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Barry MacDonnell's
Toolbox for WordPerfect

Macros, tips, and templates for Corel® WordPerfect® for Windows®
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Page updated Nov 23, 2020

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How to set default formatting for new documents: A step-by-step guide

Some related pages -

WordPerfect Templates (the default template and creating custom templates)

Page numbering in WordPerfect

Custom line spacing (e.g., double space, 1.5 lines, etc.) and paragraph spacing

Create a custom template for special purposes

All about styles

Headers, footers, and watermarks

Using two footers at the same time

Even/Odd page identification

Footnotes and endnotes

Using the "Other Codes" feature

Resetting margins on page 2

Before you begin

The <WordPerfect> menu must be enabled for the following menu choices to be visible (right-click on the menu bar to choose a <WordPerfect> menu).

You should also have Reveal Codes open (View, Reveal Codes).

As with some other programs, changing default format settings for new documents (i.e., opened with File, New) generally means modifying the program's default template. [The default template is the one that is currently specified in Tools, Settings, Files, Template.]

    This is easy to do (see Method 1) — and undo — but you might want to locate this file and make a copy of it to back it up before making extensive changes to it. [See the page on templates for more information sbout finding (and fixing) this important file.]

Changing default formatting for new documents based on custom templates is also possible. See Method 2 below.

For those familiar with the WordPerfect File menu's choices (see image in Step 2): Be sure to read the caution in the notes (below) about not setting the default font with File, Document, Default Font. Instead, use the File, Document, Current Document Style method suggested here.

•  Method 1 is for making quick and easy changes to default formatting for new blank documents

•  Related tips for Method 1

•  Method 2 is for moderate-to-extensive changes for new blank documents, and for creating new documents based on custom templates [links to another Toolbox page]
Method 1

This 4-step method is best used for relatively minor formatting changes (examples given below).

For moderate to extensive changes, see Method 2.

Step 1

Open a new, blank document with File, New. While this step is not strictly necessary, it helps to isolate the task from other things you might be working on.

Step 2

You now have 3 choices.

In the new, blank document, you can

... either click on File, Document, Current Document Style ...

[b] ... or simply double-click on the [Open Style: DocumentStyle] code in the Reveal Codes window. It should be the first code at the very beginning of the document. [Code not there? See Footnote 1.]

[c] ... or click on Format, Styles, [Available styles:]DocumentStyle, Edit. [This choice is just an alternative to step 1[a] above.]

Any of these methods will open the Styles Editor dialog for the current document style (also called the "initial document style") as shown in Step 3.

Step 3

Make your format changes in the Styles Editor (shown below) using that dialog's menu and/or property bar at the top of the dialog. [Note: A slightly more advanced — and easy — method is to copy and paste the format code from any document into the Contents pane, as noted in the tip below. But for now please follow the basic method in the next paragraphs. This, too, is easy and might be best for some format defaults.]

For example, you might want to change the current font, font size, or page margins and make them the default for all new documents, too. Here's how do it.

[a] For font changes, click the Font Face and/or Font Size drop lists on the Editor's property bar and make your selections. When you do that, you will see new [Font] and/or [Font Size] codes appear in the Contents pane of the Styles Editor dialog.


It is possible to set decimal font sizes in WordPerfect such as 11.5 point, 12.7 point, etc., and even font sizes larger than 72 points. Click the Font size field's down arrow button on the property bar (just to the right of the number field) to expose the drop-down font size list. then type the desired decimal size (in tenths of a point) in the number field and press <Enter>. (You must press <Enter>, rather than <Tab>: If you use <Tab>, the setting won't "stick.")


1. Caution: There is an alternative way to set a default font — but it is NOT a recommended method.
    You may have noticed that the File, Document submenu on the main WordPerfect menu has a choice, "Default Font" (see the image of the expanded File menu in Step 2 above). As well, there is a setting on the Format, Font menu to do this (see next screen shot below). For several technical reasons (see here) it is better NOT to use those methods to set the default font or font size for new documents. Instead, use the Styles Editor to set fonts or font sizes (and other document format defaults) as explained in the current example.

2. There is also an alternative way to open the Styles Editor for the [Open Style: DocumentStyle].
    You might have discovered that you can also open the Styles Editor (above) for the current document style with Format, Styles. In the Styles dialog that appears select "DocumentStyle" in the Available Styles list, and then click the Edit button. But as you can see, this takes a few extra mouse clicks compared to Step 2(a) above. [The Format, Styles method is typically used to create a QuickStyle; or to create, save, retrieve, delete, or edit custom styles; or to reset WordPerfect default styles.]

3. [Footnotes and endnotes: A special case.]
    For making permanent (but re-settable) changes to the default font (etc.) used inside footnotes and endnotes, which inherit their initial font from the default template font, see the tips page on this site about Footnotes and Endnotes — specifically this section on that page.

[b] For page margin changes, click the Format menu choice, then choose Margins.

This opens the Page Setup dialog. On the right side of that dialog you can set new page margins. When you do that, you will see new margin codes appear in the Contents pane of the Styles Editor dialog. (Note that choosing a page margin setting that is already in existence will have no effect, so no code is entered.)


To re-set page margins on the next page (if there could be following pages), see "Need to reset page margins on page 2 (if there is a page 2) back to the one-inch default or some other setting?".

Similarly, you could change other formatting using the Styles Editor's menu, such as line spacing, paragraph formatting, etc. It is recommended you make only a few changes at a time, to be sure they are performing as you expect.

Step 4

IMPORTANTTo save the modifications you made in Step 3 for future use in new documents, be sure to [1] enable (i.e., tick) the checkbox at the bottom of the Styles Editor (below), "Use as default," click OK, then [2] answer Yes to the confirmation message that pops up [screen shot].

The changes you make in the Styles Editor will affect both the current document and the default template that is specified in Tools, Settings, Files, Template. Since the latter "spawns" new blank documents when you use File, New, the changes will be inherited by those new documents.

Note also that this checkbox option's setting applies to the Styles Editor for all open documents (even new blank ones) and is "sticky" between WordPerfect sessions: If you enable it is will stay enabled until you disable it.

Note: The "Show 'off codes' checkbox at the bottom center of the Editor is useful with paragraph styles.

Related tips for Method 1

☼  Why you might want to disable (clear) the "Use as default" checkbox.

As noted above this option is a "sticky" setting between program sessions so if it is enabled it will stay enabled (ticked) until you manually disable (clear) it. Similarly it is disabled it will stay that way until you enable it again.

Assuming that setting is enabled (as in the image above), recent versions of WordPerfect will display a message (as noted above) to let you confirm (or deny) using any changes that you make in the Styles Editor as your preferred defaults for new documents:

Styles Editor - Use as default message

Clicking Yes will confirm using your changed Document Style for all new documents based on the default template.

Clicking No (or "X" in the title bar) will retain the changed style for the current document only. This has the same effect as if the "Use as default" checkbox was set "off" (and no confirmation message appeared).

Also remember that the state of the "Use as default" checkbox in the Styles Editor above — enabled ("on") or disabled ("off") — will apply to all opened documents, even new blank ones. "Sticky" means sticky, after all.


In earlier versions of WordPerfect, before the above pop-up message was implemented, the following recommendation was offered on this site — which might still apply to you if you don't see the above message dialog or just want to ensure the default state of "Use as default" is set "off":

"... If you want to make changes (Step 3) to only the current document's initial Open Style — perhaps to set overall custom page margins, or use a specific font for the majority of text — you should disable (clear) this checkbox before clicking OK in the Styles Editor. Otherwise those changes will also be saved into the default template. (You can always reverse them by using the same steps above, but prevention is a better strategy.)

Turning this option off as your preferred setting should help avoid unwanted effects in new (default template-based) documents because of changes that were meant only for the currently open document."

☼  You might not even need to use the method above.

Instead of using the above steps you can, of course, simply change the formatting for just the current document directly in the body text area of the document (usually at the top of the document's body text area).

There often is no need to use the Styles Editor to modify the initial style code for a single document – though it has the advantage of "hiding" your new formatting inside the initial style code. It's how many templates work. Moreover, some initial formatting is directly "inherited" from the document's initial Open Style code such as the font used in headers, footers, footnotes, endnotes, page numbers, and text box structures.

☼  Changes made with the method above can be superseded.

Changes made in the Styles Editor for the initial [Open Style: DocumentStyle] code can be discontinued or replaced (i.e., "over-ridden") with another, similar format code further down in the body of the document. This is by design, and is the power of WordPerfect's "stream" formatting.

So if you make changes in the Styles Editor and they do not appear in the current document, use Reveal Codes to examine the main document for codes that might be over-riding (superseding) the settings you made in the "upstream" Styles Editor.

☼  Changes made this way might be ignored by the program (a special case).

For arcane (and not well understood) reasons, if you start (i.e., create) a new WordPerfect document from Windows (e.g., by right-clicking on the Windows desktop or Windows Explorer and then selecting New, WordPerfect document) rather than from WordPerfect's File, New menu, it will create the new document based on a separate, relatively hidden file (e.g., named wordperfect.wpd in recent versions). This separate program file only acts like a template to "spawn" a new empty document: The [Open Style: DocumentStyle] code will be missing from it — as will your new default document settings (though it should not impact that document). (For more see Footnote 4 one the Templates page.)

☼  More tips for the Styles Editor.

You can use Reveal Codes to

▸  carefully select an existing format code from the body text area of any open document (using a Shift+ArrowKey helps make an accurate selection in the Reveal Codes window),

▸  copy it to the Windows clipboard (Ctrl+C), and then

▸  paste it (Ctrl+V) into the Contents pane of the Styles Editor.


Back up the document — and the template, if you are saving the change as a default setting — before making advanced customizations like this one.

The change will affect the current document (and new blank documents, if you enable "Use as default").

This method is useful for some formatting that is difficult to create (or edit) from inside the Styles Editor. A common example of this is setting custom tabs. (See "Tab settings in WordPerfect" here.)

This method also "hides" the format code inside the initial Open Style code to help keep it from being accidentally deleted or moved if it were located (as usual) in the body text area of the document. Just remember this trick if you ever need to restore or modify the formatting controlled by that code!

Further, if you need to change that (now-hidden) code you might have to cut it from the Styles Editor, paste it into another document (e.g., a new blank document), edit the formatting there, then select and copy that code back into the original Styles Editor. For an example, see Hide a [Delay] code.

Method 2

•  In Method 1 you saved your relatively simple changes to the default template. For moderate to extensive changes to that template you can edit it directly:

See this section on the templates page

•  If you don't want to change the default template, you can create one or more custom templates for special purposes:

If you need to set up a customized template without affecting the default template [which is used to create all your new blank (i.e., default) documents], see Custom templates.

Footnote 1

If the [Open Style: DocumentStyle] code is missing in Reveal Codes (at the very top of the document's body text area), it might be due to the way you opened the document. See the Footnote 4 on the Templates page.