (I think from Microsoft directly) but was hoping for a simpler solution.

  • Cyd

    I have a numbered heading in my brief that is underlined and followed by period. There is more text after the period but I only want what is underlined to show up on my TOC. Is there a way to create a style that will do that?