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How To: Styles, Templates, and Quick Styles in Word 2007

Updated 4/27/2014: Edited to point to new Using Word for Your Dissertation Guide from MLibrary.

I’m using Word 2007 and RefWorks, including the Write-N-Cite III Word plug in. I don’t want any crap from you LaTeX users. Yes, I know how to use LaTeX. No, I didn’t pick it for my dissertation. Moving on.

Rackham, the graduate school at the University of Michigan, has arcane and ugly formatting requirements that my dissertation must meet in order for me to receive my degree. They will not let me graduate if my margins or headers are wrong. That’s pretty compelling incentive to get my formatting right. Using the excellent “Using Word for Your Dissertation” guide provided by the University Library’s Knowledge Navigation Center as a starting point, I set off to make sure Word would format my dissertation correctly.

The keys to making your formatting life easy with Word are styles and templates. You can learn more about both at Microsoft’s site. I’m a faithful style user, and I assume you can easily become one if you aren’t already. All text in my documents is associated with some style – e.g., Normal, Heading 1, Long Quote. You need not worry about the specifics of a style while you write – just make sure all your text is associated with a style. Word does much of that automatically. Once you’re done writing and ready to format, you should first open a new blank document and create a template.

Creating a Template

The real purpose of your template is to store the formatting rules you assign to all your different styles. Your template need not have any content, but I find it helpful to write a little something so I can at least see my style changes in action. To create a template, you need to edit the styles so they match your formatting rules and then save the document as a template (*.dotx) instead of a regular document.

Attaching Templates to Files

Once you have defined all your styles and formatting rules in a template, you need to attach the template to your Word document. In Word 2007,

  1. Go to the Office button
  2. Choose “Word Options” from the bottom
  3. Choose “Add Ins” from the side menu
  4. Choose “Templates” from the Manage drop down at the bottom
  5. Click “Go…”
  6. Click “Attach” and navigate to the template file you just created and saved
  7. Make sure “Automatically update document styles” is selected
  8. Click “Ok”

You should see your document change to reflect the formatting rules in your template.

Using Quick Styles

One of my favorite features of Word 2007 is the Quick Styles feature. Quick Styles let you save template rules so they are accessible from the “Change Styles” menu on the Home ribbon. To get your formatting rules into a Quick Style, essentially saving you the hassle of attaching a template:

  1. Open your template file
  2. Click “Change styles” on the Home ribbon
  3. Choose “Style set” and then “Save as Quick Style Set…”
  4. Give your set a name you’ll remember and click “Save”

Now, you can apply your template’s rules in any document right from the Quick Style menu by click “Change Styles”, then “Style Set,” and choosing the name you gave your set.


I wrote this post in part to remind myself of the steps involved. Styles and templates can make working in Word incredibly easy, but you absolutely must always use styles to format your text. If you make changes by hand (e.g., clicking Ctrl+B to make something bold), you’ll screw the whole process up. Only when used together (and exclusively) will styles and templates make your writing life easier.

Office 2008 for Mac can do the styles and templates stuff but does not have a useful Quick Styles feature. To attach a template to a document in Office 2008 for Mac:

  1. Open the “Tools” menu
  2. Choose “Templates and Add Ins…”
  3. Click “Attach” and navigate to the template document you created
  4. Make sure “Automatically update document styles” is selected
  5. Click “Ok”

If you’re using RefWorks, you should use either Word 2007 or Word 2008 but not both. RefWorks gets confused when you try to add or edit citations with both programs. I do most of my writing in Word 2007 on a virtual machine running Windows 7. I occasionally make edits using Word 2008 natively on my Mac, but I do not make changes to citations in both programs.


  • John Griese |

    Hi and thanks for your post. I got a chuckle out of your comment regarding Latex. I am a doctoral candidate in the history of astronomy and use both the windows and mac platforms. I have windows xp running in a parallels desktop virtual machine on top of mac os x on a MacBook Pro. After trying out various software on both platforms, it is probable that I will continue writing my dissertation in Word 2008. Up to now I have been using Word 2007 but found that the citation engines in endnote and other programs were not working. My favorite program is bookends on mac so will see how it and endnote x2 work with word 2008. Hopefully they will play well together.

    Like you I am also running windows 7 (IT experimental version in a seaparate parallels virtual machine). Unlike vista, I like windows 7. My school is in Australia and I am a distance student on the Internet.

    Cheers, John

  • John |

    Thanks very much, very clear and very useful.
    A lot of this stuff is VERY powerful if I can only take the time to work through some of the bits that don’t seem to want to behave properly.

    Another John

  • Water ionizer |


    Thanks for the information,just found this post my technorati news feed section! I was searching for this since past 3 months and i am glad to see it here. Thanking you much


  • David L. |

    Thanks Libby! I wonder why Rackham doesn’t post an “official” word template with styles defined? At least I can’t seem to find one.

So, what do you think ?

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