Showing Text Boundaries for Pages, not for Paragraphs

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 6, 2016)


In Word 2010 and earlier, when Michael turned on the Show Text Boundaries configuration, Word simply marked the four edges of the printable area of each page in my document. In Word 2013 and Word 2016, turning on this option places "boundaries" around each paragraph in the document, rather than just the pages. Michael wonders if there is a way to make Show Text Boundaries work like it used to instead of what it has now become.

The short answer is no, there is no way to make it work like it used to. Microsoft redid the programming behind the page layout capabilities of Word 2013, and that "redo" made the text boundaries into what you see now. There are some things you can do to work around it (like put your text inside tables or text boxes), but those are bound to be ultimately unsatisfying.

There is a groundswell of people urging Microsoft to restore text boundaries to what they used to be, and there is an online place to make your voice heard. (This is a very long URL; be careful you enter it all into your browser completely.)

Whether Microsoft will listen or not still remains to be seen.

In the meantime, there is one thing you may try out. If you used text boundaries to simply show the limits of your text area, you may be able to achieve the same thing by turning on crop marks. Follow these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and later versions display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the screen click Advanced.
  3. Scroll through the options until you see the Show Document Content section. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. Advanced options in the Word Options dialog box.

  5. Make sure the Show Crop Marks check box is selected.
  6. Click OK.

The crop marks appear at all four corners of the page and allow you to "eyeball" where the text boundaries actually occur on the page.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (533) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is nine minus 4?

2019-08-08 08:47:12


Thanks, nice workaround.

2019-02-19 13:56:44


Now, this works for me. The crop marks let me the actual page boundary. Thank you.

2019-01-08 16:13:18

Tim Slager

Use Grid Settings (add to Quick Access Toolbar)
Set Horizontal spacing to width of page minus margins.
Select Use margins.
Select Display gridlines on screen.
Select Vertical every: 1
To toggle on and off, click icon on QAT or select/clear Gridlines on View tab.

2018-09-21 11:23:02


Here are my two pennies for the subject. I make use of the gridlines to display text boundaries in the pre-2013 style. The below macro switches those boundaries on/off.

Sub view_page_boundaries()
' provide page boundaries using a customised page grid
With Selection
ActiveDocument.GridOriginFromMargin = False
' uncomment to have page boundaries like standard for pre-2013
' ActiveDocument.GridOriginFromMargin = True
If ActiveDocument.GridOriginFromMargin = False Then
' display crossing boundaries at full width and height
ActiveDocument.GridDistanceHorizontal = .PageSetup.PageWidth - .PageSetup.LeftMargin - .PageSetup.Gutter - .PageSetup.RightMargin
ActiveDocument.GridDistanceVertical = .PageSetup.PageHeight - .PageSetup.TopMargin - .PageSetup.BottomMargin
' display boundaries like those in pre-2013
' 0.05 is half-millimeter to prevent cutting off the right and bottom boundaries by the margins
ActiveDocument.GridDistanceHorizontal = CentimetersToPoints(Round(PointsToCentimeters( _
.PageSetup.PageWidth - .PageSetup.LeftMargin - .PageSetup.Gutter - .PageSetup.RightMargin), 1) - 0.05)
ActiveDocument.GridDistanceVertical = CentimetersToPoints(Round(PointsToCentimeters( _
.PageSetup.PageHeight - .PageSetup.TopMargin - .PageSetup.BottomMargin), 1) - 0.05)
ActiveDocument.GridOriginHorizontal = .PageSetup.LeftMargin + .PageSetup.Gutter
ActiveDocument.GridOriginVertical = .PageSetup.TopMargin
End If
If Options.DisplayGridLines = False Then
Options.DisplayGridLines = True
' do not need cropmarks at all with crossing boundaries
ActiveWindow.View.ShowCropMarks = False
ActiveDocument.GridSpaceBetweenHorizontalLines = 1
ActiveDocument.GridSpaceBetweenVerticalLines = 1
Options.DisplayGridLines = False
' display cropmarks when there are no boundaries
ActiveWindow.View.ShowCropMarks = True
ActiveDocument.GridSpaceBetweenHorizontalLines = 2
ActiveDocument.GridSpaceBetweenVerticalLines = 2
End If
End With
End Sub

Note that the produced boundaries are a bit improved: they extend at the full page width and height, crossing in the corners. If you like boundaries that look just like a rectangle, like it was in Office before 2013, remove ' at the start of this line:

' ActiveDocument.GridOriginFromMargin = True

*Downside*: There will be the same boundaries for the whole document, so if you have multiple sections with different size margins, their boundaries will be like those of the section that is current at the moment when you run the macro.

2018-02-09 14:18:23


Using Word 2013, also missing the classic text boundaries. I have found a way to avoid this for new documents, by using compatibility mode, which seems to disable the new layout engine. Unfortunately you will also lose the new formatting capabilities, such as Themes.

1) Create a new document and save as MS Word 97-2003 (*.doc)
2) Save this document again as MS Word (*.docx), making sure that the checkbox "Maintain compatibility with previous Word versions" is selected.

2017-10-12 13:04:29

Eldren Williams

I too dislike the new text boundary in 2016. A temporary work around is to select "view/gridlines" on the toolbar. You can always deselect when not in use.

2016-08-13 18:38:59

Stephen Gray

Microsoft listen to their customers? You must be dreaming.

2016-08-10 08:57:36


So annoying. I've occasionally resorted to using the full page grid. Unfortunately, I can't make that grid light gray, so I just turn it on,check boundaries, and turn it off. Thanks for this tip!

2016-08-08 14:58:34


Shhhh, I have Word 2013 and mine is working as before...

2016-08-08 03:57:37


A very good example for all the things that got changed from version to version whithout anybody asking for it.

In German there is a word for it: "verschlimmbessern". It's a nerdy thing: to be so keen to improve one point that you lose the overview of the whole thing and make it worse in the end.

2016-08-06 23:10:12

Grace M

Thank you ... This is helpful. I have left comments to Word about the text boundaries. They only allow you one vote on this (I tried to do it a second time). Since people have been trying to get Word to change their mind about text boundaries for three years, I don't know how much hope there is for us who want the change back.

Thank you for your help and your tips. When I need Word help and search on line, your tips frequently come up. Thanks a bunch.

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