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.

Understanding Object Anchors

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 12, 2014)

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.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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