Microsoft Word now arrives on our systems chocked full of useful templates, styles, and themes to help shape the layout of your document. Microsoft has created a pretty good system: immensely open for an absolute novice, but with enough depth to be consistently used throughout the business world.
Customizing your document layout settings is easy, and we’ll show you how to do it in Word 2013 and Word 2016 .
What Can You Change?
Many, many things. We’ll start with the Quick Access Toolbar Tabs you see immediately when opening a new Word document, with a focus on the Home, Insert, Design, and Layout tabs as they contain the bulk of the document customization tools you’ll need.
- Home: Fonts, Paragraphs, and Styles, as well as Clipboard and Editing options
- Insert: Tables, Illustrations, Media, Headers & Footers, Text Boxes, and Symbols
- Design: Themes, including colors and fonts, and Page Backgrounds
- Layout: Page Setup, Paragraphs, and Arrange
These are your manual tools. You can set up a range of formatting options before you begin editing your document to ensure the same structure and style is applied throughout, as well as using the same tools to edit your document when work is in progress. You’re probably familiar with how to change the Font, colors, sizes, and how to apply the Bold, Italicized and underlined formats to your text. These are easily applied.
But it can be much faster and usually much easier to apply pre-designed Styles to your document as you move through. The Styles are made up of individual settings, so always apply the same formatting to your document. There is a Style for “Heading 1” which will appear the same within a web-page. There is a “Title” Style which applies a 28pt font and condenses the text slightly. There is a “Quote” Style which applies an indent to the left and right of the document, italicizes your text, and grants it a different color. For instance:
This was a very quick snippet illustrating how to apply basic Styles to your document. Play around with the other styles and learn how they affect the visual presentation of your work, and what a difference that can make to your reader (and also to your own workflow!).
Create Your Own Style
You’re super stylish, right? Good, because I’m not. I have a big ginger beard and everything. Enough of that. In the video I showed you how to access the additional Styles menu. It is the tiny arrow indicating there is a pop-out menu awaiting your inspection. Alternatively, hit CTRL + SHIFT + ALT + S. At the bottom of the new Styles menu are three icons:
- New Style: Pretty self-explanatory. If you find yourself frequently tweaking a specific facet of your Word document layout, you should absolutely turn it into an easily applicable custom Style.
- Style Inspector: The Style Inspector can be pretty handy if you receive a document with lots of new and “unusual” formatting. Just open the inspector and select the area of the document you’d like to know more about. You can also reset the formatting for the selected text from within the inspector, using the red eraser icons on the right.
- Manage Styles: You can use the Manage Styles option to make any alterations to existing Styles, including your own.
When creating your own Style, you don’t have to start from scratch. The options Style type and Base style on can be handy to make slight tweaks to existing styles, suiting them for your editing needs. Just be sure to save them as something different!
Nestled in the Design tab are options for Themes and Document Formatting. Just as a Style applies a specific set of formatting instructions to a single section (or a whole document, if you like), a Theme is designed to format your entire document, altering all of the available styles.
Two of the best features of the Themes section are the interchangeable colors and fonts.
Once you’ve selected your Theme, you can alter the aesthetic of the document using one of the pre-designed color schemes, or design your own.
Similarly, you can select from collections of fonts that will be implemented throughout the document. It is an extremely easy way to alter the visual presentation of your document while maintaining a uniform, professional approach.
Document Formatting applies a complete “Style set” to your document. For instance, in the above video, the Heading 2 formatting Style is a standard, whereas in the next short clip, you’ll see the same Heading 2 Style (and Title Style) change as I rollover each Document Formatting option.
Another handy, but underused tool is Effects. Just as selecting a Theme alters the appearance of the text and formatting, selecting an Effect alters the appearance of each image throughout the document. There are options for regular Office, Glow Edge, Extreme Shadow, and plenty more, so you can select one that matches the voice of your work.
There are other extremely easy ways to apply consistent formatting throughout your entire document. Microsoft included literally thousands of free templates for you to use, covering a huge range of topics . Need a Business Report for a Graphic Design outfit? You’re covered. Need Valentine’s Day Sweetheart Supper & Pie Auction invitations (wat?!)? For some reason, you’re covered.
And although I poke fun at the latter of those examples, the templates can be tweaked to your own specifications extremely easily within Word, using the other design and layout tools available to you.
Choose any template, and open it. Look at the design of the document: where the indents are, where the text boxes are placed, if any specific styles have been applied, and then have a little play around. Move things, click things, change settings, and you’ll understand more about the composition of the template.
3 Advanced Formatting Tips
To round our Word layout settings article off, I’ll share three advanced formatting tips with you.
1. Section Breaks
Section breaks are a crazy useful formatting tool, especially if working on a document consisting of different facets of information that would benefit from an individual style. For instance, you can apply custom formatting to a single area, such as an alternative header or footer, or even a whole new page numbering system, but importantly leaving the rest of the document intact.
Head to the Layout tab, and select Breaks. It will open a drop-down menu containing various options:
Select a section break that suits your document, but note that inserting a Next Page section break will also insert a Page Break, which can be problematic, if that isn’t what you’re after. In this case, use the Continuous Break option.
Once you implement a specific section style you like, you can always copy it to the next section break.
2. Using Find and Replace
This slightly overlooked formatting tool can be a lifesaver when performing editing duties, but using the Find and Replace tool can help you scour the entire document for the specific formatting issues you need to change.
Press CTRL + H to open the Find and Replace tool. In the bottom-right you should spot Format, which opens a drop-down menu. You can now select from the range of additional replacement fields. Each options opens a new dialogue box where you can specify what you’re attempting to replace, and leaving the Find What/Replace With fields empty will change all of the matching formatting.
3. Formatting a List
You’d think altering the appearance of a numbered list would be jolly easy, but it can be surprisingly frustrating.
Head to the Home tab. In the Paragraph section, look for the paragraph symbol and select it.
Look at the end of each entry in your numbered list.
You can now select the individual paragraph markers. When you’ve selected the list items you’d like to change (hold CTRL while making your selection to edit multiple options), head to the Home tab and select the format you’d prefer from the drop-down list options.
Bonus Tip: Display Shortcuts
Microsoft Word does a pretty good job of showing you ScreenTips where possible. Just hover over almost any icon and you’ll get a minute snippet of information detailing exactly what the button does. You can make these ScreenTips more interesting by adding their relevant shortcut, so each time you rollover to check, you can attempt to remember the shortcut instead.
Head to File > Options > Advanced. Under Display, ensure Show shortcut keys in ScreenTips. Then press OK.
Bonus Tip 2: Configure Your Cut and Paste Settings
This is another tiny tip, but if you’re pasting snippets of text from other documents or programs, it can make a massive difference .
Head to File > Options > Advanced. Under Cut, copy, and paste you’ll see five options:
- Pasting within the same document
- Pasting between documents
- Pasting between documents when style definitions conflict
- Pasting from other programs
- Insert/paste pictures as
Select whether you’d like your pasted text to Keep Source Formatting, Merge Formatting, or Keep Text Only. There are also other options for you to consider. For instance, even after ensuring the formatting of any text copied from another program will be merged, I like to see the Show Paste Options button, just in case I need to make an alteration.
Formatting in Word Online
Word Online is part of the free online Office suite offered by Microsoft. It allows you to create and edit documents for free, provided you have a Microsoft account. Word Online offers much of the functionality of the desktop version, but there are some formatting omissions you might bump into.
The base level of formatting is all as standard, but Online doesn’t come with support for Themes or Section Breaks, as well as only allowing “Portrait” as your document orientation. Similarly, while your indents and tab settings will be imported from the desktop version of Word (or elsewhere), Word Online also restricts rulers and gridlines, so adding more can prove difficult.
However, if you are looking to make some basic edits on the move, or simply have no need for the additional formatting power of Word itself, Word Online makes a solid replacement .
Go Forth and Make Things Pretty
You now have the knowledge to make any Word document beautiful, easy to read, with oodles of visually engaging formatting. Take some time to play with the formatting settings. If you familiarize yourself with the basic formatting settings, you’ll find more advanced formatting options a synch!
Now that you know how to format Word documents like a pro, try your skills on a custom brochure or pamphlet . You can start with templates and change them to your likes.
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