Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Columns in a Text Box.

Columns in a Text Box

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated October 24, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


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When you plan the layout of your document, you can utilize columns by using the Columns tool on the Page Layout (Layout if you are using Word 2016 or a later version) tab of the ribbon. You can also use text boxes to place "special" information into your document. What if you want to place columns within a text box, though?

Unfortunately, this cannot be done. The reason is rather simple, based on an understanding of how Word documents are constructed. Columns are a feature available on a section-by-section basis within a document. Sections (and therefore columns) reside on the text layer of a document. Text boxes, however, are independent elements that reside on the graphics layer of a document. They are graphics-based, not text-based, even though you can include formatted text within a text box.

There are ways around the problem, however. Since text boxes are designed to contain limited amounts of text, you could place a table within the text box and place your text within the columns of the table. This will, of course, require you to manipulate the text by hand since it won't automatically "snake" from one table column to another. For limited text it can do the trick quite nicely, however.

Another possible solution is to use multiple text boxes. Follow these general steps:

  1. Create your first text box so that it is the width of a single "column" in your layout.
  2. Copy the text box to the Clipboard and paste it back into the document multiple times.
  3. Move the multiple text boxes so that they are next to each other. These text boxes serve as your "columns."
  4. Select the left-most text box.
  5. Make sure the Format tab of the ribbon is displayed. (This tab is only available once you perform step 4.)
  6. Click the Create Link tool, in the Text group. The mouse pointer changes to a small cup shape. (It looks like a small measuring cup, pouring things to the right.)
  7. Click in the text box you want to serve as your second column. The two text boxes are now linked, and text will flow from one to the other.
  8. If you have more than two "columns," repeat steps 6 through 7 with the other text boxes in your layout.
  9. Enter your text in the left-most text box, and it will naturally flow into the other text boxes.

It is interesting to note that if you are using Word 2007, there is an even quicker way to accomplish the above steps. Instead of steps 5 and 6, you can simply right-click on the left-most text box and select Create Text Box Link from the resulting Context menu. This displays the "measuring cup" tool mentioned in step 6. This Context-menu shortcut is not available in Word 2010 or later versions.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (7070) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Columns in a Text Box.

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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Comments

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What is one less than 8?

2019-11-13 09:45:37

Tina Frissora

Thank you! Could NOT figure this out on my own!


2019-07-27 19:27:32

David

Handy tip, I will be using this in a doc today.

I did notice that whilst I can backspace the text continuously (ie hold the backspace and it goes back through the links to previous text box), I cannot select text by holding eg shift left arrow across multipole text boxes.
Same goes for triple clicking, doesn't highlight the paragraph if it goes across multiple text boxes

Means need to make sure format text is set before typing too much, else be using format painter a lot.

Cheers
David


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