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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.

Play with typography

Nothing is more boring than a page full of plain text, but sometimes you don't have a lot of images to relieve the monotony. Tools to make your layouts more interesting include drop caps, subheads, and pullquotes — and it's relatively easy to apply them in Word.

Adding drop caps — large initial capital letters — to a paragraph is child's play: In the Insert ribbon, simply click on the Add a Drop Cap icon in the Text tools. You can choose between having the enlarged initial capital letter embedded in the text or in the left margin. Drop Cap options let you change the font, the height (in number of lines of normal text) of the character, and its distance from the text.

A pullquote is a quotation from the text that you copy into a box and use as a design element, much the way you'd use an image. It's a way of highlighting an important nugget from the story, while at the same time adding visual interest to a page. In Word, put the cursor in the general area you'd like to place a text box, and click the Text Box icon in the Insert ribbon. This brings up a menu of several pre-formatted text box options. When you choose one, it will appear — with canned text — in your document. You can then replace the dummy text and adjust options such as font size and color.

To the right of the box, a small icon lets you adjust how the box fits into the layout. You might, for example, opt to have text flow around the box, or you could choose to have it above and below (but not around) the box. You can also opt to fix the position of the box on the page or tie it to the copy around it, so that if the copy moves, so does the box.

The Word Art icon on the Insert ribbon lets you use colorful display fonts with flourishes and effects you won't find in standard fonts. You can use these characters to liven up a page, but avoid going overboard: A little of this sort of eye candy goes a long way.

Adding images, charts, and other content

By now you may have noticed that Text tools take up only a small area on the Insert ribbon, since there are so many other items you can add to spruce up the look and impact of a document.

Images are an obvious choice. Current versions of Word include tools that let you perform basic image editing from within the app. As with the text box, you start by placing the cursor in the area where you want the image to appear. Then click on Pictures (or Online Pictures if you want to look for images in Office's huge collection of clip art), and click on the image you want to insert.


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