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Word's secret design sizzle: Learn the built-in tools for better-looking documents

Yardena Arar | April 24, 2014
Microsoft Word can do more than bang out simple letters and plain text. Delve into its Design and Layout tools, and you'd be surprised at how much it can help even novices produce attractive layouts for brochures, flyers, and newsletters.

Microsoft Word can do more than bang out simple letters and plain text. Delve into its Design and Layout tools, and you'd be surprised at how much it can help even novices produce attractive layouts for brochures, flyers, and newsletters. 

The more complex your layout and contents, the more you will need a design professional's help — and maybe a high-end desktop publishing package, too. But before you do that, give Word's built-in design talents a try.

Work with a template...

The easiest way to create more elaborate documents in Word is to use a template. Word has hundreds of them, from newsletters and flyers to business cards and faxes. To get started, go to File > New in the left navigation bar, which brings up a selection of popular templates (including the default blank page) topped by the search window.

Templates come pre-populated with images and dummy text, both of which are easily replaceable with your own (you can either click on a block of text and start typing, or paste in text or images you've previously copied to the clipboard). But even if you want to change design elements (such as fonts, for example), you might start with a template just to pick up preset margins and other basic layout parameters that would be annoying to create from scratch.

...or work with themes

If you prefer to start from scratch on a blank sheet, you can set up page dimensions, margins, columns, and other basic defaults in the Page Layout ribbon. You might also want to click the Design tab and choose a theme — a collection of fonts for popular layout options such as titles, subheads, and plain text. You could, of course, specify these individually as you work, but the fonts in a theme are chosen and sized according to generally accepted design precepts so they'll look good together.

The Design tab also provides collections of color palettes and effects you can apply to add character to your layout. You might choose one color from a palette for a border and another for subheads, for example. (Once you select a theme, the colors in the palette will show up when you click the Font Color icon on the Home ribbon.) You can experiment with different looks by hovering over a theme (or, for that matter, any other design element in the ribbon), which is then applied to the appropriate area in your document. To make the change permanent, you click on the desired element.

Another option in the Design tab lets you apply a background color, pattern, or even an image to your document. Click on Page Color to see these options — they're a pleasant alternative to the usual plain white.

 

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