Mastering Styles and Document Themes

Style Sets

The “Design” tab brings all of the formatting options you can apply to a document in one place.


“Document Formatting” section shows you how the heading and text would look if you pick one of the combinations there. Each of these combinations is called a “Style Set.” If you briefly hover over each style set, the formatting of your document will change to preview how it would look. If you click on the style set, it will be applied to your current document. This is non-destructive, so if you don’t like the new style, you can just as easily change it.


Similar to other sections throughout Word, if you click the scrollbar on the right edge, it will expand to a full menu. Further options at the bottom allow you to reset your style set to the default or save your current style as a new set.


The right side of the document formatting section contains functions for changing your colors, fonts, paragraph spacing, add effects, and set your changes as the default style set.


Changing the colors simply means that shapes, SmartArt, charts, and text will affected.


There are plenty of built-in color schemes to choose from, however, if none these strike your fancy, or you have specific colors you want to use, you can click “Customize Color” at the bottom. Here you’ll have virtually limitless choices, and you can save your new custom color set and use it later.


The “Fonts” menu contains predefined schemes that you can select based on the old Office theme, or a font family.


Select “Customize Fonts” at the bottom of the menu to quickly create a new custom set based on your personal favorite font family. In the screenshot below, we see you can assign a “heading font” and “body font” and then give it a name, save it, and then apply it to your current and future documents (“set as default”).


If you choose a new font style, you can see it reflected in the font section of the “Home” tab.


“Paragraph Spacing” contains a variety of built-in styles, which should please all but the most picky. Again, to see how your document is affected by these, you can hover over each one and the changes will be previewed in your document.


Note the “Custom Paragraph Spacing” option at the bottom of this menu.


The effects menu allows you to quickly change the effect of design elements such as shapes, SmartArt, and charts.


If you want to preserve any changes to your style set permanently as the default, then you can click “set as default.” A dialog box will appear asking you to confirm.


Finally, if you want to use a custom style set in the future, but you do not want to apply it as the default. You can save it as a template file. Right-click on the style set and then “Save.”


Note, we’ll cover templates shortly. Here you should simply know that if you want to use your new custom template in the future, you would only need to double-click on the *.dotx file or open it from Word.


Note the option “Add Gallery to Quick Access Toolbar” simply means that if you want quick access to the document formatting gallery, it can be accessed from the QAT at the top of the Word window.


Modifying Styles

Suppose we only want to modify Heading 2.

For example, let’s say we want to center, bold, and italicize it. The quickest way to do this would be to change the selected style, then right-click on that style in the “Styles” section on the “Home” tab, in this case Heading 2, and select “Update Heading 2 to Match Selection.” All instances of Heading 2 will now reflect your changes throughout the document.



The style set you are greeted with when you click on the “Design” tab comprises the “Office” theme. Other themes can be accessed by clicking on the “Themes” button on the left of the “Design” tab.


A theme comprises a whole new bunch of style sets, each with its own fonts, color, spacing and anything else previously discussed.

Note at the bottom, there are further options to rest the theme to the template, browse for custom themes on your computer, as well as save the current theme, assuming you’ve altered or customized it, as a new theme. This is different from saving a style set. Remember, a style set saves as a template file (.dotx). A theme is saved as a theme file (.thmx) and each theme file:


Themes are remarkably simple and a very effective way to apply a complete look and feel to your documents in a matter of seconds.


And that’s it for the How-To Geek School’s Guide to Word Formatting. It’s been fun, we’ve learned a lot, and hope you did too! If you missed any part of this series, or simply want to review something again, you can easily do so by clicking any of the links in the table of contents at the beginning of the article.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.