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Understanding Object Anchors

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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.

If you click an object so that it is selected, and if the object is truly a floating object, and if you are looking at the document in Print Layout view, then you can possibly see the object anchor on the screen. (That's a lot of "ifs," I know.) (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. An object anchor shows up as a small boat anchor.

I say "possibly" because object anchors are not always visible. In other words, you can control the display of the anchors. (More on that in a moment.) 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. If you select an inline object, then there is no object anchor to see. Why? Because inline objects are anchored to the place within the text where they were inserted. In other words, they are treated like any other character in the text itself.

If you want, you can modify whether Word displays object anchors or not. You can change this setting by following these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and Word 2013 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click Display at the left side of the dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  3. Figure 2. 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. In order to see how this works, you need to display the settings that allow you to position the object. Follow these steps if you are using Word 2007 or Word 2010:

  1. Right-click a floating object. Word displays a Context menu for that object.
  2. Choose the Format Picture option. Word displays the Format Picture dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Layout tab is selected.
  4. Click the Advanced button. Word displays the Advanced Layout dialog box.

If you are using Word 2013, then the steps are a bit different because Word uses different Context menus:

  1. Right-click a floating object. Word displays a Context menu for that object.
  2. Choose the Size and Position option. Word displays Layout dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Position tab is selected. (See Figure 3.)
  4. Figure 3. The Position tab of the Layout dialog box.

Note that these steps will only work if you are working with a floating object; again, inline objects don't allow you to adjust their positioning relative to an object anchor. (Object anchors only exist for floating objects.)

Regardless of the version of Word you are using, the dialog box you see includes a plethora of controls that specify 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 (Word 2007 and Word 2010) and the Layout dialog box (Word 2013) allow you to select a check box named Lock Anchor. This option causes Word to 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 floating 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, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Understanding Object Anchors.

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The First and Last Word on Word! Bestselling For Dummies author Dan Gookin puts his usual fun and friendly candor back to work to show you how to navigate Word 2013. Spend more time working and less time trying to figure it all out! Check out Word 2013 For Dummies today!

 

Comments for this tip:

Jonathan    28 Jul 2015, 18:22
I am trying to layout a book with figures in the outside margins. It is very important to me to have the top each figure align to the line where the anchor is.

This works just fine, except when the anchor is near the bottom of the page, then my figures float into the vertical margins.

I can keep from having my figures overlap, but how to keep them from going into the margins?

Ideally if the bottom of the figure is below the text line, it would align it to the bottom margin rather than the line, without my having to manually change it.

Can that be done?
Ken Endacott    02 Jul 2015, 07:27
Tom,
Google "Delete all images from Word"

The best method is to use Find & Replace with the special Find "Graphic"
tom roberts    01 Jul 2015, 18:16
Hi - does anyone know if it's possible to select all images in a document and remove them at once? my images are all floating below the text. i have to hit SELECT, SELECT OBJECTS and delete them individually. really a waste of time. thanks. tom
Kristin C    30 Jun 2015, 00:31
Hi there,

Thanks for the helpful article. I was wondering if it helps to align to margin rather than paragraph and column?

Thanks, Kristin
Harry Audus    16 Jun 2015, 07:41
Of course! Thanks again, Ken. The combination of your advice and my own playing around resolved the problem. I'm no more enamoured of the anchor and its mysterious behaviour, however.
Ken Endacott    11 Jun 2015, 05:55
I realise that there is an very easy way to solve Harry's problem of aligning an in-line image.

1. Select the image and the space alongside.
2. Right click the selection and select font.
3. In the advanced tab click the Position drop down box and select Lowered
4. Enter the number of points to drop down.
Harry    05 Jun 2015, 05:36
Thanks again, Ken. I will try out your method and download the tool.
Ken Endacott    04 Jun 2015, 20:32
A floating image is word wrapped and cannot be inserted into the middle of a word. A work around is to break the word into two with a space and adjust the image's left and right text spacing.
Ken Endacott    04 Jun 2015, 20:04
You can get the effect that you want by:
1. Convert the image from in-line to floating
2. Set wrapping style to Text around Shape
3. Set horizontal anchoring to character. Make sure that the vertical anchoring is to paragraph. Drag the anchor symbol to the character you want to anchor to.
4. Set the text spacing left and right to 1 point each.
5. Drag the image so that it is positioned where you want it relative to the anchor character. Because of the fine moves, probably best done at a zoom of 200%.

With Word's menu structure, all this becomes very tedious. However there is a free tool that makes it easy. See:

http://www.editordie.com.au/editorkae/shapes.html
Harry    04 Jun 2015, 06:42
Thanks, Ken. The way an image and its anchor are positioned is clearly rather dysfunctional, e.g. "the anchor moves in some mysterious fashion". I'm usually content to align images in line with text, but I recently wanted to put a very small image in a sentence. I used "in line with text", which located the image in the right place horizontally, but I wasn't happy with the vertical placement. The problem was that, with "in line with text", the bottom edge of the image is always aligned with the the text line. I really wanted to move the image down a bit while keeping it in the same place in the sentence. There doesn't seem to be any way to do this.
Any ideas?
Ken Endacott    03 Jun 2015, 08:38
The anchor symbol does not tell much about a shape's anchoring. For that you need to right click the shape and select More Layout Options. Understanding anchoring helps explain why shapes move around when changes are made to the document. As can happen, two shapes on a page may move differently when document changes are made, because they have different anchoring setups

Anyway, here are the anchoring options and where the anchor symbol is positioned.

Horizontal anchor point:
Page. The shape's offset is from the left hand paper edge. The anchor symbol is in the left hand margin.
Margin. Offset from the left hand margin. If the margin is changed then the shape moves with the margin. The anchor symbol is in the left hand margin.
Column. Offset from the column boundary. The anchor symbol is in the white space to the left of the column. The offset can place the shape in another column to the anchor column.
Character. Offset from a particular character with the anchor symbol at that character. Note that this does not give the same result as an in-line shape.

Vertical anchor point:
Paragraph. Vertically offset from the first line of a paragraph. If that paragraph moves down then the shape moves with it. Dragging the shape up or down may cause the anchor to switch to another paragraph unless the anchor is locked.
Line. Offset from a particular line in a paragraph. The anchor symbol is adjacent to that line. If text is added to or removed from the paragraph before that line then the anchor moves in some mysterious fashion and the shape moves with it.
Page. Offset from the top edge of the paper. However the anchor symbol is at the top of the nearest paragraph. If the paragraphs move down the position of the shape remains at the same place on the page but the anchor symbol may switch to another (nearest) paragraph even though the offset is still to the page.
Margin. Similar to Page except the offset is from the top margin. The shape will move vertically if the top margin is moved.
Harry    03 Jun 2015, 00:08
Given that the object anchor is fixed at the start of a paragraph, what then is the difference between "relative to paragraph" and "relative to character" (assuming that the word "character" means the anchor symbol)?

More generally, what are the definitions of all these things that the object can be aligned to or relative to (i.e. margin, page, left margin, character, etc)?
Ken Endacott    20 May 2015, 08:13
rpederso
If the object is anchored to a paragraph then with Lock anchor off, the offsets from the anchor are automatically adjusted when the object is dragged vertically until it is moved close to the next paragraph at which stage the anchor changes to the next paragraph and offsets are re-adjusted.

Th same applies to anchoring to a line. Anchoring to a page or margin operates in a similar way.

If Lock anchor is on then the anchor is unchanged no matter how far the object is dragged and you cannot drag the anchor itself.

Lock anchor is most useful where there is a drawing comprising several objects and it is desirable that they all remain anchored to the same paragraph or line.
Paul Bouscaren    19 May 2015, 12:46
The most helpful part of this tip is what was not stated (or maybe I missed it): Once the anchor is visible, you can then 'kedge' the document to where you want it. Now, 'kedge' is a nautical term which means to move the anchor in order to reposition the vessel...
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BevSDC    12 May 2015, 13:31
Very helpful article. Selecting "Lock anchor" while using Vertical Absolute position below Page allowed the text box to appear at a specific position on the last page.
rpederso    30 Apr 2015, 15:39
Just to know what "Lock Anchor" does was helpful to me. No place to be rude, Stephen and Pat.
Edina    30 Apr 2015, 04:41
Well this helped me :) Thank you!
awyatt    22 Apr 2015, 14:29
Thanks for the kind words, Cliff.

It is hard to help people like Stephen when they give no idea of what they expected. "Microsoft jargon" is not a bad thing if one learns from it. It is, after all, Microsoft's program, and they can use whatever "jargon" they like to describe how their program works. I write with the intent of helping people understand how the pieces and parts of that program work.

Pat: Object anchors don't affect layout at all. As the tip points out, they only indicate the paragraph to which a floating object is "attached" in your document. If you want to get rid of them (as you imply), the only way to do so is to either delete your floating objects or convert them to inline objects.

-Allen
Cliff Pitt    22 Apr 2015, 13:59
Comments like "this tip is totally useless" or "Duh!" are not only rude they are discouraging to the writer. Stephen and PAT, I'm sure you hear those comments about your work often, but there's no reason to take it out on someone who is trying to help you.
PAT    17 Apr 2015, 13:02
I agree. Not much use here. The reason why most people check this page out is to GET RID OF THE DARN THINGS and find out how the results impact your layout. Duh! (IMO)
Stephen Mosley    13 Mar 2015, 13:26
This tip is totally useless. More Microsoft jargon and no real help. A waste of time.
Marks PC Solution    21 Jul 2014, 12:26
When I choose Print Layout View in Office 2013, every line shows a border. I mean horizontal lines.

Is there any way to get rid of it please?
K.Vee.Shanker.    15 Jul 2014, 05:05
I've been using a lot of screenshots in our company's docs. I want to change the options in Layout Window some times, as I position small icon images in sentences. Then, it would be helpful to have the option 'Allow Overlap' be deselected for inline position to avoid the overlap between icon and the text around it. Word doesn't allow this. I change the position option to another, say 'Square' or 'Tight' to deselect it. But, Word reselects the option once I go back to Inline. Is there a way around?

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