Ok, I have a confession to make. Microsoft is not entirely evil. Strange as that may sound coming from me, I’m coming to realize it more and more.
Take for instance, Microsoft Word. At first glance, it seems like nothing but a boring word processor that takes awhile longer to load than it should, and inexplicably destroys your formatting. However, on closer examination, much more is revealed.
CSS in Word documents
Well, not quite, but close enough. Just as css allows you to apply uniform styling rules to specified sections of text, and then update the formatting of all of them at once, Word uses styles to accomplish exactly the same thing.
To see what I mean, first make sure you have the ‘Styles and Formatting’ control visible on the formatting toolbar, then click the icon with two ‘A’s in it to make the sidebar appear. Several default styles should now be visible, such as headings 1-3. To modify one of these styles, just click the right edge of it and select ‘Modify’ from the drop down menu. From the ensuing dialog you can change such basic properties as font, size, alignment, line spacing, color, etc. Even more properties can be accessed via the ‘Format’ menu in the lower left corner. To add the changes you make to the default template, just check ‘Add to template’.
By using this simple tools, you can style a word document in essentially the same way you would style html with CSS. It even includes such powerful tools as preventing page breaks inside a paragraph, forcing a paragraph to be on the same page as the next (both of which are extremely useful when making evidence briefs for debate), and changing tabstops, borders, numbering and the like.
Now comes the real beauty of styles, which is how easy it is to apply them to different parts of your document. Simply put the cursor inside of a paragraph and click the desired style to apply it to the entire paragraph, or select a body of text then select a style. And if you ever want to change which style applies to a certain type of text, just select that style from the sidebar, click the ‘Select All’ button at the top, then select the new style you want to apply.
It is even possible to fix the styling of document acquired from the internet this way as well, since you can just select the paragraph you wish to change and apply a style to it, instantly fixing whatever kind of weird fonts and sizing it had before.
If you want more information about styles, you can find Microsoft’s tutorial on it here.
Edit: After I posted this article on Distant-Help, Eric alerted me to the fact that OpenOffice has the same features in it. To access them, just click the icon with a hand over a sheet of paper (its in the same spot as it is in Word) to open the ‘Styles and Formatting’ window, which you can then dock as a sidebar. The way the style settings are organized is different than in Word, but they are just as easily accessible. Simply right-click on a style and click ‘Modify’ to change it.