NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, January 2013
Get creative with Text Boxes
Nancy DeMarte,
Regular Columnist (Office Talk), Sarasota PCUG, Florida
September 2012 issue, Sarasota PC Monitor


When you use Microsoft Office, you create and edit text all the time. Word, of course, is dominated by text; Excel and PowerPoint both use text in many of their functions. All recent versions of Office also include a tool called a “text box” for special uses of text. Let’s find out what it is and how to use it.

A text box is a specialized shape in which you can enter text. It functions outside the regular margin constraints of a document and can be moved or resized as needed. A text box is useful for adding a caption to a photo or annotating a diagram or chart. If you want to emphasize an important statement in a document, you can use a text box to repeat the statement in a “pull quote” and locate it in an unexpected spot, such as along a margin (known as a Sidebar) or across columns in the document. Its flexibility makes a text box useful in many situations.

Text boxes have most of the same properties as shapes. In Word 2007 and 2010, when you click the Insert tab, then Text Box, you open the Text Box gallery of 36 preformatted text boxes, as well as the “Draw text box” option. If one of the preset boxes meets your needs, click to insert it into the document. Older versions of Word lack this gallery, but you can still draw a text box, which is most often my choice. Click “Draw text box” at the bottom of the gallery. Then click anywhere in your document where you want the text box to appear and drag diagonally down the page to the right to create the text box. At first the box covers a portion of the normal text. This is because the default text wrapping setting is “in front of text.” If you don’t want the text box to hide the document text, select the text box so “handles” appear around the box. At this point, the Text Box Tools Format tab appears on the ribbon. Click Format, and then Text Wrapping in the Arrange group. Change the setting to Tight, which will position the text box within the existing text and also allow you to move the text box. Do this by clicking an edge so a crossed arrows icon appears and dragging it to a new location. You can also resize the box by dragging an edge or corner. To enter text in the box, replace the informational text with your own.

Once a text box is created and located in the document, it can be formatted in many ways. To format the text, select it, and a small version of the Font group on the Home tab will appear. Use these tools to change the font style, size, color, and other attributes. (You can also click the Home tab and use the full set of options in the Font group.) To format the text box itself, select it and use the tools on the Text Box Tools Format tab. For example, you can fill the box with a color, remove or change the border styles, make the text read vertically, or add special 3-D effects.

In Office 2007 and 2010, text boxes are not limited to a rectangular shape. You can add text to any of the items in the shapes gallery. Click Insert – Shapes and click a shape. Click in your document and draw the shape in the same way you drew the text box. Change the text wrapping to Tight as you did above, then right click inside the shape and choose “Add Text.” The large number of shape choices gives you many options for text boxes. Another approach is to begin with a classic text box, even after it is filled with text. Select it, which opens the Text Box Tools Format tab. Click Format and select “Change shape,” which opens the shapes gallery. Click a new shape, and the text box transforms into that shape with all its contents intact. Another interesting possibility is inserting a photo or piece of clip art into a text box. With the text box or shape selected, click the Insert tab – Picture. Click the photo you want, then Insert. The photo appears in the text box, resized to fit. The same steps work to insert clip art, charts or tables within text boxes.

Text boxes can be rotated for a dramatic effect. In Office 2010, select the text box, and click and drag the little green rotator circle above the box to rotate it left or right. In Word 2007, for an unknown reason, classic text boxes cannot be rotated, even though shapes can. One way to work around this problem is to create a text box, cut it using the Cut command on the Home tab, and then paste it as a “Picture (Windows Metafile)” using the Paste Special command option under the Paste icon.

Occasionally, you might create a text box in Word that you’d like to reuse at a later time. You can save it by selecting the text inside the box and then clicking Insert and the arrow under the Text Box icon. Choose “Save Selection to Text Box Gallery.”

Besides Word, text boxes appear in Excel and PowerPoint 2007/10. Neither program contains a text box gallery, but each has the “Draw a Text Box” tool, which gives you all the functions that Word does, including rotation. You can also start with a shape and include text by right clicking and using the “Edit Text” command.

Have a little fun. Create a few text boxes in your next document, spreadsheet or presentation.

Click here to return to top