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Master Columns in Word: A Comprehensive Guide

Author: Xiaoyang Last Modified: 2024-05-27

Columns are a fundamental aspect of design in Microsoft Word that can transform a plain document into an engaging, easy-to-read piece. Ideal for newsletters, brochures, or dual-language documents, columns help manage and present text stylishly. This guide provides a detailed, step-by-step approach to adding columns and column breaks in Word document.

Add or remove columns in Word

Add or remove column break in Word


Video: Master Columns in Word


Add or remove columns in Word

Here's an optimized and detailed guide on how to add or remove columns in Word, which can be especially useful for creating newsletters, brochures, or any document requiring a more dynamic layout.

Create columns in a new Word document

  1. Start Microsoft Word and open a new document.
  2. Then, click Layout > Columns drop down. It will display several options. Select from the predefined options like Two, Three, Left or Right to quickly set up columns. (Here, I will select Two option.)
    • One: Standard single-column layout, which is the default setting.
    • Two: Divides your page into two equal columns.
    • Three: Splits your page into three equal columns.
    • Left: Two columns with the right column wider than the left.
    • Right: Two columns with the left column wider than the right.
  3. After setting up the columns, start typing your content. Word will populate the first column with text and then move to the start of the next column. Once all columns on a page are filled, the text will continue on the next page.
Tips:
  1. By default, text in Word will automatically flow from the first column to the second only after the first is completely filled. However, if you prefer not to fill the entire column before moving to the next, you can manually adjust this by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Enter. This shortcut allows you to advance directly to the next column at any point.
  2. You're not restricted to the column options in the initial drop-down menu. For more choices, click More Columns at the bottom of the menu to open the Columns dialog box. There, you can set the number of columns you want into the Number of columns box. To customize more options, please view create custom columns section.
 

Create columns for existing text in Word

If you have already written your entire article and want to format either a section or the whole document into columns, please follow these steps:

  1. Select the text that you want to format multiple columns, or press Ctrl + A to select all the text in the document if you want the entire content to be columnized.
  2. Then, click Layout > Columns drop down. It will display several options. Select from the predefined options like Two, Three, Left or Right to quickly set up columns. (Here, I will select Two option.)
    • One: Keeps the text in a single column (default format).
    • Two or Three: Splits the text into two or three equal columns, respectively.
    • Left or Right: Creates a layout with two columns, where one column is narrower than the other, positioned either on the left or right side, respectively.
    • If these presets do not meet your needs, select More Columns to customize the layout further. To customize more options, please view create custom columns section.
  3. Once you select your desired column setup, the selected text will immediately reformat into multiple columns you specified. See screenshot:
 

Create custom columns in Word

Creating custom columns in Word allows for more flexibility and precision in designing document layouts, especially useful for publications, detailed reports, or visually engaging documents. This section will walk you through the process of setting up custom columns in Word, ensuring that you can tailor the appearance of your document to meet your specific needs.

  1. Select the text that you want to format multiple columns, or press Ctrl + A to select all the text in the document if you want the entire content to be columnized.
  2. Then, click Layout > Columns > More Columns, see screenshot:
  3. In the Columns dialog box, you’ll find several options that allow you to create a custom column layout. Please do the following operations:
    • Number of columns: Use the up and down arrows to set the desired number of columns. You can choose as many as needed beyond the typical one, two, or three-column setups.
    • Width and spacing: Adjust the width of each column independently and modify the spacing between columns to control how text is distributed across the page.(If you don’t want to have equal column width, uncheck the Equal column width option, and adjust the column width to your need.)
    • Line between columns: Check this option if you want to add a vertical line between your columns for clearer separation. 
    • Apply to: Make sure to specify whether your settings should apply to the Whole document or Selected text.
    • At Last, click OK button.
  4. Now, the selected text or whole content has been formatted the new column structure. See screenshot:
Tips: If you set up columns in a blank document, the format will automatically apply. Text will begin filling the first column and then continue at the top of the next column. When all columns on a page are full, the text will move on to the next page.
 

Remove columns in Word

  1. Highlight the columnized text or select the entire document if it’s fully formatted into columns.
  2. Then, click Layout > Columns > One to return to the standard single-column layout.

Add or remove column break in Word

Once you've created columns in your document, the text will automatically flow from one column to the next. However, if you want precise control over where each column begins, you can insert a column break. This inserts a hard break at the chosen location, forcing the rest of the text to start at the top of the next column, effectively managing the flow of text from one column to the next. This section will introduce how to insert and remove column break in Word.

Add column break in Word

  1. Position your cursor where you want to insert the column break. This is typically where you want your current text to stop and the remaining text to continue in the next column.
  2. Then, click Layout > Breaks > Column, see screenshot:
    Tips: You can also press Ctrl + Shift +Enter keys to add the column break.
  3. Now, the text following the cursor will move to the top of the next column.
 

Remove column break in Word

  1. By default, breaks are hidden. First, you should show the breaks in your Word document, click the Show/Hide command on the Home tab.
  2. Then, double click to select the column break, and then, press Delete key to remove the column break. See screenshot:
  3. Now, the text will flow back to fill the previous column, continuing where it left off before the break.

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This guide has covered the essentials of using columns in Word, from setting up basic or custom columns to adjusting the text flow with column breaks. Whether you're creating newsletters, brochures, or detailed reports, understanding how to effectively use columns can significantly enhance your document presentations. To explore more tips and tricks for Microsoft Word, please click here to view additional options.

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