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2,847 Tutorials

How to Use Microsoft Word as a Desktop Publishing Tool

Here are ten great tips for producing elaborate documents using Microsoft Word.

High-end desktop publishing programs, such as Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress, feature lots of tools to help designers produce stunning pages. But these programs are expensive, and novices require training to use them, factors that render their acquisition difficult to justify for most small businesses.

Microsoft's own Publisher program is a step down from those applications in both power and price, but not every version of Office includes Publisher, and it costs $140 to purchase separately. However, chances are good that you already own a copy of Microsoft Word, and that software has a host of desktop publishing tools that you can use to produce pages that rival the output of the best layout artist.

If you need to create documents with drop caps, pull quotes, columns, text that wraps around images, and similar desktop publishing elements, you can do so in Word. The only problem is that these tools are scattered all across Word's Ribbon user interface, and some are buried deep in arcane menus. I'll show you where to find them, and explain how to make the most of them.

1. Use Styles for Consistent Formatting

One way to ensure that a document looks professional and smart is to use the same formatting throughout. You should format every heading the same way, and make all of your body text look the same. You can use Word's styles to apply formats quickly.

First, choose a Style Set for your document from the Home tab on the Ribbon by clicking Change Styles > Style Set. You'll see a number of possibilities in the menu that pops up. Choose the look that's closest to how you want your document to appear.

Once you've selected a Style Set, the Styles gallery on the Home tab will display a series of styles that you can use to format text in your document. To apply a style, select a block of text (such as a heading) and click an item, such as Heading 1, in the Style gallery. Typically you'll use Normal for body text and Heading 1 for headings. You can use other styles for special elements in the document.

If you're not satisfied with these prefab styles, you can easily modify them: Right-click the style name in the Style gallery, and choose Modify. Make whatever changes you want (click Bold to render all the text in that style in bold type, for example), and click OK. Now all of the text in the document that you have formatted using that style will automatically update to reflect your change.

2. Align and Distribute Objects Evenly

When you embed a series of images on a page, they typically look best when you align each image's left or right edge along the respective edge of the page. If you place them across the width of a document, they usually look best when their top or bottom edges are aligned. To align a series of images to the left or right down the page margin, click on the first image and then hold down the Shift key while clicking on each additional image until you've selected all of them. Next, click the Picture Tools tab on the Ribbon and click Format > Align > Align To Margin. Now click Format > Align > Align Left to align the images down the left margin, or Align Right to line them up down the right margin.

To line up images relative to each other across the page, select the images and click the Picture Tools tab on the Ribbon; then click Format > Align > Align Selected Objects. Finally, click Format > Align once more, and click Align Top (to align their top edges) or Align Bottom (to align their bottom edges). When you click Format > Align, you'll see that you can also choose Distribute Vertically or Distribute Horizontally to space images evenly down the page margin or space them evenly relative to each other (depending on whether you select Align to Page or Align Selected Objects).

3. Flow Text From One Page to the Next Using a Text Box

To make the best use of the first few pages of a newsletter, you should start a long story on one page and finish it on a later page. That way, you can fit more stories on the front page, which is what your readers will see first. You can accomplish this by placing the story in linked text boxes, so that when the first text box is full, excess text will automatically flow into the second text box.

First, create the text boxes by clicking the Insert tab on the Ribbon, clicking Text Box > Draw Text Box, and then dragging your mouse to draw a text box on the page. Repeat this step to create a second text box on a later page. Next, select the first text box and click Drawing Tools > Format > Create Link. The cursor will change to resemble a jug with a down-pointing arrow in it. Position the cursor over the second empty text box, and click once to link the two text boxes. Now when you type or paste text into the first text box, and there's too much to fit in the first box, it will overflow into the second box. The best part is that you can edit within either box, and the text will automatically flow back and forth as you cut or pad the story.

4. Wrap Text Around or Through an Image or Shape

When it comes to wrapping text creatively around an image, Word's tools are superior to those of its Office sibling Publisher. This is the feature to use when you're working with an image that contains a plain or light-colored area to accommodate text (called copy space).

First, add the image to your Word document, select the image, and choose Picture Tools on the Ribbon toolbar. Click Format > Wrap Text > Tight. Now, with the image still selected, click Format once more and choose Edit Wrap Points. A red line with black markers, called wrap points, will appear around the image. Adjust this line by dragging the wrap points: You can drag the wrap points inward to wrap text over the image, or drag them outward so that the text moves away from the image. Drag on the line itself to create additional wrap points, as desired. When you're done, click away from the image, and the wrap points will disappear.

5. Create Fancy First Letters for Paragraphs

In the days of illuminated manuscripts, artists created elaborate illustrations to decorate the first letter of a page or chapter. With Word, you can make drop caps, which are fancy first letters for a paragraph or a page. To start, click inside the paragraph where you wish to add a drop cap, click the Insert tab on the Ribbon toolbar, and then select Drop Cap > Dropped.

Follow up by choosing Drop Cap > Drop Cap Options, and you can configure how the drop cap will look: which font it will use, the number of lines that it will drop, and the distance it will be inset from the text. You might need to experiment with these options to get the best result for any given font. Word treats the drop-cap letter as part of the word that follows it, so a spelling check will still function correctly. (For more information on spelling checking, see "10 Spelling Checker Secrets for Microsoft Word.")

6. Display Text in Columns

For newsletters, training materials, and similar documents, you can format your text in multiple columns, which makes the text easier to read. Word allows you to turn anything from a small portion of text to an entire document into columns. Most of the time, however, you'll want the heading items to consume the full width of the page, with just the text arranged in columns.

To achieve this result, select the text that you want to appear in columns, and then click the Page Layout tab on the Ribbon. Next, click Columns, and then indicate the number of columns to use (two is typically sufficient). Word will arrange the selected text accordingly, leaving the remainder of the text to flow across the entire page width.

7. Add Captions to Images

To add numbered captions to images--to point the reader to an illustration in a long document, such as a book or article, for instance--you can choose the Ribbon's References tab, click the Captions tool, and then select Insert Caption. In many cases, however, you'll simply want to add a plain text caption without a numbering scheme. In that case, you can create a text box for the caption.

First, insert the image into the document. Then, click the Insert tab on the Ribbon, choose Text Box > Draw Text Box (at the bottom of the menu), and draw a small text box on the page. Click in the text box, and type your caption text. Size the text box to match the width of the image. To remove the border around the text box, click the text box to select it (the appearance will change to display dotted lines), and then go up to the Ribbon to click the Drawing Tools > Format tab; click Shape Outline (you'll find it between Shape Fill and Shape Effects). Finally, click No Outline.

Group the text box and the image so that they will move together. To do so, click the image to select it, hold down the Shift key, and click the text box. With both items selected, right-click and choose Group from the pop-up menu, and then select Group once again.

8. Use a Pull Quote to Add Visual Interest to a Text-Heavy Page

Pull quotes add visual variety to a text-heavy page; use them to place a sentence or two of interesting text copied from the surrounding page into a box separate from the page text. First, select the words you wish to use, or type some new text. Copy that text, choose Insert on the Ribbon, and click Text Box. Select one of the designs that appear in the Gallery, click in the text box you've added to the page, and click Paste to place the text inside it.

Now, click the text box, move it into position on the page, and resize it to suit the text it displays. You should also change the font and increase the line spacing of the text in the pull quote to set it apart visually from the surrounding text; this will ensure that the reader sees it as a separate element instead of mistaking it for regular text. You can learn more about changing text-box shapes in the article "Work Faster in Microsoft Word: 10 Secrets."

9. Add a Cover Page Instantly

Word's Cover Page feature lets you add an attractive cover page to any document. To add one to yours, click the Insert tab on the Ribbon, click Cover Page, and select a cover page from the gallery. Although you can change every element on the cover page, it's best to start with one that comes closest to what you want in the end.

When you select a cover page, Word adds it to the beginning of the document. Click inside each of the items on the cover page, and type your text. To remove anything you don't want, click the item and press Delete. If you decide that you don't like the cover page at all, you can select a different one, and it will automatically replace the unwanted page.

10. Adjust Paragraph and Line Spacing for Text and Pull Quotes

Desktop publishing applications provide precise tools for making microadjustments to paragraphs and to line spacing. You can accomplish the same goal in Word, however. Select the text you wish to alter, click the Home tab, and then open the Paragraph dialog box by clicking the arrow next to the Paragraph label that points down and to the right. Now click the Indents and Spacing tab to adjust the line spacing within paragraphs (using the Line Spacing tool), as well as the line spacing between paragraphs (using the Before and After tools).

For text-intensive documents, it's usually best to indent the first line of each paragraph by a half-inch, and to set the line spacing to 1.15 inches with no additional space before or after each paragraph. This is a layout that books often use. Another common spacing option is to add 6 points of space after a paragraph and use no indents at all.

To set your spacing options as your default (Normal) style, click the Home tab, move your mouse pointer to the Styles area, right-click Normal, click Modify, and then click OK. Now this spacing will apply to every document that you format with the Normal style.

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