Make lines and arrows straight – a Word bug fix

Ever since Word 2013 there’s been a line alignment bug in Word.  Line and Arrow shapes aren’t straight, horizontal or vertical.  Here’s how to fix this seven year (and counting) bug.

Whenever a line or arrow is inserted (Insert | Shapes | Lines ) the result is always a little off.  The end points never align properly either horizontally or vertically.

It’s not possible to move one end to exactly match the other end and make a horizontal or vertical line.  It will snap either side of the correct alignment but not exactly in line.

The result is a slightly askew line at a slope or diagonal no matter what you try.  Holding Shift doesn’t help because the Shift + option moves the entire object in small increments, not just one end.

Hold Shift while drawing

What DOES work is drawing a line/arrow while holding down the Shift key. Holding Shift while drawing forces the line to horizontal, vertical or 45° angles.

Fix lines to horizontal or vertical

To fix a line that’s not quite horizontal/vertical, go to Layout Options | See More …

On the Size tab, look at Height | Absolute – it will be slightly off.

NOT the Rotation or Scale | Height settings.

Change Height | Absolute to 0  (zero)

And lo!  A horizontal line

We suggest leaving this setting to last because Word has the annoying habit of resetting to the non-zero value when the line is changed. 

Make lines vertical

It’s the same for vertical lines except that the Width | Absolute changes to 0 (zero)

Word for Mac

It’s the same problem in Word for Mac.  Right-click on the line/arrow then More Layout Options | Size …

For a horizontal line, make sure Height is 0 (zero)

For a vertical line, make the Width 0 (zero)

It’s a bug

You’d think drawing a simple horizontal or vertical line would be simple thing to do in such long-standing software as Microsoft Word.  That doesn’t take into account Microsoft’s willingness to add more features to their software while ignoring the basic needs of customers.

It’s a bug in Word … no doubt about it.  Microsoft would probably try to argue that Word is working as designed … they’d even say that with a straight face.

PowerPoint does not have the same problem. Lines align horizontally or vertically first time.  The same Height / Width settings are available in Powerpoint but they should not be necessary to fix the alignment bug.

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