MS Office 2007: Applying and Customizing Themes

One of the new features in Microsoft Office 2007 that has everyone talking is Themes. The new themes include colors, fonts and designs that help you create attractive, professional-looking documents and presentations with minimal effort on your part. Themes are consistent across a number of the Office 2007 applications so you can, for example, use the same theme for your Word documents and your Excel worksheets. Themes are available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and you can also use them to format Outlook e-mails.

Design screen shot
In PowerPoint, you apply a theme using the Design tab.
(Click for larger image)

One of the key benefits of using Themes is that they allow you to separate the content of a document from its formatting. You can have any kind of document, spreadsheet, slideshow or chart and when you apply a theme, everything in it takes on the look of that particular theme. And if you change your mind and apply another theme, everything automatically changes.

When using themes, not only do you get a consistent look to your documents but you can save hours of time you might otherwise spend formatting and re-formatting them one piece at a time. Themes also allow you the flexibility of first determining the content of the document and then formatting it in a few short steps once it has been created.

Themes in Office 2007 aren’t the lackluster collection of options you may be used to from earlier versions of Office. There are twenty themes shipped with Office, and you can customize these by selecting from twenty or more color schemes, twenty or more font combinations and twenty or more effect combinations. All in all, there are literally thousands of combinations possible. And if these aren’t enough, you can always download more themes from the Microsoft Web site.

Let’s take a closer look at using Themes to your advantage in Office 2007.

Applying a Theme
To apply a theme to an Office document, in Word and Excel choose the Page Layout tab, in PowerPoint choose the Design tab, and in Outlook choose the Options tab and click the Themes button. The theme you choose automatically applies elements such as fonts, colors and a general graphic look to the document.

Styles screen shot
In Word, themes only affect fonts if you have selected a style for your document.
(Click for larger image)

You can preview how each theme will look if you hold your mouse over the theme image. In PowerPoint, themes have the broadest application; in Word they don’t change the document fonts or font color unless you have first configured a style. To select a style in Word, click the Home tab and choose a Style from the Styles list. In Excel, fonts change with the chosen theme, as do shapes and charts.

In PowerPoint, theme background colors are more important than in the other programs because you may have special requirements necessitating either a light or dark background for your presentation. Because of this there are special light and dark background styles for each theme in PowerPoint — when you choose any of these, the text colors change so that it’s readable on the colored background. To change the background, from the Design tab locate the Background Styles option and choose from the range of six light backgrounds and six dark backgrounds.

Backgrounds screen shot
In PowerPoint you have the ability to choose from dark and light slide backgrounds that coordinate with the theme.
(Click for larger image)

In Word, you will generally work from a plain or white background because your text will look better that way. Because of this, themes in Microsoft Word have a white background, although you can change this by selecting a different page color. To do so, locate the Page Layout tab and choose the Page Color option.

As in all the color dialogs, the theme colors are displayed at the top of the list and, below this, you’ll find a range of lighter and darker variants of the same colors that coordinate with them. Below this are the Standard Colors, which are the same for all schemes.

Word Page screen shot
You can configure a page background for your Word document which uses one of the Theme colors.
(Click for larger image)

Customize Your Themes
Once you have applied a built-in theme to a document such as a PowerPoint presentation you can then make changes to it to customize it to your own needs. You can change the theme colors by selecting the Page Layout tab in Word or Excel, the Options tab in Outlook, and the Design tab in PowerPoint and click the Colors option.

From the list you can select one of the color schemes shown, or you can click Create New Theme Colors at the bottom of the list and configure your own set of colors. If you plan to do this, it’s best to first select a scheme that has most of the colors you like so you only change those you need to change. You then name your new scheme, and you can use it as you would any other set of colors.

Theme fonts are combinations of fonts that work well together in helping you to create good-looking results very quickly. These fonts work well together because they are either very different or they involve two applications of the same font.

So, for example, a font combination might include Arial or Georgia in two sizes and styles or a combination of a serif and a san serif font such as Arial and Times Roman used together.

From the Font list you can select your preference for font combinations from those shown or create your own by clicking the Create New Theme Fonts option and select the two fonts to use. Type a name for your new theme fonts, click Save and they will become an additional option in the list.

Fonts screen shot
The fonts list shows groups of fonts that work well together and which change when the theme changes.
(Click for larger image)

Effects are another option that you can configure for a theme. The effects include shadows and 3D effects that are applied to the elements formatted by the theme. In PowerPoint, for example, you can choose from a series of Effects that are named to match the various themes. You can, however, mix and match effects from different themes.

In the Effects dialog you will see each that option shows a circle, a rectangle and an arrow. These effects are various combinations of lines, fills and special effects. The circle shows the effect applied to a subtle style object, the arrow shows it applied to a moderate style, and the rectangle to intense styles.

Typically, in subtle styles the lines are very narrow, whereas in intense styles the lines are much thicker. Fills become more detailed and dimensional as the styles vary from subtle to intense.

Effects work in combination with Styles, so to get the most out of them you need to know how to apply a style. In PowerPoint, for example, you can specify the style of a SmartArt object by selecting it and from the SmartArt, Design tab and then selecting one of the SmartArt Styles.

When you hold your mouse pointer over any one of these Styles you will notice that some are indicated as Subtle, Moderate Intense, and thus corresponding with the three options for each group of Effects.

Effects screen shot
The circle shows the look for objects formatted with a subtle style, the arrow for moderate style and the rectangle for intense style.
(Click for larger image)

Things to Watch Out for with Office Themes
Once you have configured your theme options (fonts, colors and effects) and achieved the look that you want, you can save it by opening the Themes dialog (on the Page Layout tab in Word and Excel and the Design tab in PowerPoint) and clicking the Save Current Theme option. Give your theme a name, and you will find it available in the Theme list for future use.

Configuring Your Default Theme
You can set a theme as your default so that when you open the application the theme is applied automatically. The process is different for each of the Office 2007 applications. In PowerPoint the process is simple: right click the theme that you want to use as the default and choose Set as default theme.

To change the default theme in Microsoft Word, create a new blank document, and from the Home tab use the Change Styles options to change the document’s Style Set, Colors and then Fonts to those that you want to use for all new documents. When you are done, click Change Styles again and click the Set as Default option, and these will be saved to the documents template and used for all new documents.

Style Description screen shot
When choosing a style you can read whether it is Subtle, Moderate or Intense.
(Click for larger image)

You change the theme in Microsoft Excel by creating a new blank workbook and from the Page Layout tab click the Themes group and apply a theme to your worksheet. Now choose the Microsoft Office button, click Save As and click Excel workbook. Next, browse to locate your XLStart folder (typically c:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice12XLStart) and type book.xltx into the file name box to create a default workbook template. In the Save As Type list, click Excel Template (*.xltx) and click Save. The document book.xltx, when saved in the XLStart folder, becomes the default style for all new Excel workbooks.

More Themes Available Online
If the themes available in Office 2007 don’t meet your needs, you can find more themes on the Microsoft Office Web site by clicking to open the Themes dialog and choosing More Themes on Microsoft Office Online. The themes display ratings that indicate how much other people like them.

You can download one or more of these themes into your program. The downloaded theme will appear in the Custom group in your themes list.

Keep In Mind
There are a few things to be aware of when working with themes in Office 2007. In Word, many of the table formats, particularly those at the top of the list, are not theme related so they do not contain elements that will change when the theme changes.

Formats that you should look for as being related to the theme include those whose descriptions include mention of accent colors such as Light Shading-Accent 1. Accent colors are theme colors so these table styles will change if the theme changes.

In PowerPoint you can add special effects such as reflections to your PowerPoint tables. To do this, apply a table style using the Table Tools, Design tab, and then click the Effects button to locate and apply a Reflection effect to the table. While similar formats are available for Word tables, you can’t apply reflections to them.

Reflections screen shot
You can add reflections to tables in PowerPoint but not in Word.
(Click for larger image)

WordArt received a makeover in both PowerPoint and in Excel but not in Word. The new WordArt in PowerPoint and Excel shows designs compatible with the current theme, and the look of the WordArt will change when the theme changes. Unfortunately Word still offers the same old option it’s had for years.

When you include an image in a document, you can recolor it using one of a series of light and dark variations of the theme colors. To do this, select the image and select Recolor from the Picture Tools, Format tab. If you subsequently change the theme you’re using, the coloring of the image will alter to suit the theme colors.

There is a lot to like about Themes in Office 2007. They let you add style and color to a regular document, worksheet or presentation in a single step and to then modify as needed in a very efficient, painless manner. In short, Themes are a key tool for improving your everyday productivity and efficiency.

Adapted from

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the Forums. Join the discussion today!

Must Read

Get the Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Daily Tech Insider for top news, trends, and analysis.