How to Use Microsoft Word as a Desktop Publishing Tool

How to Use Microsoft Word as a Desktop Publishing Tool
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.

You can modify styles easily; they'll help you format documents quickly and consistently.
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

Using the Edit Wrap Points feature, you can control how text wraps around and through an image.
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.

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