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Understanding Object Anchors

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007 and 2010. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Understanding Object Anchors.

Objects can be placed in your document in two ways: either inline or floating. Inline objects are those that reside on the same layer as your text and are positioned within the stream of text that surrounds the object. Floating objects are those that are placed on a layer over the text. The thing that indicates essentially where a floating object is located in relation to the text in your document is referred to as an object anchor.

Object anchors can only be seen in Print Layout view, but even then they are not always visible. In other words, you can control the display of the anchors. If you select a graphic object in your document and you see a boat-anchor icon appear in the left margin of the document, then you know you have the display of object anchors enabled. You can change this setting by following these steps:

  1. Click the Office button and then click Word Options. Word displays the Word Options dialog box.
  2. Click Display at the left side of the dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The display options of the Word Options dialog box.

  4. To view object anchors, make sure the Object Anchors check box is selected.
  5. Click on OK.

Object anchors are used to specify the paragraph with which an object is associated. Why is that important? Because it can affect the positioning of the object within the document. For instance, if you right-click a floating picture and choose Format Picture from the Context menu, you will see the Format Picture dialog box. Display the Layout tab and click the Advanced button and you see a plethora of controls that control the positioning of the picture. One thing you can set is the vertical position of the picture in relation to the paragraph to which it is anchored. Thus, seeing the object anchor helps you to understand the positioning of the picture.

In addition, the Advanced Layout dialog box allows you to select a check box named Lock Anchor. This option causes Word to always paginate your document so that the object (the picture) is always on the same page as the object anchor. This is the best way to ensure that a picture is on the same page as the paragraph that describes what is in the picture.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8229) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Understanding Object Anchors.

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Comments for this tip:

Peter    23 Mar 2014, 14:40
Joann, in recent versions of Word the picture formatting options are accessed through more than one command, so it can be confusing. In my version I access the Layout tab by right clicking on the picture. There are three relevant formatting options (at the bottom of the menu):
Wrap text...
Size and Position...
Format Picture...

Size and Position... will bring up the Layout dialog directly. Note also that if the picture is set to Inline text, the options in the above article will be greyed out. In that case you will need to set your Wrap Text options first.
Joann    21 Mar 2014, 12:58
When I right click on the image, then click on format picture, the context menu does come up, but Layout Tab is not one of the options on it. My only options are: fill, line color, line style, shadow, 3-D format, 3-D rotation, picture and text box.
I'm working in Word 2007.
james    26 Oct 2012, 18:06
how does one anchor a shape object with a line?
Tony    06 Oct 2012, 09:05
Sorry, I don't have any idea what you're talking about either. I want to merge a letter with variable address lines but I want to keep the text below it in the same place however long or short the address. I think I need to use a text box and I assumed an anchor, but I don't know if 'object anchors' or 'floating pictures' are relevant to my query. It seems hard to find an answer to what I want by googling it and I've ended up here! Any help appreciated.
Thanks.
Jon    13 Sep 2012, 14:27
Patrick, right-click on your image to bring up the context menu and then select format picture. From there you will see the Layout Tab. The Advance button is on the lower-right side of the Layout Menu.
Patrick    08 Sep 2012, 16:57
Format Picture from Context menu, Layout Tab, Advance button, don't see any of this stuff anywhere. What are you talking about?!?

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