Part 2 – Typical solutions
Despite the volume of licenses sold to the corporate market, Microsoft have not focused on providing product features to increase the quality/consistency of styling in documents created by Word. There are manual ways (not obvious to many users) of checking style usage including:
- View the document in draft mode (having set the “Style area pane width” in “Advanced Options” otherwise you will not see them) and look at the style names being viewed;
- Print a list of styles used in the document (when in Print Settings change “Print All Pages” selection to “Styles”); or
- Manually click on each paragraph and view the style name in the Styles panel.
Microsoft would probably state that by supporting templates, macros and APIs they have always enabled corporate and third-party developers to build whatever functionality is required. For reasons to be discussed in part 3 (standards-based solutions) and to provide the user with an interactive experience, historically styling solutions were all based around macros/plug-ins within Word or client-side automation using Word.
Typical approaches take to ensure quality of styles mostly fall into the following categories:
- Template management: forcing the user to pick from one of a number of centrally managed templates or auto-loading a central template from a network drive when creating a new document.
- But what if the user opens an old document or one sent in from a third-party and then saves it with a new name?
- Customized editing experience: providing custom ribbons and dialogue boxes that aide the user by applying the correct style (somehow made more obvious via an icon?) of the many approved styles to a given paragraph.
- But what if a user applies styles or formatting manually (if users are not trained in Word they will almost certainly get little training in any add-ons), does not apply any style or even does not enter content that is considered mandatory in a given scenario (e.g. all groups of “Warning Paras” must be preceding by a “Warning Title”)?
- Document analysis and repair – Provides reports on style use and a custom user interface to allow users to manually apply a selected style to one or more paragraphs. Some of these tools can also spot hard coded textual references (e.g. “see clause 4.2” and replace them with dynamic Word cross references).
- Can the “rules” for the styles be easily kept up to date as the template(s) changes?
- The solution no longer works since Word was upgraded (incompatible macros/plug-ins).
- The solution no longer works since the template was upgraded (the template designer does not understand the style solution and IT do not understand complex Word templates).
- Security changes (in Windows or in the organization) mean that the client-side code no longer runs.
Is there a way that we can:
- Utilize a standard language to define what the rules are for the styling and content of a document in a way that supports the maintenance of the logic separately from both Word and the program that utilizes these rules?
- Check that the latest style definitions are in use?
- Find a process that does not need to be installed on the client machine so it is easier to maintain?
- Apply fixes wherever automatable?
- Report issues back to users using standard Word features?
- Provide reports on libraries of documents summarizing the level of compatibility to current style rules?