You may have come across styles in Word and wondered just what they are. Or perhaps you've used styles and want to find out more about them. This article describes what styles are how to create and use them. Styles are one of Word's great strengths and are present in just about everything you do in Word.

When you work in Word you might apply formatting to text or paragraphs, for example by changing the font, font size, font colour or alignment using Word's formatting toolbar or tab buttons. If you want to apply the same formatting again somewhere else in the same document, or in another document, you have to apply the formatting settings all over again. However there is an easier way, which is to use styles. Styles let you save formatting under a chosen style name, and then you can apply this same style to other parts of your work by simply selecting the appropriate style name.

What kinds of styles are there?

There are four main types of styles you can use in Word. Firstly you can apply styles to characters.

A character style can include all the font formatting features such as font type, size, colour, bold, italic.

Secondly there are paragraph styles. A paragraph style can include all the paragraph formatting features such as alignment, indents and line spacing, and also contains character settings as well.

Thirdly there are list styles. A list style can include formatting for a particular bullet symbol in a bullet list, or number formatting such as regular or Roman numerals in a number list, or number formatting for the main and then indented numbers in an outline number list. A list style also lets you set the spacing between bullet or numbers or outline numbers and the following text.

Fourthly there are table styles. A table style can include a preset number of rows and columns, table borders, table alignment and formatting within the table.

How are styles created?

You can easily create styles and store them in your current document, or make them available to all your documents. You can even send your styles to someone else, but more of that later.

So how are styles created? You can either set up the formatting you want within a Word document and then create a new style from the formatting, or you can create the style first and then choose the formatting.

In this article we'll describe creating the style and then choosing the formatting. The style panel we'll use to create a new style looks similar in different versions of Word. In Word 2003 you open the styles and formatting panel by clicking on the AA button to the far left of the formatting toolbar, or by choosing format, styles and formatting, and the styles panel opens.

In Word 2007/2010 you choose the home tab and then in the styles group click the right pointing down arrow which is below the AA button, and the styles panel opens. We'll describe in this article how to create a character style by clicking the new style button in this style panel and you can create the other types of styles using the same method.

To create a new character style ensure the style panel is open and click the new style button. Another panel opens - the new style panel in Word 2003 or the create new style from formatting panel in Word 2007/2010.

In the name box, type in a name, such as MyText1 (without spaces). Then click the pop down and you'll see the different style types available - paragraph, character, table and list. For this exercise choose character. Now in the lower left of the panel click the Format button, then Font and select Arial font, 14 point size and blue font colour. Click OK to return to the style panel and another OK to complete.

You'll then see your new style MyText1 in the style panel. To apply your character style first select some text, then click on MyText1 in the style panel and you'll see the formatting applied to the highlighted text. If you leave the cursor is this text and look in the styles panel you'll see the style MyText1 highlighted.

If you create a new paragraph style, don't forget the formatting covers paragraph formatting and character formatting, so you can choose settings such as paragraph alignment and line spacing as well as font settings. When you apply a paragraph style you just need to place the cursor anywhere in the target paragraph without highlighting anything and choose the required style from the style panel. However to apply a paragraph style to several paragraphs you do need to highlight all the paragraphs first.

How are styles stored?

Once a new style is created it is stored in the current document. Unfortunately that means that it is available only there and is not available in any new documents. However you can modify your style to make it available to all documents by adding it to the normal Word template. This template is used as a basis for all new Word documents and is usually hidden.

To make your style available to all documents you need to modify the style. So still working in the original document where you stored MyText1, right click on Mytext1 in the style panel and choose modify. For Word 2003 tick the 'Add to template' checkbox, then click OK to complete. For Word 2007/2010 click the option 'New documents based on this template', then click OK to complete. Now if you create a new Word document and look in the styles panel you'll see your new style present and ready to be used.

If you want to send one or more styles to someone else, a good way is to save them in a new template, then send this template to the other person. When they build a new document based on this template all the template styles will be available to them.

Interested in finding out more about Word styles? Why not consider attending one of the many training course available and find out much more about styles and other Word features.