Flowing column text in Word with break-out or sidebar


Office for Mere Mortals
Your beginners guide to the secrets of Microsoft Office
Invalid email address
Tips and help for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook from Microsoft Office experts.  Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.  Office for Mere Mortals has been running for over 20 years, we've never, ever revealed or sold subscriber details.  Privacy policy

Sometimes there’s more than one way to do something in Word like having four blocks of text on a page with images or text breakout.

“How can I do a magazine-like layout with four blocks of text, one in each corner with a box of text in the middle?  I’ve tried with tables and text boxes but both are horribly complicated.”  — Nance G – Birmingham.

Here’s an example of what Nance is trying to do, from the program for The Firm, an interesting play now showing at Hampsted Theatre in London.

flowing column text in word with break out or sidebar microsoft word 27778 - Flowing column text in Word with break-out or sidebar

Source: Hampsted Theatre

We’ll show how to make a page that looks like that, including the triangle at top left.

It’s possible to make that format with a page-sized table (left) or linked text boxes (right).

flowing column text in word with break out or sidebar microsoft word 27779 - Flowing column text in Word with break-out or sidebar

But neither are very suitable.  Tables don’t allow text to flow between cells, you’d have to manually cut/paste text to fit in each block.  Text Boxes can be linked for flowing text but can be difficult to manage and position.

There’s a much easier solution based on two column text.  Instead of thinking about the text being in four blocks, consider the text as two columns with other elements dropped into it.

Two Columns

Start with your text, select then choose Layout | Columns | Two.

flowing column text in word with break out or sidebar microsoft word 27780 - Flowing column text in Word with break-out or sidebar

That gives two columns of text which automatically flows between the columns as the text or formatting changes.

flowing column text in word with break out or sidebar microsoft word 27781 - Flowing column text in Word with break-out or sidebar

Text Box

Once that’s in place, you can add a text box, table or any other Word object.  The break-out text is a text box with text wrapping ON.

flowing column text in word with break out or sidebar microsoft word 27782 - Flowing column text in Word with break-out or sidebar

Use the Text Wrapping option ‘Top and Bottom’.

For accurate positioning, select the Text Box then Shape Format | Align and Align Middle to position vertically on the page. Choose Align Center to center the text box across the page.

flowing column text in word with break out or sidebar microsoft word 27783 - Flowing column text in Word with break-out or sidebar

Background Shape

Add a triangle shape from Insert | Shape.  Rotate so the right-angle is in the top left of the page.  Change the fill color to your choice (something light so the text will appear through the shape) and the outline color to nothing.

flowing column text in word with break out or sidebar microsoft word 27784 - Flowing column text in Word with break-out or sidebar

The crucial change is the Layout Option to ‘behind’.

Add anything you like

Once the two-column format in place you can drop in anything you like; a heading or photo.  Even a background element like the original that Nance gave to us.

flowing column text in word with break out or sidebar microsoft word 27785 - Flowing column text in Word with break-out or sidebar

subs profile e1563205311409 - Flowing column text in Word with break-out or sidebar
Latest news & secrets of Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office experts give you tips and help for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.  Office Watch has been running for over 20 years, we've never, ever revealed or sold subscriber details.  Privacy policy
Invalid email address