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Using Style Sheets in Desktop Publishing

Changing Your Style: Character and Paragraph Styles Speed Formatting

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Style sheets are a feature of page layout software such as Adobe PageMaker, Adobe InDesign, and QuarkXPress. They allow the designer to maintain consistency and make quick changes to text throughout a document.

Style sheets are especially useful in long or multi-page documents such as annual reports and newsletters or anytime you'll be making frequent changes (such as when trying to develop a template or base document).

Although the specifics for accessing and setting up style sheets varies from one program to the next, the basic features and usage of style sheets are the same. Refer to the style sheet tutorials and Help files for your software for specifics.

Examples of Using Style Sheets

Consider how you would handle font changes without vs. with style sheets for the scenerio described here:
A newsletter features a lengthy Q&A section with 15 questions and 15 answers. Initially, the designer has specified that each Question is set in Times 12pt and each Answer is set in Helvetica 10pt.

The editor decides he wants all the Questions in Bold type.

  • Without styles: The designer must go through the document, find each question, select only the Question text, and change the character attributes to Bold, one question at a time

  • With styles: The designer opens the style sheet that defines the Question text, changes the character attributes to Bold Italic. All the Questions throughout the document change automatically.

Imagine how time-consuming it becomes if the editor requests multiple changes or asks to see print-outs of the entire newsletter with a variety of Q&A styles. Style sheets make such a request much easier to fulfill.

Not only does the use of styles save time, if helps eliminate errors. When manually changing attributes across a lengthy document, especially multiple changes, it can be easy to overlook entire paragraphs or buried bits of text that should change. The use of styles helps insure that changes are applied consistently and completely.

Paragraph vs. Character Styles

The specific options available may vary from one program to the next. Paragraph Styles cover all aspects of a paragraph of text while Character Styles apply to specific bits of text, even when it appears within another paragraph style.

With Paragraph Styles, the designer typically specifies such features as:

Character Styles cover some of the same features as Basic and Advanced Character Options found in Paragraph Styles such as:

Perhaps you're wondering why you should use character styles when paragraph styles offer the same and more options? Character styles can override paragraph styles so that you can make changes to a paragraph without changing any special text within the paragraph or change the special text without affecting the rest of the paragraph.

This example may help you visualize this better:

A series of software tutorials use two different paragraph styles throughout. However, everywhere that keyboard shortcuts appear in the text, the shortcuts are in red type, regardless of the font color of the rest of the paragraph.

Suppose the designer wants to change the shortcuts to green type?

  • Using Only Paragraph Styles: Changing the paragraph styles won't work because that affects all the text.

  • Using Character Styles: However, if, when formatting the tutorials, the designer creates a character style just for shortcuts (in this example, red text) it would be a simple matter of changing the character style from red to green without affecting the rest of the text in the paragraph. One small adjustment and all the red shortcuts change to green.

Styles are a powerful feature of desktop publishing software. They can help insure consistency throughout a document as well as save time when making formatting changes.

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