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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.

A couple of things will happen: The image will appear in your document — if not exactly where you intended, close enough so that you can easily drag it to where you want it. You can also make fine adjustments with arrow keys when the image is in moving mode.

At the same time, the Picture Tools ribbon will appear, filled with options for everything from cropping to artistic effects and frames. As with text boxes, you also get an icon next to the image that gives you choices for how it fits into the text.

Word also has special tools for inserting shapes (for simple diagrams), SmartArt (for more complicated business diagrams), and even Excel-style charts that you create on the fly.

The newest graphic element in the Insert ribbon is the Screenshot icon: Click it and you'll be able to insert any currently live screenshot on your Windows desktop — a useful tool for people who want to illustrate computer processes.

You can add captions to graphic elements using the Insert Caption feature in the References ribbon, but there's a catch: Because the feature was intended for academic publications, it automatically assigns numbers to them (in sequence) — and it's all but impossible to get rid of them in print unless you want to go into Word's field codes. If you want your images to have captions that aren't numbered, you have to either create a text box below (or beside) the image just for the caption or put them both in a box to tie them together, another complicated procedure.

Making adjustments

Many of Word's tools can be applied on the fly, so if you don't like the way something looks you can easily change it. For example, you can flow text into columns simply by selecting it all and clicking on the number of columns you want in the Page Layout tab.

If you've added several elements to a document and they aren't behaving the way you want, you might find help in the Arrange section of the Page Layout tab. Here you can find features for aligning objects and bringing them in front of or behind other objects.

Finishing steps

Most commercial printers who work with small businesses will accept documents in PDF format, and Word lets you save documents as PDFs. There are, however, different types of PDFs, so make sure to check with a printer beforehand — ask if they can work with the PDF format generated by the Word version you are using.

Word can't do everything a high-end desktop publishing program can do. For example, if you need crop marks on pages, Microsoft advises you to export your Word document to Publisher, the Office desktop publishing app. Desktop publishing packages can usually export to all major PDF types. High-end packages also let you create multiple master pages to serve as templates for complicated documents. While Word makes it easy to create pages with headers and footers, it's not so easy to mix them up with other page styles in the same project.

 

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