Five tips for making sense out of the Word 2007/2010 style tools

Word 2007 and 2010 moved their style features from a simple toolbar control to a convoluted interface involving the Ribbon, a gallery, various dialog boxes, and the Styles pane. Susan Harkins tames some of the style chaos with these practical tips.

One of the things I miss the most in Word 2007 is the Style control that was on the 2003 Formatting toolbar. Using this control, you could quickly change a style or create a new one. And you always knew the current style because it was displayed in the control. In Word 2007 and 2010, you use the Styles task pane along with the Quick Styles Gallery in the Styles group (on the Home tab) to manage styles. Whether you're new to styles or just new to the latest version of Word, the following tips will help you get a handle on these features.

1: Put it where you want it

Like so many toolbars and windows, the Styles pane is flexible. You can move it around and you can dock it. To display the Styles pane, click the dialog box launcher (below the Change Styles button in the Styles group on the Home tab). Initially, the pane will be docked. To move it, just grab the title bar and drag it to the desired spot. If it's floating and you want to dock it, double-click the title bar or drag it off the screen in the appropriate direction. For example, if you want to dock it to the right side of the screen, grab the title bar and drag it off the right screen as far as you can. When it won't go any farther, release it and Word will automatically dock it to the right side of your window. Word will remember where you put it; the pane stays where you put it until you move it again.

2: Quickly discern the current style

Word 2003's Style control on the Formatting toolbar was such an interesting tool. With a quick glance, you always knew what the current style was. If you're lucky, the current style will be visible in the Word 2007/2010 Quick Styles Gallery in the Styles group on the Home tab. If not, click the Quick Styles Gallery drop-down for an expanded view of the styles in use. If the current style isn't there either, you'll have to open the Styles pane and scroll through the list until you find it.

That's more work than you really should have to put forth just to learn the current style! There are four alternatives:

  • Add the Style control (from previous versions) to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).
  • Press [Ctrl]+[Shift]+S to display the Apply Styles dialog box, which will show you the current style. Just close it when you're done; you don't have to change the style.
  • Dock the Apply Styles dialog box and keep it open all the time. It takes up a bit of your screen, but it's worth it.
  • Work in Outline or Draft view. These two views display the current style to the left. If your view doesn't display styles in these views, do the following:

  1. Click the File tab and click Options (under Help). In Office 2007, click the Office button and then click Word Options.
  2. In the left pane, choose Advanced.
  3. In the Display section, enter 1 in the Style Area Pane Width In Draft And Outline Views text box.

3: Add styles to the Quick Style Gallery

The Quick Style Gallery in the Styles group displays a number of styles. Those you use most frequently are usually visible in the group without doing a thing. To view a larger list, click the control's drop-down. Word determines the initial order, but when you apply a style, Word adds it to the gallery (usually). You can add styles to the Quick Style Gallery, too.

To create a new style, do the following:

  1. Right-click the newly formatted text and choose Styles from the context menu.
  2. Select Save Selection As A New Quick Style.
  3. Enter a name for the new style and click OK.

This process creates the style and adds it to the Quick Style Gallery.

To move an existing style to the Quick Style Gallery, do the following:

  1. Click the Styles dialog box launcher to open the Styles pane.
  2. Right-click the style you want to move to the Quick Style Gallery and choose Add To Quick Style Gallery.

This doesn't guarantee a visible spot in the tab, though --just a position in the gallery.

You can remove a style from the Quick Style Gallery by right-clicking it and choosing Remove From Quick Style Gallery. Removing a style from the gallery won't delete the style.

4: Promote styles to the Quick Style gallery

If you use a style often and it doesn't show up in the Quick Style Gallery on its own, you can force the issue by promoting that style. Word ranks each style, and most likely the style you're using has a low ranking -- it'll need your help to make its way into the gallery:

  1. Click the Styles dialog launcher to open the Styles pane.
  2. Click the Manage Styles button (the third button on the right at the bottom).
  3. In the Manage Styles dialog box, click the Recommend tab.
  4. From the Sort Order drop-down, choose As Recommended. Notice that each style has a value -- that's its rank.
  5. Find the style you want to promote in the list and select it.
  6. Click Move Up as many times as necessary to move the style to a top position. Figure A shows the result of moving Quote to 9.
  7. Click OK. As you can see in Figure B, Quote is now the third-ranking member of the gallery (even though it's ranked 9).

Figure A

Change a style's rank to move it to the gallery.

Figure B

After changing Quote's ranking, it's a member of the gallery.

5: Clean it up

The Styles pane can display every style, and that includes variations of paragraph and character styles. All that clutter can certainly reduce the window's effectiveness and your productivity. Fortunately, you can quickly reduce the list to only those styles you're actually using, as follows:

  1. Click the Styles dialog box launcher.
  2. In the Styles pane, click the Options link (bottom-right corner).
  3. Most likely, the Select Styles To Show control is set to All Styles. Choose In Use or In Current Document.
  4. If you want to make the change for all new documents, click the New Documents Based On This Template option. Don't click this option if you want to set the Styles pane for only the current document.
  5. Click OK.

This quick setting can reduce the number of styles in the Styles pane to a handful. Working with just a few styles visible is certainly easier than working with dozens.


Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.


Strongly echo all comments below about how MS has messed up a really good style management system! And thanks to Susan for helping us through this huge re-learning curve. 

Would help further if you could write about how to set up numbered heading styles in Word 2010. because when I open the options: i get simple numbering, or bulleting, but no 1.1, 1.1.1, type of options!


Firstly I have to echo jonc comments, especially "Microsoft took a perfectly good system and stuffed it up!". After upgrading to MSO 2010 from 2003, it has been quite a battle to get the right ANSWER and thanks to people like Sue, I am starting to get to grip's with it!! The part that really HURT's (Take NOTE Microsoft) is the amount of time to get up to speed - It's a pity MS didn't call for some Input from the END USER's that have to put up with the rubish that they come up with.. Like the man said "Why Stuff it Up" if it already works well!! Item 4, Was particularly Helpful and after some Trial and error the "Import/Export" Button (Figure A - Bottom left) cured my Problem... In 2003 I could create a style and use it in any document and it would be available in any document I opened and modify the Selected text by clicking on the Style I had Created. In 2010 and after much ... around the "Import/Export" button allows me to copy the new style from the current Document to the "Normal.dotm" and the style is available to be used in the next document I open, which is often a document that has already been created!! Again thanks a million Sue, your info is going to save me a lot of time, WHICH IS FAR MORE THAN WHAT MICROSOFT IS DOING! keep up the Good work!!


As someone that was a pretty proficient user of the previous Word versions, 2007 and 2010 have been a chore for re-learning. I've actually printed some of these tips up and tacked them to my cubey wall until they become ingrained. :)


Glad you found this one useful -- the new Styles pane offers so much that it's a little difficult to use! I really miss the old Styles control.


Very useful, and may make Word 2010 almost as functional as 2003. However despite trying (and failing) to use 2007, and now using 2010 which is better but still terrible, I cannot understand why Microsoft took a perfectly good system and stuffed it up. I will drop MS as soon as feasible and move to Open or LibreOffice. Wake up, Microsoft! I use the QAT permanently and added the Styles Pane launcher and Style Contol to it on day 1. This makes style management reasonably painless. Great idea to dock the Styles Pane. Thanks again.

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