Inside the new Designer for Microsoft Word

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Designer, a quick formatting feature in PowerPoint is now available in Microsoft Word.  Here’s how to find and use the new feature.

Word’s Designer works a little differently to the PowerPoint Designer but the basics are the same.  A side-pane offers some templates that will reformat the entire document.  Some Microsoft clever coding (they call it AI) looks at your document and suggests improvements.

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There are differences from PowerPoint designer, Word Designer:

  • Doesn’t show ‘live preview’ thumbnails of how the document will look with the new template.
  • Shows a series of suggested Formatting Fixes to make the document more consistent.
  • Applies to the whole document, not a section.  PPT Designer applies to one slide.

Word Designer is now available in Word Online (in a browser).  That’s a common starting point for new cloud features before it moves to Word for Windows, Mac and other platforms.

Open any document in Word Online then go to Designer, on the Home tab, way over on the right.

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Designer is very new and might not appear.  We got some “We can’t open Designer right now’ errors while testing for this article.  They should disappear over time.

Formatting Fixes

The Word Designer side-pan opens and the first thing you’ll see are ‘formatting fixes’

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These fixes make the document more style consistent using Heading and Normal styles.

Despite its problems (see below), formatting fixes is a good idea.  It helps identify style errors (like Bold or Larger text that should be a Heading style).  Those anomalies need fixing so that the main Designer templates work properly.

Click Apply … formatting fixes and the document is changed with diamond icons where the changes have been made.  Click on a diamond to see details.

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Review …. Style – shows what fix has been applied.

What Microsoft calls ‘paragraph style’ is really Normal style.

Keep – retain the formatting fix.

Undo – go back to the original formatting.

Show Context – adds to the fix dialog the first words of the changed paragraph.

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Arrows – bottom right of the dialog are arrows to move between formatting fixes.

Check the Formatting Fixes

Definitely check the Formatting Fixes individually, it’s not perfect.

We found plenty of anomalies in Microsoft’s suggestions.   Mostly wrongly wanting to apply ‘paragraph style’ to what is a heading.

That might improve over time but needs careful human checking at the moment.

Designer suggestions

Now the document has consistent styles, try one of the suggested templates in the Designer pane.  There’s about a dozen suggestions for any document.

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Click on any thumbnail and the document will change.

Undo – Ctrl + Z will revert the document to your original formatting.

What’s the big deal?

In all our tests of Word Designer, the same dozen templates kept appearing.  At the moment, Designer is merely a showcase for a very limited set of templates.

That makes it very different to PowerPoint Designer which takes the current content and suggests slide designs based on that content. There are underlying slide templates but there’s a least variation and machine intelligence involved.

No matter what we tried, all Word Designer offered were the same twelve templates.

Users have to apply their own structure (Headings, sub-headings and Normal text) for Word Designer to have any effect.  The top line of a document is assumed to be ‘Heading 1’ but beyond that, styles need the human touch.  Keep in mind with the impressive demos (that are sure to come) that the document needs formatting structure first.

Formatting Fixes is a good idea for enforcing structure and a welcome new tool.

Using Designer for more eye-catching PowerPoint slides
Getting More from PowerPoint Designer 
Tricks to get more from PowerPoint Designer
Stop Designer in PowerPoint

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