Find the Help You Need!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Document Formatting

Sometimes formatting a document does not work as we would expect. We select text and apply formatting and the whole paragraph and sometimes the whole document goes nuts! There's always a possibility that it's a corrupt document. What it comes down to is a very complex set of formatting rules which are more cumbersome than the U.S. tax code.

There are many levels of formatting that you can put on text: character, paragraph, style and CSS. And, there is a precedent in formatting - character trumps paragraph which trumps style. Furthermore, the rules of formatting are complex (there's a rule, the 50-50 rule that says that generally if you apply formatting to more than 50% of a paragraph that it will take over the formatting of the rest of the paragraph).

Let me give an example with shading. So, if you just apply the shading to text, you're applying character formatting to the text which supercedes the paragraph level formatting which has no shading.

If you will select the entire line (including the pilcrow) and apply shading, you'll see that the shading extends beyond the text to the right margin. That's because it's for the paragraph which is valid for the entire margin width. Shading just the text only applies to the text itself. That last pilcrow (the little backwards paragraph mark) actually represents a formatting marker and storage facility for paragraph level formatting. If you'll look through other articles here, you'll see that the last pilcrow in a document also has special significance.

So, when you select the entire paragraph, you're trying to format the entire paragraph and when you select "No Color", you're telling the paragraph to have no color - which it already has (or doesn't have). In fact, if you select the entire line (paragraph) and pull down the color dropdown, you'll first see that the shading color is selected, but that is because Word recognizes that that color is in use in the paragraph. If you select "No Color", you're explicitly telling Word that this paragraph should not have color and if you hit the dropdown again, you'll see that "No Color" is selected.

If you just select the shaded text and pull down the color dropdown, you'll see that the shading color is selected. That's because character formatting supercedes paragraph formatting. If you selected just the text and hit "No Color" then it would turn off.

Hopefully that demystifies document formatting a little bit. It's probably also worth looking at my recommendations on putting documents together. It's hard to make a stable document and these tips should go a long way towards curbing some of your frustration.

No comments: