Microsoft Word has traditionally been viewed as a word processor, but in recent years it has acquired features useful for basic page layout tasks. Of course it still lacks the features that allow heavyweight desktop publishing programs to earn their keep, but this aspect can be balanced by its overall ease of use. Whereas InDesign and QuarkXPress are complex, difficult-to-use applications, most people using computers for home and office tasks will be familiar with how Word works. That makes it an ideal tool for simple newsletters, promotional flyers, certificates, and other lightweight tasks.
The aim of this article is to review the page layout tools available in Microsoft Word that make it useful for projects where a fully-fledged page layout program would be overkill, while still producing something stylish, professional, and appropriate to the intended audience.
In the past, Microsoft Office templates have tended to be dull or garish, but the current batch of templates are pretty good. The good thing with templates is that they allow you to dive straight into the editing part of the project without needing to understand the design side of things. Of course, you can tweak templates as needed by resizing text and image boxes, changing colors and borders, and so on. Even if you plan on creating your own templates eventually, playing around with the Office templates is a good way to experiment with what Word can do (see Figure 1).
Style is important. Think about the differences between the Wall Street Journal and the National Enquirer. Both use banners, text boxes, and image boxes, but they use these objects in very different ways. Likewise, a newsletter appropriate for use by an elementary school’s parent/teacher association wouldn’t look good sent out by a law firm. Look carefully at colors and typeface, and how text is spread across columns and sidebars. Open designs with text boxes scattered about look friendly and inviting, but don’t necessarily inspire confidence or convey formality. Denser designs with long columns of text and simple graphics may look a bit staid, but they convey solidity and reliability.
Figure 1 Use the Word Template Gallery to peruse an impressive collection of attractive document templates.