How many times have you heard someone complain that a textbox or frame in Word is "jumping all over the page!" Must be a bug, right? Actually, it's more likely that the user just hasn't mastered the calculations of matching textboxes or frames up with their formatting settings (properties) so that they stay put.
In this article, I'll give you a little introduction to help you understand these properties. And since more people gravitate to TextBoxes, because they're a little more prominent on the Drawing Toolbar, in this article we'll focus on Frames...since they seem to be more of a mystery.
When I first started using Word back around 1993 (version 6), I took to frames quite easily because I'd come from a background of book publishing where I used Ventura Publisher. Ventura is build on Frames and Styles, so I had those concepts mastered by the time I moved from Word Perfect to Word. Which, obviously, worked in my favor because Frames and Styles seem to be two of the real mysteries in Word. Therefore, even though I was a newbie using Word, I was quickly providing support to my colleagues who were trying to understand these concepts.
Frames have been somewhat hidden away in newer versions of Word. They were once more widely available. But with Word moving into web design, most people assume that a Frame means a web page frame. (And by most accounts, so does Word's Help files!) So it can be quite confusing. But anyone who has worked with a lot of fields or forms has probably messed around with frames since frames allow you to insert many fields that text boxes don't accommodate.
Say you wanted to create a form document using Word and you'd like to add a little shaded area marked "For Office Use Only." Well, you won't be able to make that work using a text box if you plan to add form fields in that box. You'll need to insert a frame if you want to box off form fields and allow them to work.
This is why you'll find the Frame icon on the Forms Toolbar, as shown below.
On the more popular Drawing Toolbar is where you will find your Text Box icon.
As you can see in the image below, you can draw out a frame, enter some instructional text, such as Name, Address and so on...and then insert text boxes, check boxes or drop downs from your Forms Toolbar. Then lock your doc for protection (Tools > Protect Document) and the only place the user can enter text will be within the form fields you've provided.
(Note! See this link for many more articles on Word Forms: http://www.mousetrax.com/techpage.html#autoforms.)
However, if you were to wrap document text around a frame, such as I've done in the above image, you might get into trouble depending on what other content is in the document or how the frame is formatted. If not done correctly, the frames can end up jumping around the page because your Frame settings are conflicting with other settings.
But realize, too, that this problem has become a little more forgiving in newer versions of Word. In Word 2003 for instance, you can move frames around more freely and the settings will be adjusted better as per your movements. Even so, to avoid problems, you should become familiar with Frame Properties.
To work with the frame properties, click to select your frame. Then right click to view the shortcut menu and choose Format Frame.
Now you have some decisions to make. The first decision is pretty easy...do you want the outer text in the document to wrap above/below the frame or do you want it to wrap around it?
The size will usually be set for you to the size you drew out as you added the frame. But if you're doing precision design work, you'll want to get in here and modify some settings to get the exact size you need. Or you can also set the sizes to Auto to handle whatever content you enter.
So far these settings are pretty straight forward. Now comes the fun part! You will need to decide whether the frame's Horizontal Anchor (what will keep it in place) is set to the Page, Margin or Column. Also, you will have to consider the Vertical settings and whether they should be set to the Margin, the Page or a Paragraph.
If you think about it, it really does make sense! If you set the Vertical Position to 1 inch...it will make a big difference whether that 1 inch is set in relationship to the top of the Page...to your top Margin...or to some Paragraph in the document. If you plan to have a frame in the middle of the page, but set it to 1 inch in relationship to the Page, the frame will obviously jump to the 1 inch position at the top of the page. And if you locked that anchor and then add new text, it might cause the frame to jump around if the frame was set to stick to a specific paragrah that ends up on another page.
Finally, you will need to consider whether you want the frame to move with text when new text may be added above and/or whether you want to lock the anchor in place.
Now, an important issue in all these settings is whether you know where the anchor has been set. If you can't see where the anchor is set, it will be harder for you to understand how it is working. You may be confused why a frame is jumping because you have it set to anchor to a paragraph, which is what you want. But if you have it anchored to the top paragraph, rather than the bottom one where you wanted it, you'll obviously have a problem. So it is important to turn on your visual aids to help you see where the anchor is set.
To turn on your anchor markers, click Tools > Options > View and check the option for Object Anchors, as shown below.
Now that I have my anchor markers turned on, notice in the image below that when I click on my frame, I can see that the frame is anchored to the top paragraph. If that is not where I want it, I can click on the anchor and move it to the correct paragraph. That is, as long as I do not have the frame settings set to lock the anchor. If that is the case, I will first have to uncheck the Lock Anchor setting and then either move the anchor manually or reset the numeric settings within the Format Frame (frame property) dialog box.
Notice in the image below that my frame is anchored to the top paragraph. Now look in the Frame property dialog box and you'll see that the Vertical position is set to put the frame 1.18" below the anchored paragraph. As you can see, that looks about right...the frame is about 1.18" from that anchor mark at the top of the previous paragraph.
And if you wanted more spacing around the frame, you can adjust the Distance from Text setting to add more space between the frame and the relative text in both the horizontal (to the right of the frame) and vertical (below the frame) settings.
Once you have the settings where you want them, it's a good idea to check the Lock Anchor setting to help keep things as they should be.
When you do lock the anchor, you will see a little lock appear next to the anchor marker as you can now see below.
Recently, I was working with an elaborate form in Word. I needed to insert Yes/No checkboxes in a frame so that the checkboxes will work like optional Radio buttons (only allowing one item to be selected).
[Note: See this article for more information on creating exclusive checkboxes in Word: Creating Test Forms In Word.]
In order to get the frames lined up properly to the questions, I had to make precise setting adjustments to keep the frames from jumping above/below the table cells, since tables and frames don't play too well together without a little fussing to get them right. And you can be sure that once I did get them right...I locked those puppies up!
A Cool Frame Trick
This is a cool little trick that I like to use when I'm too lazy to mess with adjusting image wrapping points. You can have a little fun with Frames to adjust how your text wraps in a document.
In the document image below, you'll see I have a photo of one of my dogs, Lexi. I drew out a text box and inserted the image. Then I right clicked and set the grouping for the picture to move Behind the text. Sure, I could just set the wrapping to go around the text box, but that would give me just an ordinary square around the image and I'd like the text to wrap with a little more pizzazz.
So now I draw out a few frames on top of the image and set the wrapping to those frames. I can draw out as many as I want to push the text out from sitting on the picture. Note that for the purposes of this example, I have left the borders on the frames so you can see exactly where I drew the frames.
However, for the finished product, you'll want to click on one of the frames and set the Borders and Shading to None. Note that once you set one, you can move and click on another frame and hit the F4 Repeat key to have that last No Border setting instantly applied to each of the other frames in turn.
And as you can see in the finished image below...now my text wraps around the picture and it's a little more interesting than a boring square! And now I also want to make sure to lock all those frames so they don't jump around if the page layout changes.
Don't be afraid to use Frames. If you're more familiar with TextBoxes, use them. But when a TextBox won't work, give a Frame a shot.