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Preventing Styles from Changing

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Preventing Styles from Changing.

Don has run into a problem in his office regarding styles. It seems that when there are multiple authors using a single document, the styles sometimes change unexpectedly. If Don saves a file with certain styles in place and someone else with access to the server opens and saves the same file, then when Don subsequently opens the file, invariably the style definitions have changed.

There are a couple of things to check when this happens. First of all, you need to check to make sure that all users have dynamic style updating turned off. This feature of Word causes changes to a style definition when someone applies an explicit formatting change to something in the document. Thus, with the feature turned on, if someone makes a change to an individual paragraph, the change is also applied to the underlying style, which in turn affects every other paragraph in the document that uses that style. To turn this feature off, all of the users will need to perform these steps:

  1. Make sure the Home tab of the ribbon is selected.
  2. At the bottom-right side of the Styles group, click the small icon that looks like an arrow pointing down and to the right. (You could, instead, press Alt+Ctrl+Shift+S.) Word displays the Styles window.
  3. Hover the mouse pointer over a style name in the Styles window. You should see a down-arrow appear at the right side of the style name.
  4. Click the down arrow and select Modify. Word displays the Modify Style dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Modify Style dialog box.

  6. Make sure the Automatically Update check box, at the bottom of the dialog box, is clear. (If there is no Automatically Update check box, then Word doesn't offer that option for the style you have chosen.)
  7. Click OK.

Notice that these steps affect only a single style in a document. That's right—Word allows dynamic style updating to be set on a style-by-style basis. This means that you will need to go through each and every style in your document and follow these same steps. That can obviously get rather tedious if you have a lot of styles in the document. In that case, you may want to use a macro to go through all the styles and change the setting. The following macro will do this rather nicely:

Sub RemoveAutoUpdate()
    Dim s As Style
    For Each s In ActiveDocument.Styles
        If s.Type = wdStyleTypeParagraph Then
            s.AutomaticallyUpdate = False
        End If
    Next s
End Sub

The problem could also be related to the template attached to your document. If, for instance, the document uses the Normal template and each user's Normal template is different, then this can affect the appearance of the document. The way around this problem is to make sure that the document uses a template other than Normal (preferably one stored on the server and accessible by all users) or that everyone's Normal template is the same.

You might also check to make sure that all of the users have the same fonts installed on their systems. If a document uses a font that is on your system, and then that document is opened on a system that doesn't have the same font, Word will substitute a different font for the missing one. This can affect the appearance of the document, even when you subsequently open it back on your original system. To stave off this issue, make sure that you have Word configured so it will embed TrueType fonts with the document:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and Word 2013 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click on Save at the left side of the dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  3. Figure 2. The Save option of the Word Options dialog box.

  4. Near the bottom of the dialog box, make sure the Embed Fonts in the File option is selected.
  5. If you will be using a small number of characters in a particular font, choose the Embed Only the Characters Used in the Document check box.
  6. To save space in the document, choose the Do Not Embed Common System Fonts check box.
  7. Click on OK.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (997) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Preventing Styles from Changing.

Related Tips:

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Comments for this tip:

H.Avni Ozan    24 Dec 2016, 04:48
Hi, I have Office2016 on MacBookPro. I have a .docx of 554 pages several types of fonts inside including Symbol. These are Hearts, Spade, Diamonds and Clubs signs. When I open the document it changes those symbol signs to some another unknown(but in Arial) fonts. Further document opens very slow(16MG RAM). It counts the # of pages on the left bottom and reaches to end say 1-2 mins later. Also the default language of the document changes although I fixed it to English(US). Do you have some suggestions for it? Thanks in advance. Regards. Avni
Anna CV    21 Jul 2016, 16:21
I have 2013. I have a template called SOW.dotm. I open a file, go to the style menu, select Manage Styles. At the bottom of that window, I click the Import/Export button so that I can import the styles from the template into my document. I select them all (they are the same because I've not done this 50 times), and select to copy them all. I accept the "overwrite styles?" dialog. It update the styles in my document. I save it. Next time I go back into it, it reverts, again, to the bad styles. I'm getting super irritated with this crap tool. Does anyone have any idea how to prevent this?
Marc Hichens    02 Jun 2015, 14:13
Art, the Restrict Editing feature is quite powerful in preventing style updates. However, it also prevents any direct formatting in the document. We have experiemented with several techniques, none of which are perfect.

The proper solution is to prevent style updates, but still allow direct formatting in the document...a solution that doesn't exist.

When providing feedback to Microsoft, and the feedback is accepted, you won't see the results of such feedback until a few versions later, since the coming versions already have their requirements locked down. I learned that when Microsoft visited us because of the long list of gripes we had with either Word 6 or Word 97 (too long ago to remember which version we were using at the time).
Michael J Virostko    26 May 2015, 22:40
Art thanks for that tip. Correct me if I am wrong, but if create a Document Template for scratch this might help solve the issue, but it is only a guess at this time.
Jennifer Thomas    26 May 2015, 09:23
The other cause of this is the Automatically Update Styles option (Developer tab | Document Template).

If checked, when you open the document, the original definitions of the styles in the template replace any modifications the user made to the styles (unless they enabled the 'New documents based on this template' option in the style definition).

It's useful to check that if you want to 'force' the styles, but it confuses the end-user because they don't see the effect until they re-open the document and find their document-specific modifications gone.
Phil Reinemann    24 May 2015, 11:36
In Mac Word 2011 the styles pane is also on the Home tab, in the Styles section but instead of the small arrow-like icon it is a much larger icon that looks like a window with a header/tool bar and a blue circle with a white paragraph mark in it.
Click that and find the style in the list, and the instructions in this article then apply. Note that in Word Mac 2011 the Normal style does not have the option to Automatically update.
I haven't tried the macro in this article to see if it will work on Word 2011.
awyatt    23 May 2015, 20:32
Ernest: Creating macros is, literally, a subject for book-length treatment. You can find a start by clicking on the "WordTips FAQ" link at the right side of this (or any) page. Look in the FAQ for a question entitled "How Can I Use the Macros In WordTips."

Ernest Dunwoody    23 May 2015, 20:05
You often refer to using a Macro.
e.g. In this tip. http://wordribbon.tips.net/T000997_Preventing_Styles_from_Changing.html?awt_l=IL1d.&awt_m=JZqY43HWNgn74X

It would be useful if you also gave a glimmer of advice on where do you even find Macro's in Word, how do you go about using them etc. etc.

Presumably you have to bring up a command line window, within Word but where is that. Do you use the Visual Basic window and if so, beyond opening the VB window how do you use it?

Nothing more frustrating than advice which you can't use or apply.
geof    23 May 2015, 17:12
If you want basic features use wordpad. It is free.
Otherwise learn to use the Word style features.
Word styles were present in Word for DOS ver 5.0. They were powerful then.
Wordperfect 4+ (Dos) had in line character codes for formatting. People loved it. Why did they begin with a windows version that behaved similarly to their biggest competitor.
Art Osgatharp    23 May 2015, 12:39
Click Developer (Options...Customize ribbon, check the Developer tab). In the Protect group click "Restrict editing". In the Task Pane under Formatting restrictions, check "Limit formatting to a selection of styles". Click Settings below that to select which styles. Microsoft has listened and responded to many requests, they just haven't done a very good job of communicating the solutions. I too am annoyed by Word, but Googling often results in me finding that Word already has a solution, however hidden.
Lee Batchelor    23 May 2015, 07:38
Excellent tip. The problem of documents inheriting other document properties along the way is one major reason a lot of people despise Word. I have suffered similar issues when sharing my documents with other technical writers, engineers, or SMEs. One time, after sharing my work with five engineers, my document came back loaded with italic paragraph styles at the end of all my paragraphs! It took three hours to fix the problem. Their Word program acting like a virus!
Why can’t I create a document using six styles (for example) and distribute it among several other people, and have it come back with only those formats I created? When I receive a document from another person who created six user styles (for example) the Styles gallery is loaded with all kinds of Microsoft styles that Bill Gates think I should use and display. How does he know? He didn’t ask me. The document creator has the burden of clearing the Styles gallery before composing a new document. This too is a dumb design and totally annoying.
I can tell you why we must put up with these annoyances . Microsoft will not listen to users who need the program for professional use. The Microsoft mind set is stuck in the 80s where the first word processors were simple tools with which to replace the typewriter. Times have changed but Microsoft hasn’t. They need to wake up and do what reliable companies do—ask their users what they need in a program. The Yamaha music corporation listens. Why not Microsoft?
Keep the tips coming. Many thanks.

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