Word 2007 Defaults Impact Document Formatting

By Connie M. Forde and Susie H. VanHuss

Many technology users are aware that Microsoft™ has made dramatic changes in the User Interface of the soon to be released Office 2007. More than three million users downloaded the public Beta of Office 2007 and were amazed that a ribbon containing all of the traditional functions displayed by tabs and groups with related commands had replaced the traditional toolbars and drop-down menus. Each tab presents several groups containing a host of related commands. A portion of the Ribbon for the Home tab and the Insert tab are shown below. The tabs (Home, Insert, Page Layout, etc.) are listed across the top of the ribbon and the groups (Clipboard, Font, Paragraph, etc.) are listed at the bottom of the ribbon.

What many technology users have yet to discover is the equally dramatic impact that the changes in Word defaults have on document formatting. The first clue to the changes is shown in the font and font size boxes on the Home tab. Word 2007 has six new ClearType fonts, and the Calibri 11 point font shown replaces Times New Roman 12 point as the default body text font. Cambria is the new heading default font replacing Arial. Note some of the following default changes have a greater impact on formatting than the font and font size changes.

  • Word 2007 default margins are 1” top, bottom, right, and left—changed from Word 2003 defaults of 1.25” right and left margins.
  • Word 2007 default line spacing is 1.15—changed from Word 2003 default line spacing of 1.0.
  • Word 2007 default space after a paragraph is 10 point—changed from Word 2003 default space after a paragraph of 0.
  • Word 2007 default title format is 26 point, Cambria, Bold, Color Text 2 from the default document theme Office, left aligned and followed by an underline—changed from Word 2003 default 16 point, bold, centered text. The use of color is a key part of document themes in Word 2007.

The illustration on the left below shows how the date, inside address, and salutation of a letter would appear if traditional format guides were used with the Word 2007 defaults. The illustration on the right shows how guides can be modified and the defaults modified to produce an attractive letter format.

Microsoft Rationale for Changes

Microsoft emphasizes that the rationale for changing the defaults is to enhance both readability and the appearance of documents. The first impression is that the documents look very different—especially the 1.15 line spacing rather than the traditional 1.0 single spacing. However, as users work with the new formats, the reaction soon changes and users comment that the extra spacing really enhances the readability of a document.

Users have readily adapted to the defaults of past versions of word processing software, and based on the reactions of the millions of Beta testers of Microsoft Office 2007, users are likely to accept the defaults of the current version. Word 2007 does include a Classic (Word 2003) look and a compatibility mode for users of earlier Word versions. However, these documents cannot contain many of the new and exciting features of Word 2007 such as SmartArt.

Formatting Decisions

Decisions regarding document formats require consideration of four elements: (1) attractiveness of the format, (2) readability of the format, (3) effective use of space on the page, and (4) efficiency in producing the document.

Authors who prepare text materials and educators who teach document formatting will have to make many formatting decisions as will users in industry. Authors of the College Keyboarding and the Essentials series believe that it is important to use the new defaults when it is feasible to do so and to make minor modifications when it enhances formatting and document production. Some of our observations and beliefs about formatting with Word 2007 are summarized below:

  • The 1.15 spacing provides readers with more open and more readable copy, and we believe it will rapidly replace the 1.0 single spacing. Because it is very readable and takes less space than double spacing, we believe that few people in industry will use double spacing for reports. In recent years, double-spaced reports have been used primarily in academic settings and less in industry.
  • With Word 2003 many users in industry used the default 1.25” side margins for both unbound and leftbound reports. With the Word 2007 default of 1” side margins, additional space is needed for the binding of leftbound reports.
  • The automatic 10 point spacing after a paragraph saves time and creates an attractive format for documents that contain significant amounts of text. Reports, memos, minutes, briefs, and press releases are just a few examples of documents that are more efficient to create and that are more readable with the 10 point after paragraph spacing. Documents with short lines such as the inside address of a letter, multiple copy recipients, or a distribution list will need to have the extra space removed both to conserve space and to enhance the appearance of the document.
  • Document themes and built-in styles enhance both appearance and productivity, but many users who are accustomed to more conservative traditional formats will have to make a major adjustment. The wide array of galleries of styles will enable most users to select a style that meets their needs. Preformatted cover pages and tables are two of the many examples of design galleries that are available in Word 2007.
  • Color is integrated into the document themes and in the built-in styles. Color is also being used more in industry. We believe that the use of color in documents will continue to increase significantly, and we think it is important to teach students how to use color effectively regardless of whether they will print documents in black and white or in color.

Office 2007 presents both challenges and exciting opportunities. We welcome your feedback on the new document formatting issues that influence our products and your classes.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD a set of Model Documents created by Connie Forde and Susie VanHuss.