Styles

Tom Forth, .

The most powerful feature of Microsoft Excel that you don’t use is Tables. If you learned how to use Tables and the features that they enable like Power Query you would save hours a week.

Here’s how to unpivot data in Excel.

I’m sorry for all the time you wasted in the past. I have the same regrets. And this is just the tip of an iceberg of regret when it comes to Excel.

Tables in Excel, they're awesome.

But I’m not here to talk about Tables. I’m here to talk about Styles. Excel has Styles, but they don’t really matter.

Styles

The most powerful feature of Microsoft Word that you don’t use is Styles. If you learned how to use them and all of the features that they enabled you would save hours a month.

You would also find that your documents look much better. Your documents would be far easier to publish accessibly on the web, because HTML has Styles too. Your documents would be easier to re-use by your colleagues. And like I said, you would save time. Want to add a Table of Contents? Just works if you use Styles properly. A Table of Figures? Styles. What to do when that table or that picture runs over a page? Styles.

You and I have all seen the jokes on twitter. “Hahaha, I made one image smaller and now Word has moved every heading over all 213 pages”. Styles fixes that. The reason you hate Microsoft Word is almost always Styles.

So why don’t people use Styles? Well, a big reason is that the default styles are bad, and if you can find the alternatives you’ll find that they’re bad too. Light blue headings are never a good idea, anywhere, but that’s the default. So of course, we have to fix the styles.

Styles, they're not awesome, but they should be.

But fixing styles takes time. About ten minutes. And the whole point of styles was to save time. So no-one bothers.

What should happen is that once you’ve “fixed” your styles in one document, it becomes an option for you to apply that style instantly to every other document. This is how websites work. You set your style once in a .css file, and then apply that style to every .html document.

And this way of thinking works really well in Windows too. If you change your desktop background on one computer, it will sync to every computer you log into, even if you log in as a guest on someone else’s computer. If anything, Microsoft push synchronisation too hard, to try and get us to accept it.

But with Word it’s the other way round. I’m signed into Word in a similar way to Windows, it’s my same Microsoft Account, and my styles never travel with me. Even if I try, I can’t get it to happen. Microsoft have thought that “styles are reusable sets of formatting options that you can apply to text” since 2007, but they aren’t.

Styles in the cloud

So tell me, what am I missing? Is there a good, easy, quick way to synchronise Styles across all of my versions of Word and across all of my organisations’ versions of Word? I have Office 365, more subscriptions than I need. I pour money into Microsoft’s bulging corporate coffers every month and every year and I’m happy about it. They write excellent software. They seem really keen to get me signed in and synchronised everywhere else. Except for Styles.

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