Why does Microsoft make things up?

An exercise for word-processing obsessives

Word LogoThis is a feature of Word 2007 and Word 2010, but not (pre-ribbon) Word 2002.
Try the following steps.

  • Start a new document in Word 2007 or Word 2010.
  • Write a short sentence or headline.
  • Select your text, then change the font to your favourite fancy font, increase the font size and make it italic.
  • Select the text, then click on the expander in the bottom right hand corner of the Styles box on the home page of the ribbon.  (That launches the pop-up Styles panel.)
  • At the bottom of the Styles panel, click on click on the New Style icon.  This should create a new style from your fancy text, and prompt you to give it a name.  Let’s call this style “Wanted”.  Click OK to create it.
  • The name of your new style should now appear in the Styles panel.
  • From the “Options…” link at the bottom of the Styles panel, under the “Select Formatting to Show As Styles” heading, select “paragraph level formatting”.  (That determines what shows-up in your Styles panel.)
  • Now go back to the short sentence that you’ve created in your “Wanted” style.  Put the cursor somewhere in the middle of that sentence and press Ctrl-Return.  That inserts a page break.

Did you spot what that last operation did?  In addition to the page break, it added something to your Styles panel.

What it added depends on which version of Word you’re using (and possibly the phase of the moon).  In Word 2010 it usually adds a new style called “After: <something descriptive of paragraph formatting>”.  In Word 2007 it adds a new style that describes details of the “Wanted” style.

Is this necessary?
No.
To prove that, use the Styles panel to select all instances of the new (“Unwanted”) style and then apply the “Wanted” style to them.  Aside from the demise of the Unwanted style, nothing else happens in the document.  The Unwanted style was unnecessary.

Why does this matter?
Well, the point of Styles is to keep control of your document – to ensure that everything that should have the same format does have the same format.  To ensure that if you want to change the way particular parts of the document look, you can change the style – one style, one change – and the change will be applied consistently throughout the document.  By spewing out unnecessary styles, Microsoft makes it harder to format documents consistently.

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