Re: Designing for style use

Subject: Re: Designing for style use
From: Virgil Arrington Jr. (
Date: Thu May 17 2001 - 15:58:29 CDT

Gerry writes:

>A few weeks ago there was a lively discussion on how to get people to use
>styles, and how to get the most benefit from styles. One point that was
>made is that it should be very intuitive for people to understand the
>purpose of styles and how to use them.
>Here's an idea: what if there was a rectangle in the left margin at the
>start of each paragraph that shows the style for that paragraph and also
>allows for that paragraph's style to be changed? That way, the user is
>reminded as he/she types that each paragraph has a particular meaning, i.e.
>it's a title, subtitle, heading, section, list, etc. After pressing the
>Enter key, the cursor is next to the box (since the box appears at the top
>left of the current paragraph, and can immediately select a new style if
>the default one is not the desired one.
>Word and WordPerfect often have symbols to the left side that the user can
>click on, for example to change properties of the paragraph or table.
>So, what do people think of this approach? Is this a good way to encourage
>style use?

I think it's a good idea as long as the rectangle or symbol is descriptive.
The little doodads used by Word and WP are so generic that, when I see them,
I wonder why they are there - and I'm an avid user of styles.

As I think about it, to me it is important to make styles as intuitive as
typing itself. Typing and word processing are most often done by
instinctive feel, rather than conscious decision making. So we
instinctively hit five <tabs> without thinking that there might be a better
way to do it with styles. Oddly enough, I think this is why WordPerfect is
so popular among clerical staff. WP has many formatting keystroke shortcuts
that touch typists love. What they miss, however, without knowing it, is
that with styles they could apply eight or nine formatting commands with a
single keystroke. Even so, they would rather hit F7 several times and then
another several keystrokes to make a paragraph single spaced than take the
time to set up a paragraph style to do all of this with one keystroke. No
matter how you slice it, a user must first set up the styles - or modify
already created styles. This requires conscious decision making which runs
counter to the instinctive typing process. We want to just open the
document and start typing.

This, of course, can happen after we've set up our styles. I've set up
about ten that I use regularly and assigned them to keystroke shortcuts.
The availability of keystroke shortcuts is absolutely essential for styles
which WP and StarOffice seem to have missed. With the shortcuts, styles can
become instinctive, but like typing itself, it takes time and practice. The
taking of this time is, to me, the greatest hurdle in making styles more
widely used. Despite my evangelical zeal and many demonstrations, my two
secretaries still refuse to attempt to learn or use styles, preferring
instead the much more time consuming process of manually inserting each and
every formatting command.

Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

To unsubscribe from this list, send a message to with the word
unsubscribe in the message body.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b25 : Sat May 26 2001 - 03:51:26 CDT