How to use Office Picture Layout options to quickly arrange pictures

The options in Office Picture Layout lets you create a professional picture layout with very little work.

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Image: FlamingoImages, Getty Images/iStockphoto

After inserting a picture into a document, you can position it by dragging it. Doing so has the potential to rearrange text, but it's not too much work with one picture. However, moving multiple pictures around individually is difficult—and usually tedious.

The Office Picture Layout options are a good alternative to manually positioning pictures yourself. The options are easy to use, and you'll end up with a stable and professional looking document.

In this article, I'll introduce you to the Office Picture Layout options, but first, we'll look at a few handy tips for working with pictures individually.

Picture Layout options offer several SmartArt templates and styles for displaying multiple pictures. They're available in Word, PowerPoint, and even Excel; we'll use a Word document, which you can download here . When working in Word, your pictures must be on the same page. These options aren't available in the browser edition.

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Moving pictures individually

The easiest way to move a single picture is to drag it, which is probably second nature to you already. There are a couple of ways to improve this process:

  • Hold down the Ctrl key and press an arrow key. Doing so will nudge the picture in the appropriate direction. It's a good way to move a picture just a tiny bit.
  • To move several pictures as one, group them. Hold down the Ctrl key and select each picture. Right-click the multiple-picture selection, choose Group from the contextual submenu and then choose Group again.

If you can't select or group multiple pictures, use the Layout Options icon (to the right of a selected picture) and choose one of the With Text Wrapping options. There's nothing wrong with moving pictures this way but knowing about the Picture Layout options gives you an easy way to arrange multiple pictures.

Picture Layout options

Layout options are contextual. You must select a picture to access the layout options shown in Figure A. You're basically tapping into SmartArt. After selecting a picture file, you might notice the icon to the right of the selected picture—this icon offers helpful layout options for working with pictures, but they're not the options we're reviewing. Instead, choose Picture Layout in the Picture Styles group on the Contextual Format tab.

Figure A

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Picture Layout options available in Word.

Now, let's apply an option to the three pictures in our example document. To do so, hold down the Ctrl key and click each picture. Remember, if you can't create a multi-picture selection, check the text wrapping options—they should all be With Text Wrapping. With all of the pictures selected, click the contextual Format tab. Then, click Picture Layout in the Picture Styles group. Select Picture Strips, the fourth option from the left on the third row.

Applying this option, as shown in Figure B pulls the pictures together as a SmartArt entry and provides placeholders for text. As you type in text, SmartArt automatically resizes it to fit the placeholder. At this point, Word displays the contextual Design tab; use these options to apply formatting to your custom SmartArt entry.

Figure B

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Apply a layout option.

Chances are you'll need to try several templates before you find one that you like. If your pictures disappear, the template doesn't support pictures, so you won't want to use that one. Simply select the SmartArt entry and choose another template. In addition, you don't have a lot of control over distortion so make sure to check the pictures closely along the way. Some will distort them enough that they're not a good choice. You can change the entry's size but doing so won't improve the picture quality. (You can see a bit of distortion in Figures C and D; the wild geranium picture looks a bit stretched.)

If you don't find something you like, click More Layouts (at the bottom) to open full-blown SmartArt options. Click Picture in the left pane to access more templates that support pictures. Figure C shows the Accented Picture option, with the Intense Effect style applied (those are in the SmartArt Styles group). You can also change theme colors using the Change Colors option in the SmartArt Styles group, but in this case, doing so has no impact.

Figure C

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Apply specific styles to make subtle changes.

Oooops... did you notice the misspelling? It's no problem. Select the SmartArt element and then click the text you want to change. It couldn't be simpler. Just remember that you're dealing with two layers—the SmartArt entry and then the individual components, such as the pictures and the text.

You can selectively apply other picture formats by clicking a single component and then clicking the contextual Picture Tools Format tab (not the SmartArt Format tab). Figure D shows the SmartArt element after adding a black border to the larger picture and a white border to the smaller round pictures.

Figure D

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Format the components individually.

There's a lot you can do; spend some time playing around with the different options. The advantage is that you end up with a professional picture layout with very little work. You won't have to resize or move anything, and you can quickly change the template, style, or color without displacing your entire document.

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By 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.