How to create a custom list style in a Microsoft Word document – TechRepublic

How to create a custom list style in a Microsoft Word document – TechRepublic

How to create a custom list style in a Microsoft Word document – TechRepublic 0 0 Alan Dickson

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How to create a custom list style in a Microsoft Word document
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Adding a numbered list to a Microsoft Word document is usually simple and quick, but it might not look the same on someone else’s system. Learn how to ensure that the list you create is the same viewers see.
Have you ever sent a document with numbered lists to your home account or to a co-worker and noticed that the lists don’t look the same on another system? That’s because Microsoft Word’s numbered list feature stores properties locally. That means you can’t control how Word renders numbered lists on other systems. In many cases, it won’t matter, but occasionally, the differences will cause flow errors that you can’t resolve.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you a way around this problem by creating a custom list style. Then you can access this custom list style from Word’s Multilevel List dropdown in the Paragraph group as you would a pre-built list style. A custom list style goes with the document, so the list(s) will look exactly the way you want when opened elsewhere.
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I’m using Microsoft 365 desktop on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can use older versions. You can’t create custom list styles in Word for the web. However, a custom list style will show up in the library if the document has one. There’s no demonstration file: You won’t need one.
Microsoft Word comes with several pre-built list styles out of the box. Most of us use these lists a lot — I know that I do. Figure A shows the gallery of pre-built choices. When working with a single document that you don’t plan to distribute electronically, these lists are adequate.
Figure A
If you’re going to distribute the document electronically, meaning other viewers will open it on their own systems, consider creating a list style and applying it. Word stores list properties locally and the default list on a viewer’s system is likely to be different than yours. Sometimes the difference will be subtle and won’t matter. On the other hand, the viewer’s system could seriously distort a list.
Another problem is that Word’s pre-built lists are notorious for breaking, especially in long documents. You might never see it, but when it happens, you rarely can fix it. Everything happens behind the scenes, and you don’t have access to what Word is doing. My best advice is to start over.
A custom list is one that you design yourself. You control how many levels the lists support (up to nine), the font, the font size, the color, indentions and much more. After creating your custom list, it will be available in the Numbering gallery and free from pre-built lists problems.
Before we move on, notice the circle in Figure A in the top-right corner — List Library. This dropdown filters the lists available in the gallery. If you build a custom list and it doesn’t show up in the gallery, check this filtering option to make sure the filter allows custom lists.
You might be wondering about the two options at the bottom of the dropdown: Define New Multilevel List and Define New List Style. The truth is, there is little difference between the results when you apply either. However, a style is a bit superior because you can name it, share it, modify it and even delete it.
It’s important to remember that lists are a paragraph format, and the paragraph marks determine the beginning and ending of a paragraph. That means that each item in your numbered list is a paragraph. In a nutshell, numbering is a paragraph formatting, but paragraphs are in lists because a list comprises multiple paragraphs — the list items.
We’re going to create a custom list style because it’s easier to control. If you create a new list format, that list will be available in the List Library, but you can’t do anything to it once it’s in play. If it doesn’t work out, you must start over. You can, however, remove it from the List Library.
A custom list is easy to build and access once you’re done. If you’re building a template, users will have no idea they’re not using a pre-built list. Let’s build a two-level custom list, with the following properties:
It’s a simple list on purpose so we can focus on the steps rather than aesthetics. Now, let’s build the list style as follows:
Figure B
Figure C
Now that you’ve added a custom list style, let’s use it.
Word automatically adds your custom list style to the numbering list interface. To access it, click the Multilevel List dropdown. If you don’t see it, remember the filtering dropdown that we discussed earlier and change it. However, a custom list style should always be visible.
Figure D shows NumberListTwoLevels in the dropdown. Click it and start entering data. Figure E shows the custom list style applied.
Figure D
Figure E
The first thing you might notice is that all the formatting applies to only the numbers. Remember, we create a custom numbered list style, so the style formats only the numbers. This is consistent with Word’s pre-built list styles.
Are you surprised to see a third level? Word supports nine levels, and we only formatted the first two. If you add more levels to the actual list, Word applies the default formatting for those levels. But what if you want to change something?
One of the huge benefits of using a list style is that you can modify it. However, in the case of custom list styles, you can’t access it through Word’s Styles pane. For better or worse, when you apply the new list style, the Styles pane will default to the default Paragraph List when the custom list style is in use. However, you can apply it using the Apply Styles pane:
Either way displays the Apply Styles pane shown in Figure F.
Figure F
As you can see, it still displays Paragraph List as the style. Click the dropdown and you’ll see the new custom list style, NumberListTwoLevels. Click it and you’ll notice that there’s no change to the list. However, you can’t modify the style this way.
In the Styles pane, click Manage Styles at the bottom. In the resulting dialog box, choose Alphabetical as the sort order and thumb down until you find NumberListTwoLevels, as shown in Figure G. Click Modify and Word will display the earlier dialog (Figure B).
Now you can format the third or any other level. After making changes, every instance of NumberListTwoLevels will update accordingly.
Figure G
Save the custom list style technique for complex numbered lists and templates and documents that you share with others. Using a custom list style is the only way to ensure that the list formatting doesn’t change a bit from one system to another.
If you’re numbering section headings, don’t use a custom list style. In a future article, I’ll show you how to create a custom paragraph style with numbering.
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How to create a custom list style in a Microsoft Word document
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