Microsoft

An easy way to manage Word's list of styles

By default, Word's list of styles is much larger than you need. You can easily reduce it to display just the styles you're using.

Users hesitate to use styles because Word documents have so many that the bunch is a bit unruly. Indeed, the whole corralling process is more complex than maybe it should be. If the sheer number of styles intimidates you, there's an easy trick that will help your reduce styles to a manageable list. The trick is easy to implement; it's a simple setting. However, it isn't a setting you'd know about without a bit of exploring.

First, let's look at what you might face when working with styles. Click the dialog launcher (the diagonal arrow at the bottom right) of the Styles group. Doing so will launch the Styles pane. Using the scroll bar, you probably see dozens and dozens of styles. Most are styles you never use, and as such, they're just in your way. Now, imagine looking for a specific style in that list. It's not just the volume, but the styles aren't even in alphabetical order!

The easiest way to reduce that list into something you can actually use is to limit it to only those styles used in the current document, as follows:

  1. Click the Styles group's dialog launcher to open the Styles pane.
  2. Click the Options link at the bottom of the pane.
  3. From the Select Styles To Show dropdown, choose In Use.
  4. Click OK. The resulting list is much shorter and easier to use.

The list still isn't sorted in alphabetical order, but with such a short list, it's not that important. However, if you want an alphabetical sort, return to the Style Pane Options dialog and choose Alphabetical from the Select How List Is Sorted dropdown. In addition, if you want all new documents to display a shorter list, select the New Documents Based On This Template option at the bottom of the dialog.

Changing this setting is a simple task, but the resulting list is much easier to use. Knowing that the setting exists and how to adjust it to fit your needs is the trick!

About

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.

11 comments
wmjas.shaw
wmjas.shaw

It should be mentioned that using this technique will only keep the styles that are currently in your document, which is a pretty small list when you're starting a new document. It's a really useful technique when you use another document that contains all the styles you'd like to be able to use as a template. I find that I normally need Title, Subtitle, two or three levels of Headings, Normal, a numbered list (at least one level) and a bulleted list (at least one level) for a usable business document.

bd1235
bd1235

set another style as the default to be used for future documents. I tried but cannot shift the default from Normal.

joeyramone2
joeyramone2

Styles are a promising idea but not perfect out-of-the box. Thanks for the great tip.

wim.eising.spam
wim.eising.spam

thanks. A few further questions re this so powerful Styles functionality in Word: How can I easily limit the number of styles that are [u]available[/u]? Does actual deleting of styles reduce the file size? How can I get a personalised short list of styles in the quick style area in the ribbon, instead of getting the standard Word list of quick styles...? Wim

sparent
sparent

I usually avoid styles because I found them complicated to use. Thank you for clearing the noise, Susan.

tustinguy
tustinguy

Thanks. I always love tips on how to improve my use of Word 2010.

ssharkins
ssharkins

They're a bit awkward -- I think a lot is assumed and the devil's in the details as they say.

ssharkins
ssharkins

There might be a built-in way to limit the number of styles, but I think I'd just build a custom template and allow only the styles I wanted.

bd1235
bd1235

thanks for that and I am using 2010 and 2013 (not Office 365).