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How to create custom galleries and categories to control organization in Word docs

Adding a custom element to a gallery only goes so far; use this easy technique to force its position to the top of the gallery.

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Image: iStock/shironosov

The article Office Q&A: Adding custom headers to Word's Headers gallery shows you how to use Word Building Blocks to add custom headers to the Headers gallery, for quick access. If you want to understand the relationship between Word's Building Blocks feature and galleries, this article is a good place to start. However, it is the beginning—there's more.

For better or worse, Word sorts custom elements with built-in elements, so finding and selecting custom elements can be tedious. Users might not realize they're available. There's no built-in way to reposition Word's default placement, so I'll show you a blunt-force workaround. It's not pretty, but it works.

I'm using Office 365's desktop edition of Word on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but this technique will work in earlier versions. Browser galleries have limits; custom building blocks that you add to galleries won't be available in the browser. There's no demonstration file because you won't need one. This article assumes that you're familiar with galleries and how to create a simple header.

Note: This article is the second installment in a three-part series. You'll find the first and third articles here:

Add the custom element

You can use this technique to add elements to most galleries, but we'll work with the custom header shown in Figure A. Throughout this article, the term element refers to any text or graphic content you might be adding to any gallery; a header is a specific type of element.

To get started, you can add the custom header (Figure A) to the Header gallery as follows:

  1. With the header open in edit mode press Ctrl+a to select everything in the header.
  2. Click the Insert tab, and then choose Save Selection To Quick Part Gallery (Figure B) from the Quick Parts dropdown (it's in the Text group). Or, press Alt+F3.
  3. In the resulting dialog, give the building block a meaningful name. When naming an element, keep in mind that the gallery displays them in alphabetical order.
  4. Choose Headers from the Gallery dropdown (Figure C). The Category setting defaults to Built-in; we'll discuss this setting later.
  5. You don't need to change any other settings, so click OK.

Figure A

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Susan Harkins
We'll add this custom header to Word's Headers gallery.

Figure B

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Save the custom header as a building block.

Figure C

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Save the customer header to the Headers gallery.

The hierarchy problem

After adding the header as a building block to the Headers gallery, it's now available to all documents—new and old. To access it, open a new document's header. Then, click Header in the Header & Footer group in the contextual Design tab. Figure D shows the built-in headers first, but we named the element TR Logo, so alphabetically, it's near the bottom of the list. Thumb down to see it.

Figure D

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Word sorts gallery elements alphabetically within each category.

Because the new custom header is out of sight, you might not realize it's available. Most likely, you'll want easier access than this.

SEE: Microsoft Azure: An insider's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Solution 1: The easy way

If your element sorts to the bottom of the Built-in list, the obvious answer is to name the element so that it sorts to the top of the list. If you're the only user, name it AAA, and stop right here. On the other hand, AAA, AAB, AAC, and so on aren't meaningful names and confusion could ensue. The up side is that you can see the actual header in the gallery, so choosing by sight rather than name isn't a problem. Most of us won't have enough custom headers for names to matter.

Solution 2: Blunt force

Most galleries, out of the box, offer two categories: Built-in and General. Categories sort alphabetically too; that means the Built-in category is near the top of the gallery and before the General category. The Built-in category installs with several basic elements; General is often empty. If there's no element, the gallery won't display the category header.

What all that means is this: Adding the custom header to the General category doesn't help. In fact, it pushes your custom header down further in the gallery.

If naming the custom header AAA isn't acceptable, you can create a new category that will sort above Built-in and add your custom headers to it as follows:

  1. Select the custom header and add as a selection as you did before, by choosing Save Selection To Quick Parts Gallery.
  2. In the resulting dialog box, name the header, and choose Headers from the Gallery dropdown, as you did before.
  3. From the Category dropdown, choose Create New Category.
  4. In the resulting dialog, name the custom category _Custom Headers (Figure E) and click OK twice. (The name includes an underscore prefix; that's not a typo.)

Figure E

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Create a custom category.

The name _Custom Headers combines two behaviors. First, the underscore forces Word to sort the category to the top of the list; the underscore sorts before alpha characters. Second, Custom Headers is a meaningful name. We have the best of both worlds—a meaningful name that sorts to the top of the gallery, as shown in Figure F. Within the new category, Word will sort your custom headers alphabetically.

Figure F

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This custom category sorts to the top of the gallery.

But...

At this point, you might be thinking that you can bypass the custom category. Simply add the custom element to the Built-in category and add the underscore character to the element's name. Brilliant! Except, it won't work. Third place is the best you can hope for. In the case of the Header gallery, the two blank elements usurp the first two positions. If you name your custom header _TR Logo and add it to the Built-in category, _TR Logo will sort to the third position, below the blank options.

If you have only one or two custom elements, this might be an option for you. If you have several, they'll quickly fall off the screen and out of sight, again. Regardless, consider the convenience of corralling all your custom elements in a custom category—it's worth the extra step even if you have only a few custom elements.

Gallery lineup

If you go to the trouble of adding custom elements to galleries, the chances are you'll want quick and easy access to them as well. By creating a new category that sorts to the top of the gallery, your custom elements will be first in line.

Send me your question about Office

I answer readers' questions when I can, but there's no guarantee. Don't send files unless requested; initial requests for help that arrive with attached files will be deleted unread. You can send screenshots of your data to help clarify your question. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, "Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what's wrong" probably won't get a response, but "Can you tell me why this formula isn't returning the expected results?" might. Please mention the app and version that you're using. I'm not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise when helping readers, nor do I ask for a fee from readers I help. You can contact me at susansalesharkins@gmail.com.

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About Susan Harkins

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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