Tag Archives: Word formatting

Balancing Column Lengths in Word Document

Do your column lengths look a little out of balance in that otherwise perfect document?

Have you struggled with creating columns in Word to get that nice, professional look only to have them display off balance, with one column much longer than the other(s)? Here’s some ways to whip that into shape!

Word allows you to give your work a more magazine or newspaper look by breaking up the document or specific paragraphs into columns. You can have Word do this automatically, or specify where you want the column breaks.

Deciding the number of columns will be based on your margins, font sizes, line and paragraph spacing, graphics and any additional settings. The fast, easy way is to let Word do the lifting.

Have Word Create Column Breaks Based on Selection

If you want specific content to be displayed in columns:

  • Select the contents that you want to display in two or more columns
  • Click the Layout tab on the Ribbon
  • In the Page Setup group, choose the drop down on Columns
  • Choose the number of desired columns

Word will automatically add section breaks at the top and bottom of the column content and make the columns as even as possible. If you add content at the end of the column(s), Word will rebalance them.

Inserting Columns with No Content Selected

If you want the entire document displayed in columns, click anywhere in the document, and follow the steps above.

The difference here is that Word does not insert section breaks so will not automatically adjust column lengths as you add content.

If the columns are not equal length, you can have Word do it by inserting a continuous section break at the end of the last column:

  1.  Click at the end of the text in the last column
  2.  Display the Page Layout tab of the ribbon
  3.  Click on the drop-down on Breaks in the Page Setup group
  4. Choose Continuous under Section Breaks section

Note: If you like the results, you are good to go but if you want to change the column widths or adjust space between columns, you can select the More
Columns… command at the bottom of the Columns drop down.

Although Word is not a full-blown desktop publisher such as InDesign or even Publisher, it can produce some pretty fine looking work just by using some built-in templates or tools. There are more adjustments you can make such as having your heading (and other content) be in one column and the rest of the document in multiple columns. We’ll look at that in a future post.

Have you used this feature in Word before? Did you get the expected results? If you haven’t experimented with columns, give it a try and let me know how it went!

Convert Text to and from Tables in Microsoft Word

Convert Text to Table

If you have to create lists in Word and line up the text in separate columns, you have probably had a few frustrating moments! This is actually an easy fix if you have used the TAB key and only pressed it once between each piece of information. Where we usually run into trouble is when the space bar is used to create the needed space and/or the TAB key pressed more than once.

Let’s say I’m doing a simple list with names and department. I am hitting the TAB key once between each column which will look odd and not seem like the way to go but it is what works. ENTER is pressed at the end of each line. (Show/Hide is turned on to show the formatting marks for TAB and ENTER):

This looks like a dog’s breakfast but not for long. Make sure the text that is to be converted into the table contains only a single tab character between each column. (It could also be a comma for the separator).

Here’s how to have a neat, organized list in no time.

  1. Select the text you want converted into a table. (Avoid paragraph markers above and
    below the text).
  2. Display the Insert tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the Table tool and then click Convert Text to Table. Word displays the Convert
    Text to Table dialog box.
  4. Make sure all the table settings in the dialog box are correct. (In this case, the Number of columns should be 3 and the Separate text at should be Tabs. (Word will automatically do this but always wise to check).
  5. Click OK to display a table.

Not only is this neat, you now have all the advantages of table formatting. When you click in the table, two new tabs will display at the end of the Ribbon under Table
Tools. The Design and Layout tabs give quick, professional looking formatting options. Most of them display a live preview when you mouse-over each selection. Can’t get much faster than that!

Remove Borders

Prefer to just have the text displayed as columns?  Remove the cell borders:

  1. Click in the table. Design and Layout tabs will display at the end of the Ribbon.
  2. From the Layout tab | Table group; click drop down arrow on Select and choose Select All (can also click the + symbol at upper left of table if it displays when you click in the table).
  3. Click the Design tab | Borders group and the drop down on the Borders icon. Choose No Border.

There you go, nice neat columns! (This is still a table, just without borders displayed).

Convert a Table to Text

No sooner do you get this accomplished when you find you have tables that need to be converted to text. You can convert the entire table or just specific rows:

  • Select the rows or table you want to convert to text.
  • On the Layout tab | Data group (at end of Ribbon), click Convert to Text.

  • The Convert to Text box displays. Under Separate text with, click the separator character you want to replace table cells (in this case, TAB) .

  • Click OK.

Here’s the results:

Note that the column spacing is based on your original table but can be adjusted by changing the tab stops. (These display on the ruler when the text is selected and can be just dragged to desired width).

This feature is a great trick also for a paste from Excel (and other programs), as the paste can sometimes produce strange results!

How would you use these features in your Word formatting?

Word Styles Make Formatting Easy Peasy!

Why Format with Word Styles?


Why care about using Word Styles? Because you want to work smarter, not harder. You might already know about Format Painter, that magic icon in the Clipboard group that copies complicated formatting from one place to another with a mouse click. It is awesome for a shorter document but would be crazy-making for formatting that humongous report!

Want to:

  • Create a formatted, professional document in a flash?
  • Create a fast Table of Contents in Word?
  • Use one-click navigation through that long document?

Do this and more with Word Styles!

You can use the built-in styles in Word or modify them to get the results you want and Styles are saved with your document. By default, Word applies Normal Style to all text (in Word 2007 and above, it is Calibri (Body Font), 11. In earlier versions, it is Times New Roman, 12.

Heading Styles

Any text can be changed to a built in style. Styles live on the Home tab, Styles group. You will see a limited number of styles displayed (depending on your screen size and resolution).

Click the More button at the bottom right of the group to see a bigger list and roll your mouse over each to see the effects. As you select Heading (or other) styles, they will move to the front of the list on the Ribbon.

The Title and Heading Styles are Paragraph, not Character Styles, so you don’t need to select all of the text to apply a style. Just click anywhere in the paragraph (or heading), and click on the style desired.

Modify a Style with One Click

Let’s say you applied Heading 2 to multiple areas of the document but then decide you want a different font size and color for that heading level:

  • Choose and format any Heading 2 the way you would like it to look
  • Select it and right click over that heading name in the Styles group. The icon will have a border showing it is the selected style.
  • Choose Update (style name) to Match Selection, and Yahtzee, every style with that name is automatically updated and that formatting will be applied from now on to that heading level.

Design Sets – Professional Formatting with a Click

You finished your document and then wonder if you could have a little fancier look to the whole thing without re-inventing the wheel. Again, yes you can! After applying Styles, you can change the overall look and fonts of all the styles in your document with a single click using Design Sets.

  • Click in a heading in your document.
  • Click the Design tab and the More button in the Document Formatting
  • Mouse over all the options in the group to see the effects how each of your heading styles would look in that set.
  • Click on desired Style and it is set for your whole document, and so are you!

Use the Navigation Pane to whip through a long document

Another benefit of Styles is fast navigation and drag and drop rearranging of headings and paragraphs:

  • Display Navigation Pane by clicking View tab/Show group/Navigation Pane (See below for shortcut).
  • The Navigation Pane displays at left of your document and you can click on headings to jump there.
  • Collapse and expand heading levels by clicking the arrows at left of heading names.

Change the order or paragraphs or sections by just dragging the heading in the Navigation Pane to desired location and your document is changed accordingly, i.e., You need a heading on Page 6 to be on Page 4, collapse headings and drag it there, or need your headings in alpha order…Drag and drop to the rescue!

Styles for Bullets and Numbering Lists

Don’t stop with your headings and paragraph styles, You can also create customized multiple level number or bullet styles using the drop down arrow on those icons in the Paragraph group on the Home tab and choosing Define New…, customize as desired and they will be added to the Styles Gallery.

Smart Status Bar tricks for Navigation:

In Word 2013 and above, click the Page number on the Status Bar and Navigation Pane instantly displays!

If you have Section numbers displayed on the Status Bar, clicking that displays the Find and Replace dialog box at the Go To tab. (Word versions prior to 2013, display this also when clicking the Page number).

Remove Style Formatting

There may become a time when you want to totally remove all those styles from your document (or from the one that you inherited from a style-crazy person), and return it to Word’s default font and size:

  • Press CTRL A to select the entire document.
  • Click on the Normal icon in the Styles group on the Home tab and all your text will now be Calibri (Body text), 11.

Note:  if you have formatted text without Styles,  just press CTRL + SPACEBAR to convert to default text.

See, I told, you easy-peasy. Now go out and take control over that Word document!

P.S. All that being said, be aware that Styles are very powerful but also complex. Keep it simple if Styles are new to you because a lot of playing can produce some confusing results as Word tracks every change you make to a style as an additional style. Start with using the built in Styles and using the various benefits as outlined in this post. That might be all you ever want or need.