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Everything You Need to Know About Column in Microsoft Word 2010 and 2007

What is a Column?

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We see columns all the time. We see them in newspapers, magazines, newsletters – they are everywhere! Heck, even a regular Microsoft Word document is a column! When we work with columns, Word considers a standard page to be one document.

Simply put, columns help us organize our text. You can add up to 4 columns to a page in Microsoft Word using a button, or more using Advanced Columns. You can make an entire page out of columns, for example, a 3 column newsletter. Or you can turn a specific selection of text into columns.

You can create columns and then type your text or you can type your text and then format them into columns.

Adding Columns Prior to Typing Text

When you add columns to a document without text, it applies the columns to the entire document. You can change back to a single column at any time though. Start with a new blank document.
  1. Select a column amount from the Columns drop-down menu on the Page Layout tab in the Page Setup section. Your choices are One, Two, Three, Left, or Right.
  2. Type your text.
You cannot randomly type in both columns. Your text will flow from one column to the next. If you want to control where Microsoft Word breaks the columns, make sure to read All About Column Breaks!! If you want to be able to type anywhere in your columns, try using a table instead!

Add Columns to Existing Text

Adding columns to existing text is almost exactly the same as adding columns to a blank document. However, adding columns once the text is in place lets you have only part of the document in a column. This looks great when you want to highlight a key feature or when you want to have a newsletter style layout with an opening paragraph across the top of the newsletter and two or three columns below.
  1. Select the text that you want to have in a column.
  2. Select a column amount from the Columns drop-down menu on the Page Layout tab in the Page Setup section. Your choices are One, Two, Three, Left, or Right.
As with columns in a blank document, you cannot randomly type in both columns. Your text will flow from one column to the next. If you want to control where Microsoft Word breaks the columns, make sure to read All About Column Breaks!

More Column Options

You aren’t limited to just adding columns. You can add a line between your columns, which gives an added touch of pizazz to a document; add up to 13 columns for a Landscape oriented document or 18 columns for a Landscape orientation; and change column width and spacing, all through the Columns dialog box.
  1. Select the text that you want to have in a column, if you want to apply the column changes to a particular piece of the document.
  2. Select More Columns from the Columns drop-down menu on the Page Layout tab in the Page Setup section. The Columns dialog box opens.
  3. To apply a preset column amount, click on a column amount in the Presets section to apply One, Two, Three, Left, or Right columns.
  4. To add more than three columns, type the number of columns you want to add or click the up arrow to the right of the Number of Columns field.
  5. To add a line between your columns, check the Line Between checkbox.
  6. To adjust the column widths, click the up arrow to the right of the Width field or type in a width for each column in the Width and Spacing section.
  7. To change the spacing between columns, click the up arrow to the right of the Spacing field or type in an amount between each column in the Width and Spacing section.
  8. To set all of your columns to an equal width, check the Equal Column Width checkbox in the Width and Spacing section.
  9. To apply the columns to the entire document, selected portions of the document, selected sections of a document, or this point forward, choose the setting from the Apply To dropdown menu. The options vary depending what elements your document contains.
  10. Click OK.

Switch Back to a Single Column

Maybe you added an extra column or you are ready to have the next section of the document in one column.
  1. Click in your document where you want to change the number of columns.
  2. Select a column amount from the Columns drop-down menu on the Page Layout tab in the Page Setup section. Your choices are One, Two, Three, Left, or Right.
  3. To return back to a normal document, select One.

Delete Columns

Sometimes you want to switch your entire document back to a single column; however, you have these odd breaks in your text. You might have placed a break in a column that you no longer need, or maybe you inherited a document with a column break that you cannot find. Deleting the Column Break or Continuous Section Break isn’t hard once you see it!
  1. Click the Show/Hide button on the Home tab in the Paragraph section to display non-printing characters.
  2. Click in the section break.
  3. Press Delete on your keyboard. Your Column Break or Continuous Section Break is removed.

Give it a Try!

Now that you have read how easy it is to add columns to your Microsoft Word documents, give it a try the next time you are working in a document!

Also, if columns seem a bit intimidating, try using tables instead. Tables are a great way of mimicking columns and add you a bit more flexibility in where you can add texts.

And one last tip - if you use Columns frequently, don't forget about your best friend - Macros! They work great with Columns!
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