Get rid of boring Word docs!

In the beautiful brochures – which are made by the communication department of Howest in the Adobe suite – text is sometimes surrounded by coloured frames. It is one of the ingredients for a fresh Howest look.

Luckily, this types of style elements are not exclusive to the Adobe suite. You can perfectly integrate them in MS Word to spice up long, dull documents. Though the method of working in Word may differ from the one in Adobe and is not always so obvious.

Take the coloured frames for example, you may think – just as I thought – to integrate them via the feature Text Box on the tab Insert. This is okay for normal text, but I noticed that text boxes do not work for numbering like in multilevel styles and footnotes. If you put such “special” text in a text box, the numbering of the list is no longer correct.

A solution to integrate this element without losing the numbering? Insert a
Rectangle (tab Insert > shapes) instead of a Text Box, give it a lively colour and put it behind the text via the feature Send Backward > Send Behind Text on the contextual tab Drawing Tools.

The document above is made in Word. Besides little style elements like the coloured frames, the page number in little triangles, the text balloons, … the document catch the eye by using a lot of colour and contrast!

By integrating these little style elements you are one step closer to a fun and readable document!

How to round the corners of several rectangles equally?

Aiming for a consistent look, you like to apply the same round corners for the picture as for the text box below. This seems logical, but it’s not so obvious in MS Office…

Both picture and text box are Rounded Rectangles: one with picture fill and the other one used as a text box.

When you select one Rounded Rectangle, a yellow diamond handle appears in the upper left. By dragging this handle, you can adjust the rounding of the corner.

But when both Rounded Rectangles are selected, no yellow diamond handles show up. In other words, it is not possible to round the corners of both shapes simultaneously.

Nevertheless, it is possible to resize several shapes, change the fill and the outline, the shape, the text fill, the position, the text wrapping,… of several shapes simultaneously. So why is it not possible in this case? That’s a shame.

If you want several Rounded Rectangles with the same size, copying one shape with the desired curvature is a good solution.
But when you resize a copied Rounded Rectangle, the radius of the corners does not remain the same. So this is not a solution for the given example, of which the text box is a lot lower than the photo frame.

Is there a way to resize a Rounded Rectangle without the corners changing?

Knowing the exact degree of the rounding would be a great help, as it would enable you to apply the same radius to all round corners, but such indicator does not pop up (cfr. the Adobe suite).

Trying to imitate the same curving by sight seems the only way to get equally rounded corners. It does not take much effort to do this once, but imagine this rounded corners are part of your corporate identity… adjusting each rectangle individually would take up a lot of time. Besides, this working method gives you no control on the exact degree of curve so consistency is virtually impossible.

Feel free to share any insight on this problem or another workaround!

Based on MS Office 2013

How to make coloured headings: PowerPoint versus Word

One of the most striking elements of the corporate identity of Howest University College West Flanders are the pink (magenta) text bars, as you can see in the folder below.

The layout of this folder is made by the communication department in the Adobe suite. But what about MS Office? In other words, how can lecturers of Howest implement this style element in a presentation or in their course material? I tried it out in PowerPoint and Word!

This post seems very much focussed on the branding of Howest, but similar headings are very popular in the world of graphic design. I collected a few examples on Pinterest.

In Word this style element can be introduced as a heading that you can add to the styles gallery if desired. Select the text of your heading and click on Shading on the tab Home. Choose the colour of the shading. (For your convenience you can install the corporate colours as theme colours, so you don’t have to set the RGB values of your corporate colours each and every time.)

Depending on whether you only select the text or the entire paragraph, this is the result:


In PowerPoint this style element can be used as the title of the presentation, to emphasize the central idea of each slide, to present a quote,… But unlike Word the feature Shading is not available for text in PowerPoint (if I am mistaken please correct me!) Also different from Word is that text in PowerPoint is always inserted in a text box or a placeholder (slide master)… So the way to achieve the same look is by colouring this boxes with the function Shape fill on the tab Home or the contextual tab ‘Drawing tools’. Resize shape to fit text ensures that the pink box corresponds to the length of the text (to do so: right click of the mouse on shape, format shape, size and properties, text box).

This is the result in PowerPoint:

If you take a look closer and compare the end result of the two methods, you can notice a tiny difference between the pink bars in Word and the ones in PowerPoint: the headings in Word look more cut off than the text boxes or placeholders in PowerPoint. This is because text boxes or placeholders have a left, right, top and bottom margin of which you can adjust the spacing. This does not seem possible via the feature Shading in Word.


Of course, it is also possible to introduce the pink bars as a text box with margins in Word, but since Word is a word processing program it is more logical to implement this style element as a heading style in the Styles gallery.

Based on MS Office 2013

How to implement house style elements in MS Office

Throughout various publications of Howest (which are made in the Adobe suite) texts who require special attention are presented in rectangular balloons.
Copying this balloons in MS Word, I notice this is not as simple as I thought.

Howest callout 2

In MS Office these balloons are called ‘rectangular callouts’. You can insert them by clicking on the insert tab > shapes.
After inserting, you can adapt the tail of the balloon and it is possible to edit the points of the shape as well (to do so: select the callout > tab drawing tools > edit shape > edit points).
To make sure text fits within the balloon, check the option ‘resize shape to fit text’ and if nessecary change the margins.

Once you did all your adjustments, you can save the customized callout to the quick part gallery (to do so: select the callout, insert tab > save selection to quick part gallery > gallery: text boxes, options: insert content only…)
So far, so good. But, when I insert text in the callout, the tail changes along with the length of the text: long texts get a sharp tail, short texts a stomp tail, as you can see in the example below.

ms office callouts


I cannot find a way to keep the shape of the tail consistent. The Format Painter only copies the fill and outline, but not the exact shape of the balloon.
The same goes for setting the balloon as default shape (right mouse click on outline of the shape > set as default shape)

As I mentioned before it is possible to change it manually (one by one), but this is not very precise and very time consuming, especially if you have to format a document with a lot of balloons.
Hence plenty of reasons to pick an alternative “call out”, of course, still respecting the overal look and feel of the house style.

printscreen onthaalbrochure_2

Moral of the story: try to find a workaround!
It is not always possible to implement a house style perfectly in MS Office, as there is not always an efficient workflow available. In that case it is better to compromise and save a lot of time which can be devoted in writing these blogs ;)

Based on MS Office 2013