Linking text flow between Text Boxes in Word

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Separate text boxes in Microsoft Word can be linked so text in one box can automatically flow into another text box later on the same page or document.

Yet again with Word, there’s some extra tricks available beyond simple linking of boxes.

Linked boxes is a trick that’s a common feature in professional publishing and layout tools that was quietly added to Word.

Create Text Box Link

At its simplest, put two text boxes in a document.  Click in the first one, then choose Format | Text | Create Link. The mouse pointer changes into a flowing cup to click into another text box.

Now the unseen text from the first text box appears in the linked box.

All the text will automatically flow between the boxes as needed, for example if you change the text inside the boxes or change the size of the text boxes.  No cut/paste or juggling of text required.

Empty the text box

The target or ‘linked to’ text box has to be empty and that includes the placeholder text Microsoft adds to every new text box automatically.

Delete that text before trying to link.

Copy the text box

For consistency, we suggest making and formatting the first text box.  Then duplicate (copy and paste) that box to other places in your document.

Text Boxes don’t have styles so changing the look of one box has to be manually copied to any others.  If at all possible, format once then clone to other locations.

The text inside a text box can (and usually should) have a style applied to it.

Linking more than two text boxes

Multiple text boxes can be linked to make a chain of three or more.  Do that by selecting the last box in the current chain and linking it to the next empty box.

Sadly, there’s no way to link multiple boxes at once.

Text is a single linked block

The text in linked text boxes is treated as a single entity by Word.  Click inside a linked text box and press Ctrl + A (Select All) will select all the text in all linked text boxes (and not select text outside the boxes).

Text inside boxes all selected with a single Ctrl + A shortcut.

That makes it easy to reformat all the text.

But linked text boxes are not linked in other ways

Create Link only applies to text. Nothing else about the text boxes are linked.

A change in the look or size of a text box has no effect on any linked box.

Nor are text boxes grouped in the selection pane

Break the link

To unlink text boxes, click in the first or source text box then Format | Text | Break Link.