A text box is a graphical container that holds text and works like a minidocument you can place anywhere within a regular document. Although it holds text, a text box itself is actually a graphic; the text it contains is independent from the document’s body text. You can format a text box’s text in most of the same ways you can format a document’s normal text. But because the box is a shape, you can drag it to a different position, resize it, and format it like other shapes.
The text box is one of the secret weapons of great document layouts. In fact, lots of multicolumn documents, such as the newsletter template shown in Figure 1, don’t use columns at all. Instead, they are laid out with text boxes. In the figure, the newsletter is just a series of text boxes, sized and formatted in different ways, but neatly arranged to imitate a two-column design.
Figure 1. A newsletter template laid out with text boxes rather than columns. Each text box is indicated by its handles and borders.
The following sections show you how to insert a text box into a document, resize and move it, format the box itself and the text inside it, and other cool tricks.
Inserting a Text Box
You can create a text box in two ways. The first (and quicker) way is to insert a building block that is already formatted. The second (and slower) way is to draw a text box with your pointer and do all the formatting yourself. Either way, when a text box is selected, the Drawing Tools Format tab appears on the Ribbon and the text box is surrounded by a thin border and selection/sizing handles.
Creating a Text Box from a Building Block
If you create a text box from a building block, most of the work is done for you. The building blocks used for text boxes are preformatted with a border (and sometimes a fill) that coordinates with the document’s theme colors. The text is already formatted, too. All you need to do is add your own text. Here’s how to create a text block from a building block:
In the Built-In section of the menu, click one of the thumbnails. The new text box contains sample text, so you can see how it is formatted. The sample text is selected so you can delete it or type over it.
Press Del to delete the sample text from the box. A blinking insertion point appears in its place.
Click outside the text box to deselect it.
If you want to see more building blocks, click More Text Boxes From Office.com on the Text Box menu. A submenu pops out, showing a selection of text boxes available from the Office.com website. Click any building block to add it to the document.
Drawing a Text Box
You can draw a text box with your pointer, but you’ll have to do all the formatting when you’re done. Here’s how to draw a text box:
On the Insert tab, click Text Box.
Click Draw Text Box. The pointer changes to a crosshair.
Type your text into the text box.
Click outside the text box to deselect it.
Resizing a Text Box
The way you can resize a text box depends on how you created it:
- If you drew the box (or inserted the Simple Text Box building block), resize it by doing any of the following:
- Drag any of its handles.
- On the Format tab, click the Size button; then use the Height and Width spin controls to set specific dimensions for the box.
- Click the Size group’s dialog box launcher to open the Layout dialog box. On the Size tab, set specific dimensions in the Height and Width sections, or use the Scale section to set the text box’s size as a percentage of its current size. Click OK when you finish.
- If you created the text box from a building block, its sizing options may be restricted, as shown in Figure 4. If you can’t resize the box by dragging its handles or by using the Size tools on the Format tab, open the Layout dialog box. On the Size tab, click Absolute in both the Height and Width sections; then click OK. Now you can resize the box as if it were drawn.
Figure 4. By default, a building block’s height or width may be set to Relative, restricting your ability to resize it.
For some building blocks, the height and/or width may be set to Relative in the Layout dialog box. The Relative option ensures that the box’s height or width always stays in proportion to some aspect of the page. For easy resizing, change the text box’s Height and Width options to Absolute.
By default, a text box’s aspect ratio is not locked; if you leave it that way, you can resize the text box freely by dragging.
Moving a Text Box
To move a text box, click its border and drag it to a new location, as shown in Figure 5. If the text box was created from a building block (other than the Simple Text Box building block), the document’s text wraps around the box as determined by the building block’s text wrapping setting.
Figure 5. Moving a text box by dragging its border.
If you created the box by drawing it or by using the Simple Text Box building block, the box appears in front of the document’s text. You can change this by applying a different text wrapping option to the text box. Then you can move the text box by dragging.
Formatting a Text Box
A text box is basically the same thing as an AutoShape (a rectangle), but this shape is special because it’s already set up to hold text. You can format a text box by using the shape-formatting tools on the Format tab.
By default, Word formats a text box with an outline and a fill. The outline and fill can be the same or different colors, or you can apply a special effect to either one. However, in some cases, it’s a good idea to remove both the outline and the fill. For example, if your document has a colored background, you can make the background show through the text box by removing its shape formats. If you ever use text boxes for laying out a page (as shown back in Figure 1), the document will look cleaner if you omit the fills and outlines from the text boxes.
Formatting Text in a Text Box
Text in a text box is basically the same as text in a document; it just fits in a smaller space. A text box can hold multiple paragraphs, including numbered and bulleted lists. You can format a text box’s text in just about all the same ways you format a document’s body text. Select the text in the box; then apply formats from the Font and Paragraph groups of the Home tab. Text in a text box can be formatted with styles, too.
You can also do a couple of neat tricks with a text box’s text:
- Change text direction: By default, text is aligned horizontally in a text box. You can set text to run vertically, reading either from top to bottom (rotated 90 degrees) or from bottom to top (rotated 270 degrees). Figure 6 shows an example of how rotated text can be used to create a cool effect and make use of limited page space. To change text direction, click the text box to activate the Format tab, click Text Direction, and then choose an option from the drop-down menu.
Figure 6. In the text box along the right-hand edge of this newsletter, the text is rotated 90 degrees.
- Change text alignment: You can vertically align text at the top, center, or bottom of a text box. To set the alignment, go to the Format tab, click Align Text, and then choose an option from the drop-down menu.
Linking Text Boxes
You can use multiple text boxes to create fancy or complicated-looking layouts. For example, if you’re designing a multicolumn document but don’t want to mess with columns, you can use text boxes instead. Or if you want to create a boxed “sidebar” that spans two pages of a document, you can use two text boxes (one on each page) to hold the sidebar’s content.
The key to tricks like this is linking. When you link two or more text boxes, Word treats them as though they are a single box. When you fill the first box with text, just keep typing; the text jumps to the next box and continues there.
Creating Linked Text Boxes
To make the linking process easy, start by creating all the text boxes you’re going to need. Here’s a simple example:
Click the first text box. The Format tab appears on the ribbon.
Click Create Link. The mouse pointer changes to the shape of a pitcher.
Click the second text box. It is now linked to the first text box.
The linking process goes a little differently if you need to link three or more boxes. Suppose you have four boxes; in this case, you would start by linking box 3 to box 4, then link box 2 to box 3, and finally link box 1 to box 2. Sounds crazy, but it works