Residential building blueprint plans and house model. 3d illustration
Image: Rawf8/Adobe Stock

Microsoft 365 applications can fake 3D shapes and letters, but the effect is often less than satisfying. If you must take the 3D route, getting just the right perspective with Microsoft Word’s features can be tedious. Fortunately, Microsoft 365 now supports 3D models. These files are 3D representations that update perspective in real time, and there are dozens available via Microsoft stock images.

You won’t create 3D models in Microsoft Word, but you can insert and manipulate them in Word. In this document, I’ll show you how to work with 3D models in Microsoft Word documents. The results are more accurate and satisfying than anything you could create using Word’s features.

SEE: Windows, Linux, and Mac commands everyone needs to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Microsoft 365 apps, Office 2019, 2021 and Phone 10 support 3D models. We’ll be working in Word, but 3D models are also supported by PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook. The web apps don’t support 3D models.

How to insert a 3D model in Word

You won’t create a 3D model in Word, but you can insert existing 3D models. 3D models are three-dimensional objects used in animation, simulation and even manufacturing. 3D printers print 3D models in manufacturing. For instance, the next time you need a dental crown, ask the dentist if they will use a 3D printer to create that crown — many do.

3D models in Word allow you to move the model to expose other perspectives. You can use them in electronic and printed documents such as brochures, flyers and other desktop-publishing type documents.

Once you insert a 3D model into Word, you can manipulate it by rotating and tilting to view different perspectives, which exposes other features. Let’s insert a 3D model and explore it:

  1. Click the Insert tab.
  2. In the Illustrations group, click 3D Models.
  3. From the dropdown, choose Stock 3D Models. Later, you may purchase or create other 3D model files.
  4. In the resulting pane, click the Toys dialog.
  5. Check the die (Figure A), and then click Insert.

Figure A

Select a 3D model to insert into Word.

Figure B

Word inserts the 3D model into a Word document.

Once the 3D model is in a Word document, you can manipulate it to get the look you want.

How to manipulate the 3D model in Word

After inserting the die, Word offers two tools for changing the perspective. The red arrow (Figure B) points to the rotation handle, which you may be familiar with already. Use that handle to rotate the object 360 degrees. It won’t, however, change the perspective. For that, you need the 3D control in the center of the die.

Click that control and start dragging it around to see the different angles — perspectives — that expose more details about the object. In this case, if you move it enough, you will see that the die has 21 pips, as a real die does.

Drag the button down to see the top side of the die. Drag the button up to see the bottom, as shown in Figure C. Drag to the left to expose the side to the right and drag the control to the right to expose the left. The easiest way to become familiar with the possibilities is to play around with it for a while. Don’t forget that you can still use the rotation handle.

Figure C

Use the 3D control in the center of the object to change the 3D perspective in Word.

Although you have 3D views, Word treats the model as any other graphic, so almost anything you can do to a normal graphic, you can do to a 3D model. Simply select it and click the contextual 3D Model tab. As you can see in Figure D, the Accessibility, Arrange and Size groups offer options and settings that you may be familiar with already.

Figure D

Use the contextual 3D Model ribbon to change the model’s properties and formats in Word.

There are a few options that are available only to 3D models:

  • The Adjust settings let you insert and reset a 3D model. Choosing Reset will return the model to its newly inserted perspective.
  • 3D Model Views offer several preset views, most of which you can also achieve by using the 3D control, but the preset options are quicker.
  • Most interesting is the Pan & Zoom option, which allows you to increase and decrease the visual within the frame.

How to use Pan & Zoom in Word

It’s not difficult to work with 3D models in Word. Within only a few minutes, you will have a good feel for the feature. Perhaps the only feature that’s new to you is Pan & Zoom. This feature lets you control how the image fits within its frame.

Click Pan & Zoom and then click and drag the object within the frame to move it. Use the Zoom arrow on the right to make the object appear larger or smaller within the frame.

Figure E shows the result of clicking Pan & Zoom and then moving the model to the right. As you see, it’s a bit like cropping. Usually, you will lose part of the visual when using Pane.

Figure E

Zoom moves the object within the frame.

Reset the die and then use the Zoom arrow to increase the die within the frame. As you can see in Figure F, doing loses half of the pips. You can also decrease the object’s size.

Figure F

Pan increases and decreases the size of the object within the frame.

How to send 3D models in Outlook

Outlook 2019 and newer supports 3D models in email messages. When creating a new email, click the Insert tab and select inside the body section. If replying to a message, click Pop Out to access the Insert tab. Double-clicking to open the email won’t work. The recipient can only view the model.

How to make a 3D model

Earlier, I mentioned that you won’t use Microsoft Word to create a 3D model. You can convert a 2D shape into a 3D shape, but doing so is tedious, and these shapes limit perspectives. SmartArt also has 3D effects, but you’ll be working with letters and basic shapes better suited for flow charts and similar uses.

You can use Microsoft Paint 3D. Although limited, you can glimpse the possibilities. Using Paint 3D, select 3D Shapes or 3D Library from the menu. In the right pane, use the many options to sketch a doodle or select an object. When sketching, you might have to connect dots to create the 3D model.

It’s limited, but it’s a meaningful way to explore before investing in more powerful and expensive third-party software. If you want to try your hand at serious 3D modeling, explore some of the third-party products — there are many.

Subscribe to the Developer Insider Newsletter

From the hottest programming languages to commentary on the Linux OS, get the developer and open source news and tips you need to know. Delivered Tuesdays and Thursdays

Subscribe to the Developer Insider Newsletter

From the hottest programming languages to commentary on the Linux OS, get the developer and open source news and tips you need to know. Delivered Tuesdays and Thursdays