Editing pictures inside Office

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Office 2007 and Office 2010 has tools to edit photos and pictures in your document.

Office 2007 and Office 2010 has tools to edit photos and pictures in your document.

In olden days (ie 10 years ago) to put an image into a document you had to carefully edit the image file, resize it etc then insert it into your Word, Excel or PowerPoint document.

Over time, Office has grown a set of image editing tools that work inside the document. All you have to do it insert an image into Word, Excel or PowerPoint then adjust it to suit your needs.

This isn’t just a matter of convenience. The image in a document is usually a copy of the image file (unless you’ve linked to an external file instead of importing). Changes to the image in the document should make no difference to the original image saved elsewhere. You can adjust the document version of the image leaving the original (probably at a higher resolution) safely separate.

For many years Office (at least Office 2003, XP and 2000) has had a limited set of image adjustment options on the Picture toolbar. This toolbar let you crop, adjust brightness and contrast etc. This limited toolbar view made these tools hard to use.

Word 2003 picture toolbar.jpg image from Editing pictures inside Office at Office-Watch.com

In this article we’ll look at some of the more common picture editing features, most of which have been available, in some form, for many versions of Office.

Office 2007 introduced the ribbon which I know isn’t always the most popular thing in the world but for picture editing made features a lot easier to see and use.

Word 2007 - Picture toolbar.jpg image from Editing pictures inside Office at Office-Watch.com

Instead of the picture toolbar showing up all the time, the Picture tab only appears when you select an image.

Live Preview

The big improvement is live preview, as you hover over possible changes in an image, those changes are temporarily shown in the document. You can see the effect of that image editing feature has in the document itself. No more switching back and forth to test settings.


Probably the most common image edit is cropping – removing select edges of the images to show only part of the original.

Despite being a commonly used feature, it’s somewhat hidden on the right side of the ribbon in the ‘Size’ section which is reduced to a single button in narrower views.

Word 2007 - Picture toolbar. - size section.jpg image from Editing pictures inside Office at Office-Watch.com

You can change the image to a specific height/width or click on the arrow icon on bottom right to see the picture size dialog that’s been around for many versions of Office.

Selecting an image will activate ‘handles’ at points around the image. The corner handles can be dragged to resize the image, larger or smaller keeping the image size in its original proportions. The handles on the sides will adjust the height or width but aren’t commonly used because they change the height/width ratio of the image and make it look distorted.

Clicking on ‘Crop’ activates the crop handles around the image.

Word 2007 - Crop image handles.jpg image from Editing pictures inside Office at Office-Watch.com

Use the black bars to drag the image edges to show what you want. If you make a mistake, the standard Ctrl + Z undo shortcut will revert the image to its uncropped form.

Wrap Text

Positioning an image among text is relatively simple these days (I say that as a veteran of Word v1 for Windows).

The default is ‘inline’ like this:

Word 2007 - inline image.jpg image from Editing pictures inside Office at Office-Watch.com

But the chances are you’ll want to position the image on the left or right then wrap the text around the image. The Position gallery options in Word 2007/2010 let you position the image at the various places relative to the page. These options will also turn text wrapping on.

Word 2007 - Picture - Text Wrapping options.jpg image from Editing pictures inside Office at Office-Watch.com

To wrap the text only, click on the Text Wrapping button – most likely you’ll choose ‘Square’ or ‘Tight’ (the latter has a smaller gap between the image and text – it’s useful if you’re trying to fit more onto a page).

Once wrapping is on you can easily drag the photo to the location you want on the page. Word will work out if the text should wrap on the left, right or both sides of the image.

Word 2007 - centered image with wrapping both sides.jpg image from Editing pictures inside Office at Office-Watch.com

‘Edit Wrap points’ can be used to control the boundary between image and text. It’s most commonly used after rotating an image. The black points can be dragged around to change how the text flows. These days Office is much better at selecting acceptable wrap points even for partially rotated images so this feature isn’t needed a lot. In this example we’re showing deliberately extreme wrap points to demonstrate the effect more clearly.

Word 2007 - Edit wrap points.jpg image from Editing pictures inside Office at Office-Watch.com

For more accurate text wrapping and position control, choose the ‘More Layout Options’ at the bottom of the Text Wrapping menu.


If the photo was taken with the camera at an angle you might need to rotate the image. That’s easily done from the small rotate button on the bottom right of the Arrange ribbon section.

Or click on the image then the round green handle lets you rotate the image.

Compress image

Back in the day, the size of a document was a major concern. Larger documents were hard to transport and if they got too large Office could not open them!

These days document size isn’t as big a concern (sorry). The OpenXML formats (.docx .xlsx etc) compress the overall document automatically while transporting a document even as large as 10MB isn’t the hassle it would have been a few years ago.

Images in a document can make up a large proportion of the document file size. For that reason Microsoft has a ‘Compress Image’ option to reduce the resolution of an image to a level needed for printing or screen display.

The problem with ‘Compress Image’ is that you lose the ability to effectively edit an image. If you want to increase the size of a compressed image you might start to get ‘pixilation’ from a compressed image.

Unless you need to, we suggest not compressing images in Office documents. Better to leave them in their original resolution in case you need it.


There is a lot more available in Picture editing, make a test document with some text and a few images. Then try the features for yourself.

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