Changing the default document settings in WordPerfect

July 25, 2010 at 11:56 am

Some of you might recall that in WordPerfect for DOS, there is a code at the very top of each document known as “Initial Codes.” That code contains all of the formatting instructions for the document: margins, line spacing, font, justification, and so forth. You could edit the Initial Codes and choose to apply the changes (1) only to the current document or (2) to all future documents. Applying the changes to all future documents made those settings the new defaults — i.e., it modified WordPerfect’s default template (the equivalent of the NORMAL template in MS Word).

This capability also exists in Windows versions of WordPerfect, but what was once known as “Initial Codes” is now called the “Open Style: Document Style” code. It’s easy to edit. Just turn on Reveal Codes, either by pressing Alt F3 or by clicking the View menu, Reveal Codes; navigate to the top of the document; and then double-click the code. Doing so will open the Styles Editor. From within the Styles Editor, you can use menu commands, drop-downs for the font face and font size, and toolbar buttons to change various formatting options. (Note, incidentally, that there are “spinner” arrows at the right side of the Styles Editor toolbar; clicking the Down arrow produces a second row of commands.)

An alternate way to open the Styles Editor is by clicking the File menu, Document, Current Document Style.

Changing the Formatting of the Current Document or of All Future Documents

As with Initial Codes, you can use the Styles Editor to make changes only to the current document or to all future documents. After you’ve tweaked the settings, if you simply click “OK” without doing anything else, the new settings will take effect only in the current document. However, if you click the “Save as default” checkbox at the lower right-hand side of the Styles Editor dialog before clicking “OK,” your formatting changes will affect all new documents. In other words, checking the box is a quick way to modify your default template.[1]

Either way, the settings you tweak from within the Styles Editor are stored in the OpenStyle: DefaultStyle code.

Settings in the OpenStyle: Default Style Code Affect Both the Document and Its “Substructures”

An important point about how the OpenStyle: DefaultStyle code works. The settings stored there, such as document margins, affect the entire document, including “substructures” (headers, footers, and footnotes). For example, if you use the Styles Editor to make the left and right margins .5″, the left and right margins of the document text — as well as of any headers, footers, and footnotes in the document — will be .5″.

Manual Formatting Changes Within the Document Affect Only the Document, Not the Substructures

When you manually change formatting, such as margin settings, within the document, those additional codes will override some, but not all, of the settings in the OpenStyle: DefaultStyle code. For instance, the codes you insert into the document — let’s say you change the left and right margins to 1″ — will affect the margins of the body of the document from the cursor position forward, but will not affect the margins of the substructures (headers, footers, and footnotes).

Which Codes Take Precedence?

In general, manual formatting codes that affect the body of the document take precedence over codes in the OpenStyle: DocumentStyle code. Codes you insert manually at the cursor position typically become operational from that point on (until you insert new, countervailing codes). So, for instance, you can use the Format menu, Margins to change the left and right margins for a small portion of the document, then change them back, and those changes will affect the text in that specific part of the document, overriding the settings in the OpenStyle: DocumentStyle code.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. Specifically, the settings in the OpenStyle: DocumentStyle still govern the substructures, which means that the margins of the headers, footers, and footnotes (if any) will remain the same as before, regardless of any margin changes you make manually within the document. The same is true of other formatting attributes such as line spacing, font face, font size, etc.

NOTE: The formatting of substructures such as headers, footers, and footnotes is determined by the underlying styles for each of those elements. If you modify the style of one of the substructures in a way that conflicts with the settings in the OpenStyle:DocumentStyle code, the modified style takes precedence.

This idea — that every new document contains certain formatting defaults that you can override manually at any point in the document (and other defaults that are determined by the OpenStyle: Document Style code or by styles, and therefore are not affected by manually applied codes) — makes sense when you think about it. And, in fact, it’s how Word works, too, though Word’s terminology is somewhat different and you can’t modify settings in Word by double-clicking hidden codes.


To sum up:

Most document formatting defaults are stored in the OpenStyle: DocumentStyle code at the top of the document. These defaults derive from the underlying default template. They affect both the body of the document and its “substructures” (headers, footers, and footnotes).

You can override some of the codes in the OpenStyle: DocumentStyle code — mainly those that affect the document itself, not those that affect the substructures — by inserting formatting codes in the document.

To change the formatting of the substructures, you need to do one of two things: either (1) tweak the settings from within the Styles Editor; or (2) modify the underlying style(s) for one or more of those substructures.

I’ll explain how to modify an existing WordPerfect style in a future post.

[1] There are other ways to modify the default template in WordPerfect, which I won’t go into here. For the time being, I’ll just mention that the default template in WordPerfect goes by the name WPNNXX.WPT, where “NN” stands for the WordPerfect version number, such as 9, 12, or 15, and “XX” stands for the country or language code, such as US, UK, OZ (Australia), CE (Canadian English), FR, etc. For a lengthy discussion about the default template (and other templates), visit the Templates page on Barry MacDonnell’s WP Toolbox site, located here.

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