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There are three reasons you might choose to use columns in a document. First, you might use them as a design element to add interest to a section of text, or to the entire document. Second, you might use them simply to save space, because you have some text that doesn't take up the width of the page, but it takes up a lot of page length. Then finally, you might choose to use columns because you want to have some material presented as a block, rather than as a long list, for comprehension and also to ensure it all fits on one page together. So let's see how we might use columns in our employee handbook.
So, first to think about using columns as a design element, let's just take a look at this section of text on this page to get a feel for this. So, if, for example, we choose Columns, we'll find that our text is already in columns. It's just in only one of them. If I choose then Two columns, you'll note that my text is evenly split between the two columns, so that it has more of a look like newspaper text, for example. You might wonder why it doesn't look quite like newspaper text. Well, largely because it hasn't been justified.
So, if I were to go back to the Home tab and in the Paragraph group choose Justified, now I've what looks more like newspaper text, particularly if I fill entire pages with it. I'm going to return to one column by choosing Undo and go back to Page Layout. I can have more columns. I can have three columns, or there are a couple of Custom layouts that are actually quite interesting. One is what's called the Left column, with a small column on the left and more text on the right, or a Right column, which is the reverse of that.
There might be reasons that these would be very attractive. On other pages, for example, we might have a graphic image here. Note though that this looks amazingly like a sidebar, so you'll want to make sure all the text has the same background, or people will treat these as two very different items. And I can also go in, and I can custom set my columns. So, I can say that I have one column and go back is the easy way to start. Then say that I'd like to have specific columns and where they start and stop. By applying these to selected text, Word will actually put my section breaks in for me.
So, let's have two equal width columns that are 3 inches wide, and let's reduce the spacing slightly between them, and here are our two columns. Now if I to go the Home tab and we Show/ Hide the paragraph and the non-printing characters in our document, we'll actually see one section break - note this double-dotted line - and then a second section break setting off this section, which is formatted in a different fashion than the sections that proceed and follow it.
The second reason that I might want to use columns is that I have data that would take up a lot of space, if I weren't to put it in columns. Let's take a look at part 3.15 SAFETY that immediately follows this. And I just have this list of five items, but I could present this list in two columns and pick up a little space and also, it even looks better in many ways. So, let's select our text, go back to Page Layout, and say show me this in two columns. And you'll notice that this list looks fine this way.
There's nothing wrong with it, and I've picked up some space. If this is the difference between this list fitting on a page or not, or this document printing on one or two sides of a sheet, or a third sheet, these begin to look like good choices, these spacing choices. Now, I'm going to go and take a look at the section of the document that has standards of conduct, which began at Section 4, because I have another table right away that I have some concerns about. This is a long table.
This is a table of reasons that we can fire you. So, it's an important list. What happens if more text gets added and this list begins to slide off the page so that now it doesn't fit any longer altogether? And it's reasonable for somebody to say I didn't know about those last three points, because they weren't on the same page as my first points were. So, by putting all of the information into columns, I am better able to keep this text together, because it will stand out from the text above and below it that's formatted in single column.
So, I'm going to select my text. I'm going to choose Columns > Two columns. Notice that even though the text takes up a little more space, because there is this white space here, it's true that it clearly stands out as a list that's different from the left to right flow of single column that proceeds and follows it. So, you might say that bulleted list in the middle of the page and people say oh, yup, I looked and I saw that list, because it stands out in contrast. Even after I've made this choice, remember that I can go back into More Columns, and I can say I don't need that much white space, or make some other adjustments about how these columns actually appear in my final document.
If you've worked with the older versions of Word, or with other word processing programs, you might have been avoiding columns, because they were so hard to work with. However, in Word 2010, it is wicked easy to create columns in your documents, whether you want One column, Two column, Three column or to remove columns, very easy feature to use. Don't overlook it.
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