Creating a longer document

I’ve always been a fan of Microsoft Word.  That could be because I’ve spent a lot of my working life creating the printed materials that accompany our training courses. These booklets tend to be about forty pages long (for a one-day course at least) and the attendees get to keep them afterwards.  They serve as both a guide during the course and a reference to use later.

They are a vital part of our offering and are universally well received.

Just as our training day is split into sessions of roughly ninety minutes, the course notes need to be split into chapters.  There are certain design features that I wanted incorporate to make each chapter look slightly different.  To achieve this efficiently needs an understanding of Sections.

What are Sections for?

Here is a quote from our Advanced Microsoft Word training course:

A new Microsoft Word document consists of a single Section.  There are many features of the program which affect the formatting of an entire Section.  To change any of these settings part way through a document, you must split it into more than one Section.

You see, there are some formatting features of the program that can be applied to as little as a single character. Underlining is a good example:

“I have underlined a single character in this sentence.”

However, if you want to centre text between the margins, you can’t do that to just a few characters.   You have to do that to the whole sentence.  In fact, in Microsoft Word, the minimum amount of text you can centre is actually a Paragraph.  [How does Word define a paragraph? – You get a new one each time you press Return – but that’s a whole different topic.]

Supposing that you wanted to change the orientation from Portrait to Landscape.  You can’t do that to just a few paragraphs.  You have to do it to the entire page.

There are several other features that can only be applied to a whole page.  These include:

  • Margins
  • Headers & Footers
  • Page numbering
  • Vertical alignment of text

Microsoft realised that you might want to make a change to one of those features on several consectutive pages. So they came up with the concept of Sections.  My design for the booklets of course notes has the Footer on each page containing the name of the chapter you are reading. By making each chapter a separate Section, I can achieve this.

Starting a new Section

Breaking up a document into Sections is quite straightforward.  Move the Insertion Point to the correct place in the document and choose [Page Layout / Page Setup] – Breaks to see this drop-down menu:

Sections A1

Next Page is the option that I use most frequently.  I print the course booklets “single-sided”, so I always want to start the new chapter on the next available page.

The Odd choice is interesting. It is a book publishing convention that the first page of a book, and sometimes of each section and chapter of a book is a right-hand (Recto) page.  Therefore, these pages always have odd numbers.  If you are using “double-sided” printing, and always want the next chapter to start on a right-hand page, Section Break – Odd will do that for you.  Put the break part way down page 16, and the new Section will start on page 17.  If the break is on page 15, the new Section will still start on page 17, with page 16 being completely blank.

The Even command has a similar effect, potentially leaving an odd-numbered page blank.

In the context of the formatting features we are discussing, the Continuous option isn’t relevant. It can be used to create Newspaper Columns part way down a page.

Sections and Page Orientation

If you are creating a report and need to include a table of information that is too wide for a Portrait page, then switching to Landscape part way through the document is the answer.

Sections B1

Putting a Section Break – Next Page at the bottom of page 1 lets you switch to Landscape for page 2.  Putting an ordinary Page Break on that page means that page 3 is in Landscape as well.  Another Section Break – Next Page on page 3 allows the switch back to Portrait for page 4.

Note that this document has four pages, but only three Sections. [ Subtle point – Microsoft Word doesn’t let you change the orientation of a page.  You can only change the orientation of a Section.  However, a Section can be only one page long! ]

 Sections and Margins

When a document is split into Sections, you can individually set the margins of each Section.  The command  [Page Layout / Page Setup] – Margins, Custom Margins… leads to this dialog box:

Sections C1

Apply to: – This section is the crucial setting here.  Other choices are Whole document and This point forward.  Choosing the latter would force the program to insert a Section Break – Next Page at that point.

Sections and Headers & Footers

Each Section of a document has its own Header and its own Footer.  To begin with, all the Headers (and Footers) are linked together.  Anything that you put in the Header of Section 1 will automatically appear in the Header of all the other Sections.

For our course notes booklets, I want our company logo in the top right corner of every page. By inserting that picture at the start of the document, I get the effect I’m after.

The illustration below shows the Header for Section 3.  Note the Same as Previous indicator.  That is the setting which causes Section 3 to inherit its Header from Section 2 (which in turn is inheriting its Header from Section 1).  Each time you create a new Section, that is the default setting.

Sections D1

Remember that in the Footer area of each Section I want the title of the relevant chapter.  So I don’t want the Footers to be linked together. In the Footer for Section 3 (shown below), the Same as Previous indicator is absent.  This means I can individually change the entry in each Section.

Sections E1

The command to change this setting is in the Header & Footer Tools, which only appear when the Insertion Point is in a Header (or Footer) area. Choose [Design / Navigation] – Link to Previous to make or break the link.

Sections F1

Sections and Page Numbering

Sections also allow you to change the Page Numbering part way through a document.  My design for course notes booklets uses Roman Numerals for the “Table of Contents”, and ordinary (so-called Arabic) numbers for the main chapters.

Again we find the command for doing this in the Header & Footer Tools.  This time choose [Design / Header & Footer] – Page Number, Format Page Numbers… 

Table of Contents Chapter 1 Other Chapters


The “Table of Contents” Section uses the settings shown above – Number format: i, ii, iii, … and Start at: i.

For “Chapter 1”, Number format: has been changed to Arabic and Start at: is set to 1.  The Continue from previous section setting for the “Other Chapters” ensures that the pages in the rest of the booklet are numbered consecutively.

Sections and Vertical Alignment

One other feature of Sections that I use in our course notes booklets is Vertical Alignment of text (i.e. between the top and bottom margins).

Here is an illustration of the Title page of one of our booklets. The panel in the middle of the page has been created using a simple Table.

Sections H1

One way to get this to appear in the middle is to press Return multiple times.  However, the Page Setup dialog box has a Layout tab.  By making the Title page into its own Section and setting Vertical alignment: Center,  the desired effect is achieved with a few clicks of the mouse.

Sections I1

Why use Sections?

If you are writing a letter or a simple memo, Sections are an unnecessary complication which give you no benefit.

However, when you are working on a longer document which needs a more formal structure, splitting it in to Sections gives access to a raft of Microsoft Word facilities which greatly simplify the task.  It’s well worth taking the time to get to know them.