All about custom themes and styles in Microsoft Word 2007



My organization is a small government agency with a large number of non-technical computer users. They do have a great desire to produce professional official looking documents. I noticed however, that despite their best efforts, there was little consistency between memos, and frequently staff spent more time formatting a document than writing it. Because of this, I came up with the idea to use Word 2007’s ribbon interface and office theme-ing to predefine document elements and style, but still allow some end users choice.


  • Use the native office 2007 tools to create a consistently styled document very quickly

    This will include:

    • Heading styles
    • Custom headers and footers
    • Custom cover pages
    • Custom color pallet
  • Retain the office 2007 “formatting preview” feature
  • No custom code

First approach

On our first attempt, our graphic artist mocked up the font selection, headings 1-6 headers, footers, and cover pages. One of my main requirements was that you could retain all of ms word’s formatting preview features.

Next we created two main document templates (.dotx) One that would contain the formatting elements and colors for a more vibrant look, and one that would be more official and used for regulatory reporting.

Then we created custom headings 1-6 by formatting text, highlighting it, then using the styles gallery to save selection as a new quick style. We named all of the styles appropriately for headings 1-6. We continued to do the same approach for creating the cover pages, headers footers, and document snippets. Most of these were created as building blocks.


While the cover pages, headers and footers worked great, the styles would not “preview format” and we could not change the formatting of the document by selecting a new Quick Style Set. Additionally SmartArt colors were way off and retained the default “MS Blue”

We Had a Lot to Learn

After a great deal of research and testing we discovered, that we were only using one of the several required technologies built into MS Word to accomplish my goals.


In order to understand all of this you really must speak “blue” (Microsoft Language)

Theme – Combination of color, font and effect, found in the page layout ribbon

Quick Style – A predefined style of text found in the styles section of the home ribbion

Quick Style Set – A combination of several quick styles that can be used to change the formatting of an entire MS word document. These are viewable by selecting change styles in the styles section of the home ribbon. MS word contains 11 quick style sets out of the box.

Building Block – The MS Word Team Blog defines building blocks simply as a reusable chunk of a word document.

How to Really Use the Quick Style Gallery

To apply document branding using all of MS Word’s features you must use a combination of Themes and Styles.

Best Practices

  1. Use themes to define:
    1. Font selection (not size or formatting….just the font itself)
    2. Colors in the document
  2. Use Styles to Define:
    1. Font size
    2. Font formatting (bold, italics, underline …etc
    3. Block formatting or underlining of a entire document heading (ex. A filled box around an entire document heading)
    4. Color of font, from the colors defined in the theme.
      If you need to change the color of all headings, then change the order of colors in your color pallete. I.E switch Accents 1 and 2.
    5. Apply as few formatting changes in the style gallery as absolutely possible to achieve your look.

  3. Start with a default quick style set and then save as your own
    1. This is required in order for the “formatting preview” to work
    2. Switch color order in the theme to make this work for you.
      The default quick style galleries use Accent 1 and Accent 2 for most of the underlining and text colors. By creating your own color pallete and switching the order of accents 1, 2 and three you can complete the color formatting very easily.
  4. You can apply font selection and color independently of a whole theme, but why would you.

Files and technology


A theme in a MS Word document consists of a color pallete, Header and Body Fonts, and effects. This theme consists of four files. A .thmx file and three .xml files. The .thmx brings together the color, font, and effect (.xml) files into a theme (.thmx)


C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates\Document Themes



Directory Tree:

Theme Name.thmx

(Folder) Theme Colors


(Folder) Theme Effects


(Folder) Theme Fonts


Quick Style Galleries

This is one that I really had trouble understanding because it is so easyJ A quick style gallery is essentially a combination of quick styles stored in a .dotx file stored in the following location:

C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates\Document Themes

This is only for the user defined Quick Style Galleries, the default office quick style galleries are stored:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office12\1033\QuickStyles

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

In order for everything to work the way I wanted, we ended up with the following

One document template (.dotx) containing all of the cover pages, headers and footers, and building blocks

Two themes, one with a formal color pallete and font selection and one with more vibrant colors

Two quick style sets, one with underlines and one without. This allows some individual expression but retains the font and colors as defined in the themes.

This was certainly well worth the effort and was quite an education in the capabilities of Microsoft Word. In my next post I will cover how to deploy these files as part of a corporate document branding project.