Office 2007: Building Word Docs With Building Blocks

By Helen Bradley
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One of the new features of Microsoft Word 2007 is its Building Blocks tool. On the face of it this looks like a simple tool for storing repeatedly used text and adding this text to your document.

While at one level this is the case, at another level building blocks are a lot more sophisticated than they might first appear. Word's own Building Blocks contain some smart content creation options that make it easier than ever for you to create and format your documents. Let's take a closer look.

» Built-In Building Blocks

If you've worked with Word 2007, you might be familiar with the new cover pages and fancy headers and footers. These are building blocks and they are just some of the handy items you can use to build and finish your Word documents.

Using them is as simple as clicking the Insert tab on the ribbon, next clicking the Cover Page option (for example), and then selecting a cover page for your document. Each cover page has a name that describes its style — remember this as you can coordinate other building blocks with it.

Even if you are not positioned at the beginning of the document when you select your cover page it will be placed at the beginning of the document because that's the logical place for it to appear. If you change your mind and select a different cover page the existing one will be removed and the new one will replace it. As you can see, building blocks are pretty intelligent.

Once you've added your cover page, you can add a header and footer to the document. Click in the first text page of your document and, for example, choose Insert > Footer and select a footer for your document that has the same style name as the cover page. You can also add a header in a similar way. While you don't have to use the same style of header and footer as you used for the cover page it makes better sense if you do so because they are designed to match.

On the cover page and in the header and footer you have inserted you will see there are prompts to type information such as the title of the document and the year. When you click and type the text you will find that anywhere that prompt appeared in any of the building blocks, your text will appear.

You may also find that some information already appears in the building block page (such as your name). This text is inserted based on information that Word knows about you. To see what this is and edit it if necessary, choose the Office button, and click Prepare, Properties.

Building blocks are also linked to the current document theme, so if you choose the Page Layout tab on the Ribbon and change the Theme, the look of the cover page and any building block elements will change to match the color and font style of that theme.

In addition, the building block elements are smart enough to adjust to different page layouts. So, if you click the Page Layout tab on the ribbon and change the orientation of the document from Portrait to Landscape, or vice versa, the cover page and other building block elements will resize automatically to fit the new page dimensions.

One other handy building block type that comes with Word is the textbox building block. There are two types of each style, one of which is a quote and the other is a sidebar. You can use these to place pull quotes and sidebar text in your documents that reflect the overall style of the rest of the document.

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This article was originally published on May 30, 2008
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