applied tips : january 2007

microsoft publisher : tips and tricks

This article originally appeared in the Lodi Chamber of Commerce newsletter, December 2006.

Although I write about Word, Outlook, and Excel nearly every month in Applied Tips, one program that often goes overlooked is Microsoft Publisher.  Often snubbed by professional graphic artists and printers, this inexpensive program can be used to quickly create eye-catching brochures and post cards, and its simplicity can’t be beat.  This month’s article is meant for those who want to be a little more efficient with Publisher and create better results.

Keep it Consistent

Don’t start your document from scratch every time.  To help keep your business’s materials looking consistent, start with a piece you’ve already created even if it’s a business card and you’re making a brochure.  This way you’ll use the same fonts, colors, and elements to build your brand identity.

Just a Nudge

When you’re trying to move something just a tad, don’t use your mouse -- use the “Nudge” keystroke.  With the object selected, hold down the Alt key and tap your arrow keys in any direction.  The object will slide over just a hair.

Line ‘em Up

Publisher lets you set up horizontal and vertical guidelines on your publication to keep your graphics and other elements lined up.  Just click-and-drag from the top or left rulers into your publication.  The new line you see won’t print – but as you resize and move objects around they will automatically “snap” into place to give you perfect alignment.

Character Spacing

Trying to squeeze that last word into a block of text and it won’t fit?  Don’t shrink the font – that will make your text uneven and distracting.  Instead, adjust the character spacing (the space between characters) by a fraction to make a bit more room for your text.  Select the entire story, paragraph, or line of text and tap Ctrl Shift { to narrow it, or Ctrl Shift } to widen it.  The human eye will never know the difference.

Measurement Toolbar

For real precise placement and sizing, try the Measurement Toolbar available from the View menu, and then Toolbars.  This floating toolbar shows you the exact location and size (in inches) of any object you click on.  If you’ve highlighted text, it will even show you the line and character spacing, kerning, and other useful information.

Use Some Style

Just like Word, Publisher lets you create styles of text so you can be consistent throughout your piece.  Create styles for how your “normal” text should look, headlines, header and footer text, and more.  Start at the Format menu and choose “Styles and Formatting”.  The task pane on the left will list the styles you currently have, and let you create new ones.  To apply a style to your text, just highlight the text and click on the style from the left.

Take it Outside

Creating a “call out” text block is a great way to break up a very long block of text.  Create a new textbox outside of your story and type an interesting quote or blurb that relates to the story.  Set it off with a much larger font, then use some color to really make it stand out.  Wrap your text around the new text block and you’re on your way to professional desktop publishing.

Bleed a Little

“Bleeding” is the term commercial printers use for when a piece is printed on larger paper and then cut down to size, allowing the ink to run to the very edge of the resulting piece.  This creates a much more professional, finished look.  You can create a publication that bleeds by setting your paper size larger than your page size.  Artwork that runs off the edge of your “page” will still be printed onto the paper, allowing you to trim it off and create the illusion that you printed all the way to the edge.  Publisher will print “crop marks” on the resulting piece so you know exactly where to cut.  Page and Paper size settings are found in Page Setup from the File menu.  Try a Print Preview to see how it turns out before you actually print.

Keyboard Shortcuts

What article would be complete without a few useful keyboard shortcuts?

Ctrl A will select the entire text of your story, even if it doesn’t appear in the current text box.  This is great when you want to adjust the font, copy, or cut.

Ctrl Spacebar resets the formatting of the text you have selected.  This is great when you’ve got a variety of formats and want it all to be uniform again.

Ctrl > and Ctrl < will quickly adjust the font size of your selection.

Wrapping it Up

Publisher is a great tool for making nearly anything, and if you have the time and an eye for design there is little that you cannot do in this great program.  Flip through some magazines for inspiration, download a template, or just play around and see what comes out.  Just remember to save often!

schedule a class on publisher

Request an on-site Publisher class from Applied Office. Sessions are just $95/hr and your employees will be able to make great-looking newsletters, brochures, flyers, and more!  Learn more here.

quick reference card

Get the Quick Reference Card on Microsoft Publisher! Download it for free and print it on your own printer. You might even want to laminate it.