Grant yourself access to Word's horizontal and vertical rulers

Word's ruler is a bit unpredictable - now you see it, now you don't. Learn how to control its seemingly unruly behavior.

Word displays a horizontal ruler just below the ribbon in Word 2007 and 2010 and below the menus in Word 2003. There's a vertical ruler to the left of the container window. If a user knows they're available, he or she will probably put them to good use, but they both often seem to have minds of their own. They aren't always available when you need them! Knowing how to control when the rulers are visible and how to access them even when they're disabled will help you work more effectively with Word's ruler.

To display the rulers, check the Ruler option in the Show group on the View tab. In Word 2003, check the Ruler option on the View menu. When you select this option, Word displays the rulers in Page Layout, Web Layout, and Draft view in the ribbon versions. In Word 2003, Word displays them in Normal, Page Layout, and Web Layout view. To put the rulers to use, you'll have to work in one of these views.

If the rulers are disabled, you can still access them. You'll need to consider enabling an animation feature, as follows:

  1. Click the File tab and choose Options under Help. In Word 2007, click the Office button and choose Word Options. In Word 2003, choose Options from the Tools menu, click the General tab, and skip to #3.
  2. Select Advanced in the left pane.
  3. In the General section, check the Provide Feedback With Animation option.
  4. Click OK.

When the rulers are disabled, you can quickly display them individually, as needed. To display the horizontal ruler, hover the mouse pointer over the thin gray line that appears just below the ribbon (or the menu in Word 2003). (If the white space indicator appears, move the mouse pointer just a tad higher.) Similarly, to display the vertical ruler, point the mouse pointer to the left edge of the container winter. When you move the mouse pointer away the ruler will disappear so it's a temporary fix - but might be just what you need.

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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