Word -- Keep your stinking hands off my styles!

The number one complaint I have about Word is its dogmatic need to control everything I do. Now, I realize that Microsoft professionals put a lot of thought into Word's default settings, and I don't fault them for their choices — well, not too much. On the other hand, some settings annoy me.  I could list them all — there are several. Instead, I'm just going to tell you about the one that truly makes me want to stick pins in someone's effigy.

Ever been typing along, applied a style, and found it wasn't the style you defined? A style is a set of formatting attributes you apply. You define the style to save time. Instead of applying several formats, you apply the style. Word, by default, knows when you've altered the formatting for an applied style and automatically updates the style — whether you want it to or not.

There are two ways you can stop Word in its tracks:

  • Disable the feature by choosing AutoCorrect Options from the Tools menu, clicking the AutoFormat As You Type option, and then unchecking the Define Styles Based On Your Formatting option in the Automatically As You Type section.
  • Force Word to ask you by choosing Options from the Tools menu, clicking the Edit tab, and checking the Prompt To Update Style option.

Don't select both options, of course — they don't work together. Choose one method or the other.

There are a lot of Word settings you can disable if they annoy you. I'd like to hear about the settings that drive you nuts. If you don't know how to disable them, maybe I can help.


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.

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