Optimizing Word for eXtyles: Q&A

If you signed up for our webinar “Optimizing Word for eXtyles” and we didnt have time to answer all your questions, not to worry: We’re answering them here!


We sometimes use tables to lay out content, such as formulae explanations, and abbreviations lists. Since you advise not using tables for non-tabular content, is it therefore better to use tabs for this kind of thing, and the rules at the top of Word to align text, rather than tables?

In general, yes; however, if your content includes these types of elements and you use an eXtyles workflow, you may want to consider having us add specific paragraph styles for them. That way, they can be mapped to appropriate XML elements on export from eXtyles, and be interpreted appropriately by screen readers and other accessibility technologies. You can then also set up your typesetting software, your CSS, etc., to format those paragraphs the way you want them to look!

If you don’t suggest using an empty row/column as a spacer, how do you generate that space in the xml? And if you use an eXtyles > XML > Typefi workflow, how do you prevent adjacent spanning head rules from running together?

Ultimately, we’re making a distinction here between semantically accurate markup of content and how that content is rendered. Padding and white space is a matter of rendering, which means that is a question you likely need to ask your service provider, online or otherwise: What do they need in order to render that content in the way you want it rendered, based on the XML? How do you make sure your style sheet facilitates that?

If you only have body and column heads, how do you group things to indicate that there should be a space before/after?

This is another case that likely needs to be addressed in the style sheet. In this specific case, the style sheet can specify a certain amount of padding—for example, 24 points—between the header row and the start of the body of the table, which is not something that can be captured in the XML. Why not just use empty cells? One big reason becomes clear when you consider this question from an accessibility perspective: How will a screen reader interpret the content in that table when it gets to a completely blank row (or column)?

Could you elaborate a bit more on this bug you mentioned in how Word applies paragraph styles?

The best way to see this bug in action for yourself is to open up a new Word document, type the same sentence twice in one paragraph, apply italics or bold to one of those sentences, and then use Word’s Styles pane to apply a paragraph style. If you’ve applied your face formatting to exactly 50% of the paragraph, all is well, and the face formatting will stay put. 

Now apply that same face formatting to just one more character—even the space between the two sentences will do. Use the Styles pane again to apply a different paragraph style. You’ll now see the face formatting disappear, because you’ve crossed the 50% threshold. 

It’s not usually so easy to spot >50% of a paragraph has face formatting, especially when the formatting isn’t contiguous—say, a paragraph that mentions many book titles, or a paragraph that includes a list of vessel names, or a reference entry with a short author list and a long title. This also means it’s not always obvious when Word’s built-in method of applying styles has removed formatting you wanted to preserve.

Do you have guidance anywhere on how to find all these features you are talking about on Word for Mac?

Generally speaking, for Windows keyboard shortcuts that use the Ctrl key, you’ll want to use the Command (⌘) key. Many features of Word work the same way in Word for Mac; unfortunately, though, Word for Mac is a subset of Word, not a fully equivalent application (which is why eXtyles can’t run as a plugin to Word for Mac).

The Microsoft Support pages include some dedicated info on Word for Mac, including this page on keyboard shortcuts!