Office Q&A: Image wrangling in Word 2010

Katherine Murray

We include pictures in everything — from blog posts to annual reports to letters to Grandma.

But easy as it is to insert pictures into a doc, we’re often flummoxed by how to keep them exactly where we want them. This article explores a few of the maddening Word picture-placement issues our readers (and editors) have faced.


Fixing text flow disrupted by an added picture

  • “When I add a picture to my page, it makes a mess of my text formatting, adding lots white space around the picture. And when I add text or try to reformat it, the picture moves to a new place on the page. How can I fix that?”

Word deals with all pictures — including photos, diagrams, drawings, clip art, charts, and WordArt — in one of two ways: as inline with text or as a floating image.

Inline images are treated as if they’re another character in your text, so you might notice lots of space above any figure you simply insert inline. (See Figure 1.) When surrounding text moves, so does the inline illustration. There’s no way to make an inline image stick to one spot on a page.

Figure 1. When you insert a picture inline with text, it moves wherever the text moves.

Figure 1. When you insert a picture inline with text, it moves wherever the text moves.

Images classified as floating, on the other hand, are linked to an object anchor — wherever the anchor appears, the image appears, too. You can locate a floating image (and its anchor) within a paragraph or next to a paragraph marker, but you must use the Wrap Text tool (click the image and select the Format/Picture Tools tab; or right-click the image) to choose how to flow text around the image. Wrapping options include Square, Tight, Through, Top and Bottom, Behind Text, and In Front of Text, as shown in Figure 2. (You can also select In Line with Text.)

Figure 2. Choose any option in the Wrap Text list except <i></div>In Line with Text</i> to make your picture a floating image that you can keep anchored on the page.” title=”offqafloat” class=”size-medium wp-image-11597″ /><p class=Figure 2. Choose any option in the Wrap Text list except In Line with Text to make your picture a floating image that you can keep anchored on the page.

You must choose one of these text-wrapping options to place an image exactly where you want it. If you don’t, Word defines an image as Inline with Text by default.

Also by default, object anchors are hidden. Revealing the anchors will make it easier for you to see exactly where Word has anchored the pictures in your document. This way, if one unexpectedly moves to the next page, you’ll be able to see where the image was anchored and move it so it stays on the page where you want it to appear.

To show anchors, click the File tab and select Options/Display (see Figure 3). In the Always show these formatting marks on the screen section, click the Object anchors check box. Then click OK. (To hide anchors, you might have to uncheck “Show all formatting marks.”)

Figure 3. Reveal or hide image anchors in the Word Options dialog box.

Figure 3. Reveal or hide image anchors in the Word Options dialog box.

Floating images keep jumping around. Why?

  • “Sometimes, when I add a picture to my page, it stays where I put it. But other times it jumps to the next page. It’s incredibly annoying.”

Image anchors are tied to paragraphs. If you add new text or images above an anchored paragraph, it might be displaced to a following page — and its associated image will naturally go with it. You can change the placement of an anchor — and move the picture back to the page where you want it to appear — by right-clicking a picture, choosing Cut, and then pasting the picture into the new location.

Figure 4. Move an anchor by cutting the image and placing back were you want it on the page.

Figure 4. Move an anchor by cutting the image and placing it back where you want it on the page.

When you move an image (and its anchor) to a new location, remember to reapply a Wrap Text setting so it still floats. If you don’t, Word will insert the image as an inline object and you’ll no longer see the anchor. Yes, it’s frustrating.

A mirage image — it’s there, then gone

  • “When I insert a picture on the Word page, it disappears! I see just a picture frame for a second and then nothing. What’s going on?”

When you first add a picture to your Word page, Word treats it by default as an inline image — it’s considered just another character on the page and is treated like any other text. Not only can this make your line spacing funky, but if your Paragraph attributes are set to a specific line height, your picture can disappear from the page. (And it could pop up in an unexpected place when you print.)

If you have a problem with the picture disappearing or you see only a sliver of your image or there’s just a picture frame (but no picture), check your Paragraph settings. Select the Home tab and then click the dialog launcher (the tiny box-and-arrow) in the bottom-right corner of the Paragraph group. In the dialog box that pops up, click the Line spacing drop box and change the setting from Exactly to either Single or Multiple, as shown in Figure 5. This should fix the appearance problem, but you might also want to apply a Wrap Text setting.

Figure 5. Check your paragraph line-spacing setting to ensure images always appear.

Figure 5. Check your paragraph line-spacing setting to ensure images always appear.

What to do with those roaming captions?

  • “The captions that I add to figures often wind up getting bumped to the next page, while the image stays at the bottom of the previous page. How can I keep the pictures and captions together?”

In Word, the way to make captions stick depends on the type of picture — inline or floating — placed on a page. If it’s an inline picture that’s formatted as part of the text, add a caption by clicking the References tab and choosing Insert Caption in the Captions group. This displays the Caption dialog box (see Figure 6), where you choose your label and add descriptive text that will stay with the image as it flows with the text in your document.

Figure 6. For inline pictures, choose Insert Caption in the References tab to display the Caption dialog box. Then add your caption.

Figure 6. For inline pictures, choose Insert Caption in the References tab to display the Caption dialog box. Then add your caption.

If you created a floating image with one of the Wrap Text settings, your picture and your caption will be treated as two different objects on the page, which means you need to put them both into a text box if you want to be sure to keep them together. To add a text box, click the Insert tab and then click Text Box in the Text group. Choose Draw Text Box and draw a box over the picture on your page, with a little extra room at the bottom for the caption. (See Figure 7.)

Figure 7. If you want to add a caption to a floating image, put both the image and the caption in a text box.

Figure 7. If you want to add a caption to a floating image, put both the image and the caption into a text box.

Choose No Fill for the box (so that you can see the image through it) and then, after using Send Backward to move the box behind the picture, cut and paste the picture into the box. In the text box, click below the picture and type your caption, formatting it as you want it to appear.

You can hide the border of the text box, if you like, so that the text in your document appears to flow around the picture and caption. Simply click the text box and, in the Format/Drawing Tools/Shape Styles section, set Shape Outline to No Outline (see Figure 8.)

Figure 8. Hide the text box outline by choosing No Outline from the Shape Outline settings.

Figure 8. Hide the text box outline by choosing No Outline from the Shape Outline settings.

Word’s picture tools are improving in each incarnation, but it can still be a challenge getting Word to display, format, and print pictures just the way you want them seen. If you have other Office questions you’d like us to tackle, send them in and we’ll share what we find in a future issue.



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Katherine Murray

About Katherine Murray

Katherine Murray is the author of My Windows 8.1 (Que, 2013), Microsoft Office 2013 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2013), My Evernote (Que, 2012), and other non-fiction books on business, parenting, and Earth-care topics. She also coauthored, with Woody Leonhard, Green Home Computing for Dummies (Wiley 2009), and she writes and tweets (@kmurray230) about green-tech, wellness, and other social issues.