You probably know that you can change a font’s color. Just select the text in question and choose a color from the Font Color dropdown in the Font group (on the Home tab). In Word 2007, this option’s on the Formatting toolbar.

When using this dropdown in Word 2010, you might have noticed the gradient option, but not known how to apply it. (This option isn’t available in Word 2007 or Word 2003.) A gradient fill lets you blend two or more colors instead of just one. To be frank, you might never have a need for this option, but it’s good to know it’s available, for that odd project that needs a bit of flamboyant pizazz.

The first step is to select the text you’re enhancing, as you normally would before applying a format. Then, do the following to apply a gradient fill effect to the selected text:

  1. Click the Home tab.
  2. Click the Font Options dropdown in the Font group.
  3. Choose Gradient.
  4. Select More Gradients from the resulting submenu.
  5. Select Text File (the default) in the left pane (if necessary) and click Gradient Fill. Doing so will display several new options.
  6. Click the Preset dropdown and choose an option-knowing which one is difficult at first. For this example, click Rainbow. Live Preview will provide just a glimpse of the effect.
  7. The angle setting should be 45 degrees; adjust if necessary. For a very different effect, change the angle setting from 45 to 90.
  8. Click Close.

As you can see, just by changing the angle, you can drastically change the effect. All of the options give you a lot of control, but this is definitely one of those features where less is more!

Here are a few guidelines for using these settings:

  • The Type option lets you define the direction to use when generating the fill. Choosing this option determines the Direction options.
  • The Direction option determines the progression of colors and shades.
  • The Angle option specifies the angle the fill rotates (in other words, the sharpness of the gradient angle). This option is available only with the Linear Type.
  • Stops determine the position, color, and transparency of each section. You’ll need one stop for each color. You can change their positions by sliding them. You can also add and delete stops. You can have up to 10.

That’s probably clear as mud, but the best way to master this feature is to just experiment with it. As a side note, you can do something similar with the document’s background, as follows:

  1. Click the Page Layout tab.
  2. In the Page Background group, click the Page Color dropdown, and select Fill Effects.
  3. On the Gradient tab, choose Rainbow from the Preset Colors dropdown.
  4. Click OK.

These examples are just a means to share the feature. I chose Rainbow because it displays so much contrast from one setting to another-not because I recommend that you use it for your projects. (Nor am I saying not to use it.)