Five tips for getting the most out of Word borders

Borders aren't just about boxes and rules. They can serve as powerful design elements that make your documents more functional, attractive, or compelling, depending on your needs.

You would think that something as simple as borders would work reliably most of the time. And you'd be right -- unless you're trying to get full-page borders to show up on all four sides of the page. It's funny how borders come and go, and how footers and page margins and page sizes all play a part. Use these tips to sort out the border confusion and print pages that look the way you want them to look.

1: Border outside the box

A border can add a lot to your page, especially if your intention is to call your reader's attention to something specific in your content. Borders work well around sidebars that offer information that goes along with your main text. They can also help set off tips, suggestions, notes, and more. And you can play around with borders so that they aren't actually boxy at all. You can display one, two, three, or four sides to the borders you create using the Borders tool in the Paragraph group of the Home tab. Shake up your document a bit by coming up with some unusual borders -- perhaps a light top line and a heavy bottom line. Just remember to keep the style you create consistent through your entire document.

2: Create a page border

You can also add borders to your entire page if you like that "framed up" look. Page borders on professional reports, prospectuses, and handouts can give your documents a professional boost. You can also throw some variety into the page borders you create by changing the line color or style, altering the number of lines used in the border (maybe you'd just like two rules -- one below the header and another above the footer?), or by changing the line thickness. To access these settings, click the Borders tool in the Paragraph group on the Home tab, select Borders And Shading from the bottom of the drop-down list, and click the Page Border tab in the Borders And Shading dialog box (Figure A).

Figure A

Click the Page Border tab to set a border for the entire page.

3: Restore a disappearing bottom border

In some cases, you may notice an annoying problem when you print a bordered page from Word. Sure, everything looks fine onscreen. And when you print, the top and side borders are fine... but the bottom border is missing. The fix for this involves changing the paper size value Word is using to calculate the amount of print space on the page. Click the Page Layout tab and click the Page Setup tool in the lower-right corner of the Page Setup group. In the Page Setup dialog box, click the Paper tab and reduce your page height by .05 cm. Now when you go back to Print Preview, the border should appear, and when you print, all should be well.

4: Apply borders to pictures

You can put borders around more than blocks of text and entire pages if you like. Word (as well as PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook) makes it easy for you to add and customize borders around pictures, diagrams, and other objects. First, add the object to the page and click on it. In the Picture Tools Format tab, click Picture Border. You can then click the color you'd like to apply, change the line thickness, or select different styles for the border you add to your image (Figure B).

Figure B

You can easily add and customize borders for objects on your page.

5: Use BorderArt for splashy effects

BorderArt has been around a long time in Office and may have originated in one of the early versions of Microsoft Publisher as a fun way to add some humor and energy to your page. BorderArt includes some interesting patterns that may add impact to your documents, but for business uses you'll probably want to stay away from the more whimsical choices. For instance, your banker might not take you too seriously if you turn in your financials with a border of ice cream cones printed on the page.

If you want to create an attention-grabbing invitation, flyer, or banner, BorderArt may do the trick because subtlety isn't one of its talents. Used sparingly, it can be a fun addition. Used with abandon, you may find that people miss the quieter points your text is trying to convey.