SAN FRANCISCO -- High-end desktop publishing programs, such as Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress, feature lots of tools to help designers produce stunning pages. But these programs are expensive, and novices require training to use them, factors that render their acquisition difficult to justify for most small businesses.
Microsoft's own Publisher program is a step down from those applications in both power and price, but not every version of Office includes Publisher, and it costs $140 to purchase separately. However, chances are good that you already own a copy of Microsoft Word
, and that software has a host of desktop publishing tools that you can use to produce pages that rival the output of the best layout artist.
If you need to create documents with drop caps, pull quotes, columns, text that wraps around images, and similar desktop publishing elements, you can do so in Word. The only problem is that these tools are scattered all across Word's Ribbon user interface, and some are buried deep in arcane menus. I'll show you where to find them, and explain how to make the most of them.
1. Use Styles for Consistent Formatting
One way to ensure that a document looks professional and smart is to use the same formatting throughout. You should format every heading the same way, and make all of your body text look the same. You can use Word's styles to apply formats quickly.
First, choose a Style Set for your document from the Home tab on the Ribbon by clicking Change Styles > Style Set. You'll see a number of possibilities in the menu that pops up. Choose the look that's closest to how you want your document to appear.
Once you've selected a Style Set, the Styles gallery on the Home tab will display a series of styles that you can use to format text in your document. To apply a style, select a block of text (such as a heading) and click an item, such as Heading 1, in the Style gallery. Typically you'll use Normal for body text and Heading 1 for headings. You can use other styles for special elements in the document.
If you're not satisfied with these prefab styles, you can easily modify them: Right-click the style name in the Style gallery, and choose Modify. Make whatever changes you want (click Bold to render all the text in that style in bold type, for example), and click OK. Now all of the text in the document that you have formatted using that style will automatically update to reflect your change.
2. Align and Distribute Objects Evenly
When you embed a series of images on a page, they typically look best when you align each image's left or right edge along the respective edge of the page. If you place them across the width of a document, they usually look best when their top or bottom edges are aligned. To align a series of images to the left or right down the page margin, click on the first image and then hold down the Shift key while clicking on each additional image until you've selected all of them. Next, click the Picture Tools tab on the Ribbon and click Format > Align > Align To Margin. Now click Format > Align > Align Left to align the images down the left margin, or Align Right to line them up down the right margin.