by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 30, 2017)
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:
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 or Framemaker. 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 more "rough" in nature. For most purposes short of professional publishing, though, the Word approach will be satisfactory.
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