Ruler Disappears when Entire Document Selected

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated January 21, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021

One of the reasons Glenn uses Print Layout view for his documents is because the ruler is displayed and he can easily change the margins for a paragraph. However, when he selects the entire document (by pressing Ctrl+A), the ruler always disappears and he can no longer use it to adjust margins.

In testing this on various systems, it appears that Microsoft has made a change in when it displays the rulers. I started with both the vertical and horizontal rulers turned on in Word. Using a multi-page document in both Word 7 and Word 2010, when I selected the entire document (by pressing Ctrl+A), the vertical and horizontal rulers remained visible on the screen and I could use them to adjust margins.

Not so in Word 2013 and later versions. In that case, right after I pressed Ctrl+A the vertical ruler disappeared, but the horizontal ruler stayed in place. I was still able to use the horizontal ruler to adjust margins on the entire document, but I could not use the vertical ruler to do the same because it was, indeed, gone.

I noticed this behavior in all these versions of Word with multi-page documents. This got me to wondering if the same behavior was there if I used a single-page document. It wasn't; in the case of a single-page document, the vertical ruler remained visible (and usable) in all three versions.

After playing around a bit longer, I noticed some interesting behavior. In the case of multi-page documents, when using Word 2007 and Word 2010, I could use both the horizontal and vertical rulers to adjust margins. Once I did, though, the vertical ruler immediate disappeared, regardless of whether the change had been done using that ruler or the horizontal ruler.

Upon further investigation, the vertical ruler actually didn't disappear—it was still visible if I scrolled down, with the document still selected, to display the last page of the document. And, I could still use the vertical ruler (on the last page) to adjust margins.

In Word 2013 and later versions, it appears that the ruler also didn't disappear—it was still visible with the entire document selected as long as I was looking at the last page of the document. So, the change first evident in Word 2013 is that you no longer get the confusing disappearance of the vertical ruler after making a change when the entire document is selected. Otherwise, the behavior among all three versions is exactly the same.

All of this behavior is related to the vertical ruler. Glenn's issue may have been with the horizontal ruler, though. (He did say that he used it for setting paragraph margins. That is done with the horizontal ruler, not the vertical ruler.) In testing, I could not get the horizontal ruler to ever disappear; it remained in sight after selecting the entire document and after making changes to either paragraph indents or to page margins with the ruler.

This leads me to believe that it is possible there are problems with either the document on which Glenn is working or with the installation of Word that Glenn is using. There are a couple of things you can do to figure out if the problem is with the document or with Word itself.

First, open a couple of different documents in Word. If the same behavior exists among them all, then it probably isn't the documents, but Word itself. (If the behavior isn't the same on all the documents, then the problem lies at the document level.) You can confirm this by taking those documents and opening them on an entirely different computer system. If the problem doesn't exist on that other system, then the issue is with your installation of Word.

If you find the problem is with the document, then you can try to save the information in the document by following these steps:

  1. Start Word. You should only have the default, blank document open that appears when you first start the program.
  2. Display the Open dialog box.
  3. Locate and select the problem document.
  4. Click the down-arrow next to the Open button. Word lists several ways you can open the document.
  5. Choose Open and Repair.

If that doesn't work, you can try the more traditional approach outlined in this tip:

If you believe that the problem is due to something in your installation of Word, then you can try to repair the installation. You can find instructions on how to do that at this website:

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13405) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

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. ...


Entering Regular Text in the Equation Editor

The Equation Editor is a great tool for designing and displaying all sorts of equations in a document. It is not very ...

Discover More

Comma-Delimited Differences for PC and Mac

When you choose to save worksheet data in CSV format, Excel gives you three choices for file formats. Those choices are ...

Discover More

Date Last Edited

When adding headers or footers to your worksheets, you may want to include the date that the workbook was last edited. ...

Discover More

The First and Last Word on Word! Bestselling For Dummies author Dan Gookin puts his usual fun and friendly candor back to work to show you how to navigate Word 2013. Spend more time working and less time trying to figure it all out! Check out Word 2013 For Dummies today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Unwanted Font in Draft View

Word supports different ways of viewing your document as you work with it. One of those views, Draft, can use a specific ...

Discover More

Shortcut Keys for Scrolling Window Left and Right

If the content in the Word program window is wider than what can be displayed, you may want to press a key and have the ...

Discover More

Jumping to a Line Number

Need to jump to a specific line number in your document? It's easy to do using the Go To command, as described in this tip.

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 2 + 6?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.


FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.