An Overview of Microsoft Publisher

microsoft publisherMicrosoft Publisher is a desktop publishing application that comes with high-end versions of Microsoft Office or as a stand-alone application. Publisher differs from Word, which is Microsoft’s flagship word processing application. Word is for writing documents, whether they be long or short with the tools to add page numbering, footnotes, tables of content, indexes, references and annotation. Publishing on the other hand specializes in creating newsletters, brochures, and greeting cards that have graphically rich content and require precise positioning of text and graphics.

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Publisher comes with many templates specifically designed for most printed media with pre-positioned placeholders for text and graphics. This makes it easy to choose the layout that best suits the application, for example a newsletter and then start adding text and graphics to suit.

The fact that a user new to design doesn’t have to start with a blank sheet is a big thing with Microsoft’s product developers, since they have gone to great lengths to provide a multitude of preset, pre-aligned templates with placeholders for a wide variety of applications from business cards to websites.

Everything that Publisher does is about creating an aesthetically pleasing layout, formatting and the control that the designer has over objects on a page. Images and even blocks of text are all elements to Publisher and they can be positioned anywhere on the page. Additionally, all these elements are independent of one another. Changes to one element’s position, color or size doesn’t affect any other element.

Elements can be text boxes, borders or column high-lighters in fact just about everything in Publisher is considered an element and is under the designer’s control. The first noticeable thing about Publisher is the control given to first-time designers. It is certainly different from using a traditional word processor. In Publisher, a designer handles blocks of text like any other element independently, therefore text can be placed anywhere on the page. Text boxes can be joined together to get text to flow from one to another even if they are on different pages and there is control over the appearance and position of the text.

Publisher being a desktop publishing application certainly has a very text box centric mentality. The templates are pre-designed documents that are really just clever constructs using text boxes placed in appropriate positions to create a typical newsletter, a brochure or a report. This of course means that like Microsoft’s other graphical presentation package Powerpoint, that there is no real learning required, especially when using the products templates. Of course, more experienced designers will want to make their own templates and again they will find this involves manipulation of the building blocks of Publisher, the text box.

Creating a Text Box

A text box is created in exactly the same way as it is in Word, PowerPoint or any other of Microsoft’s Office suite, which is why Publisher seems so intuitive, it’s because it’s the same way of working across all the Office suite products.


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For those though that don’t use Word or PowerPoint, follow these steps:

  1. Click the text box icon on the LHS vertical toolbar
  2. Drag and drop it onto the open page, it can be repositioned later
  3. Type in the text


The text box can be formatted by adding a border or by changing the colors of the background. The borders can be made invisible, and the text reformatted, position and rotated within the margins of the box. This is achieved through the ‘Format’ menu option.

Dividing a Text Box into Columns

To get the overall look of a newspaper or newsletter, the design needs to have columns and this is achieved by splitting the text boxes into columns to achieve that newspaper layout.

To divide a text box into columns, click text box under the Format menu, then click Columns.

When entering text in one column it will flow over into the next. However the alternative way to create columns is simply to create one text box per column, however this way the text is restricted to the individual text box and cannot flow between text boxes.

Continuing a Story on another Page

In newspapers and magazines stories often start on one page and then continuing on another page. To be able to do this in Publisher, there has to be a link created between the two text boxes. This is done as follows

  1. Click on the text box that will be linked from
  2. Then click on the Create Text Box Link
  3. Create the link by clicking on the text box to be linked too
  4. The over flow text will move over to the new text box
  5. The go to Format – Text Box – and then select either continued on or continued from



When the text boxes are linked this way the link remains between them. Should the designer reorder the pages, the text boxes will remain linked even if they are moved to other pages, the link will remain and the page numbers will be auto updated.

Creating and working with text boxes is what Publisher is all about for the beginner starting out in desktop publishing. This article was about Publisher and text boxes, but there is a lot more to publisher than what was covered.

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