Understanding the strange FollowedHyperlink style in Word

There are a few strange, non-standard, behaviors to the FollowedHyperlink style that Word uses for visited links.

FollowedHyperlink is a hidden style which Word uses for any link which has been clicked or visited by the current user.  Because it’s automatically applied it has some peculiarities that don’t apply to other styles, including its partner style Hyperlink for not-visited links.

Normally FollowedHyperlink is only used for a link that’s been clicked. But it can be applied so any text can look like a followed link. See Hyperlinks and link styles explained in Word

FollowedHyperlink doesn’t appear in the styles list, not even when it’s being used in the document. Instead ‘Hyperlink’ is shown as the current style, even though it’s not. As we’ll see, that makes sense in Word’s programming but not to humans using it.

Hyperlink is always the displayed style even if the link has been clicked and FollowedHyperlink is showing on the Styles pane (we’ll explain how to do that below).

A small but important point – FollowedHyperlink is often overlooked because it doesn’t always appear on style lists next to its partner Hyperlink style.  It’s a shame that the style wasn’t name ‘HyperlinkFollowed’ so it always appeared next to Hyperlink in style lists.

The FollowedHyperlink style doesn’t show up in the usual Styles pane, so how do you find and change the style?

Go to Manage Styles at the bottom of the Styles pane.

On the Edit tab scroll down the style list until you find FollowedHyperlink then choose ‘Modify’

Now you can change the look of followed links just like any other style.

The FollowedHyperlink style isn’t based on Hyperlink style.  Instead it’s based on Default Paragraph Font style (see Modify Style | Style Based on, above).

That’s worth keeping in mind if you change the Hyperlink style.  Those changes won’t automatically be inherited by FollowedHyperlink. 

Either change FollowedHyperlink style to match the Hyperlink style changes.  Or alter the ‘Style based on’ of FollowedHyperlink style to ‘Hyperlink’.

If you’d like to change FollowedHyperlink more easily, make it part of the Styles list.

In Manage Styles | Recommend scroll down to FollowedHyperlink style then choose Show on ‘Set whether style shows when viewing recommended styles’.

Now FollowedHyperlink is there on the Styles list.

There doesn’t seem to be a way to ‘clear’ a followed hyperlink and change it back to not-clicked status.

All you can do is change the look of ‘FollowedHyperlink’ style so it’s the same as Hyperlink style.  Then the change of ‘Followed’ state has no visible effect on the document.

Look inside Word XML to see how Word stores a followed link.  As you can see, the style is ‘Hyperlink’ (not FollowedHyperlink) and there’s nothing saved to say the link is followed.  This explains why a followed link always shows as the Hyperlink style in the Styles pane, because that’s the underlying style saved by Word.

Word checks the ‘followed’ status of each link when the document is opened and uses FollowedHyperlink style when necessary.  That makes sense because the document could be opened by different people/machines with varying followed states for each link.

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