Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Changing Label Printing Order.

Changing Label Printing Order

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 1, 2014)

Word provides a huge variety of labels with which it works quite well. When doing a mail-merge, you can have your data automatically formatted to print on any of the labels that Word supports. When doing the merge, Word fills the labels from left to right and top to bottom. For example, if you are printing on labels that are three across, then Word places data in the three labels in the first row before moving to the second.

What if you want the order in which labels are filled to be different, however? For instance, what if you want the first column of labels filled out (top to bottom) before Word proceeds to the second column? There is no setting or feature in Word that allows you to specify a "fill order" for labels in a mail merge. There are a couple of ways to handle this situation, however.

First of all, you could start with your data source and simply reorder the information in the data source. If your data source is a Word table or an Excel workbook, this is fairly easy. If you are using Access as a data source or if the number of records in your data source is very large, then pursuing this workaround can be impractical, tedious, or impossible.

Another potential solution is to manually rebuild the document into which you are merging the labels. When you choose to have Word create the merge document, and you tell Word that you are printing to labels, then Word creates a table that represents the appearance of the labels on the printed page. This table is then filled out using the information from the data source. If you are skilled at document formatting and table creation, you can change the merge document. Instead of relying on the table that Word sets up, you can set up your own table in a multi-column document.

For instance, let's say that you want to print on standard three-across address labels. Normally Word creates a table that is three columns wide by ten rows deep. You could do essentially the same thing by using the Columns tool on the Page Layout tab of the ribbon to create three columns on your page. (These aren't table columns remember, but page columns.) Then, create a table that is one column wide and thirty rows deep. The table will wrap within the page columns, and should remain on a single page. If you adjust the table cells to the proper size and set the page columns to the proper width, your labels will be merged and printed from top to bottom and left to right, just as desired.

An easier way to accomplish this solution (rather than starting with a document from scratch) is to follow these general steps:

  1. Create a mail-merge document for your labels, as you normally would. Don't merge the data; just create the merge document.
  2. Select all the columns of the table except the first one. For instance, if the table Word created for the labels has three columns, select the second and third columns.
  3. Delete the columns. You should now have a table with only a single column left.
  4. Use the Columns tool on the Page Layout tab of the ribbon (choose More Columns) to specify how many columns you want used for your page. (Make sure you set the space between columns to be fairly small.)
  5. Select the second row in the table and press Ctrl+C. This copies the row to the Clipboard.
  6. Press Ctrl+V to paste the row. Continue pressing Ctrl+V to paste additional rows until you have a full page of labels.

By following these steps, the only thing you should need to do is adjust the spacing between columns to get your labels to print at the proper horizontal interval 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 (8338) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Changing Label Printing Order.

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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