The themes in Microsoft Word 2013 promise a new level of quick and coordinated colors, styles, and more when applied to documents.
But getting a theme’s full set of features requires understanding how Word defines theme and style — and also how they’re applied.
The basics of Word styles and themes
In page-layout parlance, a style is a set of formatting instructions applied to the elements of a page: heads, body text, captions, sidebars — the various components that make up a document. A style can be made up of many specific format settings such as typeface, font size, and color; margin width, line length, and leading (the space between elements on your page); bullet style, etc.
Themes, found in both Word 2010 and 2013, are predefined sets of coordinated styles users can select if they want to speed up and simplify the process of formatting a document. Word themes aren’t new — they first appeared in Word 2007 — even in Word 2013, they continue to bewilder users.
Recently, a Windows Secrets reader wrote in, asking for help with a peculiar Word 2013 problem. She was learning about Word themes and, after adding her text, was confounded by the theme process. When she hovered the mouse over Themes gallery selections, her text didn’t change to the color shown in a particular theme. Other styling elements in the text changed, so she assumed the theme was being applied. No matter what she tried — even with the help of Microsoft tech support — she couldn’t get a theme’s colors to show up.
Depending on decisions made sequentially
Although Microsoft would like you to think Word formatting is simple — and in some ways it is — applying themes and getting the outcome you expect requires learning some specific steps. For example, to have a theme automatically change fonts and font colors, you have to apply styles to the various elements in a document so Word knows what to change.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Word’s formatting tools — and you’ll see how they interrelate, so you can get the full benefit of themes when giving your document a makeover. I focus on Word 2013, but the process is similar in Word 2010.