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Desktop Publishing with Word Text Boxes

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Desktop publishing software uses movable frames to give you precise control over a layout, but did you know that Microsoft Word can do basically the same thing? Faithe Wempen, author of Word 2013 In Depth, shows you how to use Word’s Text Box feature to create simple DTP layouts.
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Microsoft Word isn’t officially a desktop publishing (DTP) application--that’s Microsoft Publisher. However, Word’s powerful layout tools make it able to serve as a decent substitute if you don’t have the money to spend separate software.

A real DTP application has features that enable users to create complex, multi-column layouts, like the ones you see in advertising flyers, newsletters, and magazines. Word also has some of the same features, but they aren’t obvious, and most people don’t even realize they are available.

As a starting point, I created Figure 1, a document in Microsoft Publisher with a fairly complicated layout. It uses multiple pictures, gradient fills, and different numbers of columns in different areas of the page. In this article, I’ll show you how you can approximate this same layout in Microsoft Word using the Text Box feature.

Figure 1: This page layout was created in Publisher. Our mission: to reproduce it in Word.

Set Up Word to Work with Text Boxes

Before you start creating a layout in Word that uses text boxes extensively, do the following to enable some Word features that will make the job easier.

  • On the View tab, mark the Gridlines check box. This places a non-printing grid of horizontal and vertical lines on the page, as shown in Figure 2. The grid fills the entire area defined by the margin settings; ; if you don't like their positioning, change the document margins. (For my project, I set the margins to 0.75" on each side.)

    Figure 2: Turn on gridlines in Word to make it easier to position text boxes precisely.

  • On the View tab, mark the Ruler check box. This enables a horizontal and vertical ruler along the top and left edges of the document.
  • Make sure you are working in Print Layout view. Select it from the View tab if needed.
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