How best to ensure consistency output from MS Office?
March 19, 2011 10:31 AM   Subscribe

How best to ensure consistency of output whilst using MS Office? As part of my role as a maths teacher I create (design) worksheets and presentations for my class. I spend a fair bit of time making sure things are consistent (e.g. Space for Name, Class), Header here etc. There must be a better way, using Forms? Templates? Themes? Can you suggest one, and some tutorials in how to best use. Thank you.

I'm a big believer in design being important. With the students knowing that date in top right, and name top left, allows them to concentrate on the actual intended task.

I imagine LaTeX would be great for this. Unfortunately, going to have to stick to MS Office as that seems to be the standard in schools.
posted by 92_elements to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you have a standard header/footer (name, class) you can make a standard blank page with just those items and "Save as" a template (.dot, .dotx?)

When you go to make a new document, you'll make a document based on that template (instead of choosing blank document).
posted by ijoyner at 10:42 AM on March 19, 2011

Templates are absolutely the way to go for this. That's what they are designed for. Make a document that looks exactly like you want it, with spaces for the information for the students to fill out. Then save that document as a .dot, or .dotx file. Next time, locate the template and double-click it. That will open a new document with all the previous design elements intact. You can do the same with Excel, just saving it as .xlt, xltx files.

Word templates

Excel templates
posted by gemmy at 11:15 AM on March 19, 2011

Templates, as mentioned above, plus (for Microsoft Word) styles. A style as a bundle of formatting choices (font, size, color, paragraph alignment, paragraph spacing, etc.); you highlight some text and hit the relevant style to format the whole thing. Otherwise, you'll constantly be fighting the default formatting, applying your formatting preferences one at a time.
posted by kovacs at 1:54 PM on March 19, 2011

Using a template file is half the battle. The other half is what's in the template. I'd set it up with an appropriately styled stylesheet that uses standard styles like Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.

The third half is educating the students as to what a stylesheet is, and when to use which style. This is really the right way to go in any word processor, but it seems that only pretty advanced users "get it". I have seen some wildly imaginative mis-formatting. Getting people to use list styles (for example) instead of doing them manually (including hard breaks and leading spaces) may be a challenge, but it will stand your students in good stead once they learn it.

Also, for whatever it's worth, I must point out that MS can be kind of messed up with some of its styles. The numbering of numbered lists can go awry. And the "helpful" attempts to auto-style things for you can be pernicious.
posted by adamrice at 1:56 PM on March 19, 2011

Nthing the template - since it sounds like it's just you making them, the data entry part is probably the easiest. Don't worry about the styles - start instead with your fonts and placements - put some sample text or numbers where you want them, then save and open that file whenever you start a new project. Use the 'save as...' function immediately (or copy and paste the file in your Explorer) so you don't overwrite the original template file.
posted by chrisinseoul at 11:27 AM on March 20, 2011

Styles make it easy to quickly get formatting consistent. They are easy to setup and apply. You can even set keybindings to them, so clicking on a line and clicking F1 will apply the headline format, for instance.
posted by bprater at 2:06 PM on March 20, 2011

Response by poster: All great answers, so I'm not going to mark a best one. I'll start experimenting with styles and templates this weekend.

Thanks everyone.
posted by 92_elements at 11:55 AM on March 22, 2011

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