Word 2004: ‘New Style’ dialog box requires specific order for actions

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
June 18th, 2004 • 12:12 am

The new “New Style” dialog box that pops up when you click on the “New Style” button in the Formatting Palette or on the “New…” button in the main “Styles” dialog box is undeniably an improvement over the previous versions. But it still gets many things wrong.

One of them is what happens if you don’t follow a specific order when creating a new style. Let’s say you type the name of the new style first. (That’s where the focus is when you open the dialog box.) Then you go to the “Formatting” section and define a few character formatting changes.

Then you realize that, by default, Word creates a new paragraph style and you want the style you are in the process of creating to be a character style. So you go to the “Style type:” pop-up menu and change the option from “Paragraph” to “Character“. What what happens to all the formatting changes you’ve already made. They’re gone!

Switching from “Paragraph” to “Character” causes Word to completely forget all the formatting changes you’ve just made and forces you to start again from scratch.

In other words, if you don’t follow a specific order in this dialog box (define style name first, then choose style type, then change formatting options), you’ll be punished. In Microsoft’s world, the user is not allowed to change his mind, and there is only one right way of doing things. It’s Microsoft’s way and not your way.

The problem is a fundamental one, of course. In a Mac OS dialog box, there’s nothing that says that the various controls that appear in the dialog have to be used in a specific order. Just because some are at the top of the window and others are at the bottom, doesn’t mean that the former have to be used before the latter.

Of course, in this particular instance, the change of option in the “Style type:” pop-up menu does have an impact on which formatting options are available and which are not. But in this particular scenario, the formatting options that you have chosen before changing the “Style type:” from “Paragraph” to “Character” were indeed character formatting options, not paragraph formatting options, i.e. formatting options that can be used both for paragraph styles and for character styles.

A smart piece of software would recognize the user’s freedom to do things in a different order if he chooses to do so, and adapt the behaviour of its dialog boxes so that the user’s change of mind causes minimum loss. In this scenario, there is no reason for Word to erase the formatting options selected by the user before switching from “Paragraph” to “Character“, because these formatting options can be used in both cases.

Microsoft Word is, quite obviously, not a smart piece of software.

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