Making Columns the Same Length

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 25, 2020)

1

Don is working with documents that have two columns and then a section of one column and then a larger section of three columns. In the three-column section, Don wonders how he can get the three columns to be the same length as each other.

This concept of making column lengths (or, more precisely, column depths) the same as each other is referred to as balancing. Balanced column depth provides a more pleasing appearance on the printed page, but it can be more complicated than one would expect. The biggest complication is calculating the vertical space required for the columns. The reason is because vertical space is affected by such settings as line spacing, paragraph spacing (before and after), and font sizes used. Also affecting vertical text flow (from column to column) will be things like your "keep together" and "keep with" paragraph settings, as well as whether there are objects within the columns (graphics or text boxes) around which the text must flow.

Since this flow of text among the columns can be affected by so many different things, it is best to allow Word, itself, to do the balancing. The easiest way to force Word to make the "tough decisions" is to simply put a continuous section break after the text in the third column. Follow these steps:

  1. Position the insertion point at the end of the text in the third column.
  2. Display the Page Layout (Layout in later versions of Word) tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click on the drop-down arrow at the right of the Breaks tool. Word displays a number of types of breaks you could enter.
  4. Choose the Continuous option. Word inserts the section break.

That's it; Word does its best to balance the depth of each of the three columns. If you later add text, delete text, or change formatting in the three columns, Word will once again automatically attempt to balance out the columns.

It should be noted that column balancing in Word is not as precise as it is in specialized page layout software such as InDesign. In such software, balancing is accomplished by adding very small increments of space between each line in a column, whereas in Word the balancing is "rougher" in nature. For most purposes short of professional typesetting or publishing, though, the Word approach will be satisfactory.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12862) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

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 one more than 8?

2020-04-25 04:37:05

Padraig McCarthy

Simpler way: Select the text you want to have in columns. Just make sure that there is text (even just spaces) following the selection. With the text selected, activate the columns window: Alt+o. Choose the number of columns you want. Select other options - Line, Spacing. Click Okay.
The selected text is automatically formatted into the columns, approximately equal. No need to insert a Break manually.
If you want all the text in equal columns, proceed as above, just making sure that there is at least one line or space following the selected text which is not included in the selection.


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