Quick and easy solution for reformatting Word documents from manual formatting to Styles?
April 23, 2009 6:14 PM   Subscribe

Quick and easy solution for reformatting Word documents from inconsistent manual formatting to Styles?

I am helping someone combine 5 Word documents into 1 book with consistent formatting, a Table of Contents, chapter-specific headers and footers, page numbering, etc. If it matters (for text formatting) the documents are all in French. There are 300+ pages.

Problem: The original source documents were all manually formatted (inconsistently!) and thus each one seems to have 100+ different Styles, with only a few (or sometimes one) instance of each Style. The original document authors also did other fun things like use tabs or spaces to position text instead of tab stops or indentation.

Right now it appears as if I will have to go through the document page-by-page, reformatting the text into a consistent set of Styles. Or wipe out all formatting and start from a clean slate. Is there a quicker, easier way to do this or are we just screwed?

If we are screwed, do you think that wiping out all the formatting and applying Styles to the unformatted text (using the original documents' appearance as a guide for different sections, header levels, etc.) would be the fastest way?

I am using Word 2007 and she is using 2003, are there any 2007 formatting features I should avoid because they won't be backwards-compatible?

(Also, I am relatively new to working with Styles in Word so any other large document design/formatting tips you'd like to share would be much appreciated! :))

Please let me know, thanks!
posted by Jacqueline to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Use the Find & Replace function from Word.

Basically, create the styles you need. Then, launch the Find and Replace dialog and click on the "Find What" field. Click on the "Format" button selecting font/size/style of the text you want to replace. Afterwards, click the "Replace With" field and do the same, this time selecting the style you want. Finally, click Replace All.

This site
explains the features of the Find & Replace function if you need more help.
posted by Memo at 6:51 PM on April 23, 2009

In my experience with this sort of thing, if it's as inconsistently-formatted as you describe, stripping out the formatting and redoing it properly with Styles, based on a printout of the original, is the quickest and easiest way to do it.

Part of why it's quicker is because you don't lose time staring at the godawful mess on the screen while muttering "you people are not allowed to use the computer anymore, dammit." (Or maybe that's just me. It's always an adventure to click the ¶ button to reveal the formatting when a co-worker has sent me a file. I think my favorite was the time they used Excel as a page-layout program... and used spaces to align things... in a proportional font. Ow.)
posted by Lexica at 6:55 PM on April 23, 2009

You might want to try one of the tools from Editorium, like FileCleaner for Word, which are made for exactly the sort of situation where an editor is being driven nuts by a writer who uses Word like a typewriter. If this is a one time mega-fix, you can use most (maybe even all) of their tools for 45 days for free.
posted by bcwinters at 6:59 PM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

One tip which may not have occurred to you -- assign keyboard shortcuts to Styles.

It's a lot quicker to go through hitting Control-1 for Heading 1, Control-D for dotpoints etc than it is to use only the mouse.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:38 PM on April 23, 2009

I recommend a combination of the advice above. First, you can learn a lot just by hitting the ¶ button. This will give you an idea of whether you have tons of individual quirky formatting choices, or many patterns of repeated ones. Because if there are repeated formatting choices, it makes it worthwhile to record a macro that also incorporates the find and replace function.

So if there are a lot of common "used it like a typewriter" conventions (using tabs to indent, using two spaces after a full stop etc.), you can record a quick macro that finds and replaces all of those.

Depending on how long this missive is, you may be better off stripping out and starting over, but again, this can be done using a macro to do it.

It's been a couple of years since I've done so, but I used to have to take articles written by academics from anywhere in the world and make their submittals consistent for spelling, style, formatting, and so on, and the Word macros and the ¶ button were my best friends.
posted by beelzbubba at 10:02 PM on April 23, 2009

Response by poster: Clarification: I already viewed the Styles list for the document, and there are literally hundreds of Styles in this document, many (most?) only used once. The Styles are all named after the formatting elements so basically whoever made this document had that feature where it automatically adds a new Style based on your manual formatting on. So I can't just go through and replace a few Styles with a few other Styles. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 12:10 AM on April 24, 2009

I'm seconding Lexica. I did this on a smaller scale with around ~100 pages (along with some heavy editing)... and I was much happier when I had already prepared the Styles I wanted, then just went straight through the document clearing whatever crazy formatting was there and replacing it with my Styles.

My other tips:
Make sure that you have a plan for which headings you will use to build the TOC and that you know how Word's TOC features work (I didn't before I started the ~100 page project, so I did the TOC manually....blegh).
Also for 2003/2007, I recommend that you save the file in compatibility mode, especially if you have any picture file/text box/shape combinations.
posted by hellogoodbye at 4:30 AM on April 24, 2009

I did this a couple of weeks ago, although it was only a couple of ten-page documents, and I had originally written them myself (without Styles). Hopefully this is scalable to documents of your size.

(This is using Word 2003, but you should be able to locate the same features in 2007.) First thing you want to do is create your own styles. Give them your own names and make as few of them as possible (for consistency).

Next, in the Styles pane, go through and find a style that yours replaces, and click the dropdown arrow. Select "Select all 5 instances" (or however many there are). Then click the style you just created. This will apply your new style to all old styles, and will delete the old style. Ideally you would be able to go through all of the styles in the Style pane that are not yours, and replace them with yours. If you come across one that you don't have a counterpart for, create one.

After all that is over with, and you're left with only your own styles, you can go through the documents and make adjustments as necessary.
posted by relucent at 5:43 AM on April 24, 2009

you can also just import the style template that you want to use. either clean up one of the documents you want to import, or create the formatting in a brand new document. you can do heading 1, heading 2, body text, etc. with that document open, go to format, styles & formatting, and the style pane will pop up on the right side of the document. at the bottom of that pane it says show: ______. use the drop arrow to choose 'custom' & you'll get a pop-up window. at the bottom of that window is a button that says styles. click that button & yet another pop-up window appears. at the bottom of that window is a button that says organizer. click the organizer button, and under the styles tab (should be the default tab), you'll see two lists. the one on the left should show the styles in the document you created (at the bottom it will say styles available in [yourdocname.doc]. at the bottom of the right-hand list, where it says styles available in, click the close file button, the list will disappear, and click the open file button at the bottom of the empty list. navigate thru to find the file(s) in which you want to overwrite the styles (you probably want to change files of type to .doc because it defaults to .dot, which is a template), and open that file.

(phew. almost there.)

you'll return to the window with 2 lists. highlight all the styles in the list on the left--this is the document you formatted the way you want the final document to look--and click the copy button between the 2 lists. click yes when the popup window asks if you want to overwrite the styles in the opened doc.

that *should* change all the styles over to the ones you want instead of the ones you're stuck with.

that might be a little more complicated than relucent's method above, but it gives you a clean template to use that you can apply to all 5 incoming docs. (you still might have to delete some of the custom styles in the renegade docs, but anything already formatted with heading1 or body text or whatever automatically changes to the one in the master template you created.)

good luck.
posted by msconduct at 7:08 AM on April 24, 2009

Response by poster: Another clarification: None of the existing "Styles" in the old docs are in actual styles like Heading1, Body Text, etc. They are all just named after the formatting used, like:
10pt, First line: 0.25"
10pt, First line: 0.49"

There are a handful of instances per Style and hundreds of these Styles and no guarantee that they were applied consistently. So I don't think I can just replace the existing Styles with the Styles I want because there are so many and they may not even all map to the same type of content.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:00 PM on April 24, 2009

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