<P ID="edit" class=small>(Edited by jscher2000 on 22-Oct-07 17:03. Reconstructed lost post 10/22/07; last edited 2/03/04.)</P>Yup, I’m a fan of “Keep track of formatting.” Introduced in Word 2002, it is enabled by default under the Tools/Options/Edit tab. This feature has been much maligned: it “hobbles” the style box and creates what appears to be a plethora of peculiar styles. In fact, Keep track of formatting, along with the Styles and Formatting and Reveal Formatting task panes, is a powerful tool for identifying and selecting directly formatted text and applying appropriate styles.

With Keep Track of Formatting enabled and the Styles and Formatting task pane displayed, it is easy to spot how Word identifies the direct formatting used in the document, such as Body Text + Bold. The plus sign is an indicator that an item is tracked formatting, but a more definitive test is the lack of a paragraph symbol or “a” next to the style name to designate a style type. However, these items are kind of hybrid style: they are in the style list and can be applied like styles (although doing so is actually applying direct formatting). But, they don’t travel with the document, and of course disappear if Keep Track of Formatting is disabled (and are non-existent in previous versions of Word). I have taken to calling them “tracking styles” for convenience.

My favorite thing to do with these tracking styles is to click the dropdown arrow next one of them on the Styles and Formatting task pane, and Select all __ instance(s). This takes advantage of Word 2002’s ability to select noncontiguous blocks of text, and is much faster than using a carefully structured Find and Replace to locate and correct formatting (the Find style dialog does not recognize tracking styles, only real styles). With all the like-formatted items selected, you can apply an existing style, create a new style based on the formatting and apply it, or strip the direct formatting (Ctrl + Spacebar for character, Ctrl + Q for paragraph), or anything else you might want to do with selected text. Also of note, if you select Modify Style on a tracking style, the description will populate the Name box and when you click OK, it is saved as a bona fide style (although you might give it a less elaborate name, without the plus sign).

As a result of applying styles and subsequently minimizing the amount of direct formatting, that style list will get a lot shorter. If you want to see a list of the “real” styles, though, you can use the Show dropdown at the bottom of the task pane, or press the Shift key while clicking the Style box on the toolbar to see a list of all styles. You can also just use “Keep track of formatting” as you need it – it is not “keeping track” in the sense of track changes, where it stops working if you turn it off. Keep Track of Formatting can be toggled on and off at any time to identify direct formatting.

Another task pane that recognizes tracked formatting is Reveal Formatting, which replaces the “What’s this?” (Shift + F1). At the top of the task pane is a Selected text box, and you can use the dropdown to take action on text, including selecting all similar formatting, applying the formatting of surrounding text, or clear formatting. At the bottom of this task pane is a checkbox for Distinguish style source, which will show the direct formatting of selected text, if you just want to do a “What’s this?”