Section Breaks in Word 2003

In this article we’ll explain what section breaks in Word are, how they work and some nifty purposes that you can put them to.

SECTIONS BREAKS IN WORD

You may have noticed the Insert | Break option in Microsoft Word and wondered what it was for, or worse, tried to use it and got into a horrible mess.

In this issue we’ll explain what section breaks in Word are, how they work and some nifty purposes that you can put them to.


DEM’S DA BREAKS

At Insert | Breaks you’ll find the following options:


Page

This is a standard ‘hard’ Page Break which means that there will a new page at that point, no matter what. A Page Break does not create a new section.


Column

A column break is used when you have a multiple column format. It will force the following text into a new column.


Text Wrapping

Separates text for wrapping around objects.


Continuous

This creates a new section in a document with no change in pagination.


Next

Creates a hard page break and a new section at the same time


Even

Creates a new section and a hard page break with the page number for the first page after the break being the next even numbered page. You would use this when the formatting requires new chapters to start on a certain side of a book.


Odd

Creates a new section and a hard page break with the page number for the first page after the break being the next odd numbered page. You would use this when the formatting requires new chapters to start on a certain side of a book.

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WHAT IS A SECTION?

Enough! I hear you cry – what the dickens is a section anyway?

In Word, a section is an invisible way to break up parts of a document. You can use it to impose formatting changes without a new page.

Why bother?

There are some types of formatting in Word that can only be done on a ‘per section’ basis, section breaks let you mix those formats in a single document – otherwise you’d have to create separate documents and manually put them together.

Most documents only have one section that takes up the entire document.


WHICH SECTION AM I IN?

You can tell which document section you’re in from the status bar in Word (Tools | Options | View | Status Bar) and the item ‘Sec ‘

As you scroll down the document the number will change as you switch between sections.

To see exactly where a section break is in a document, switch to Normal view (View | Normal) – any type of page or section break will show up as a dotted line across the page with text in the middle to tell you what type of break it is (Continuous, Page Break etc).

There are two section breaks that are assumed to exist in every document – one at the very beginning and another at the end. I mention this because I’ve often seen documents with a section break at the very start or end of a document, where they are not really needed.


SECTION NAVIGATION

As well as pages, lines, bookmarks etc, the ‘Go To’ option lets you move between sections of a document.

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USES FOR SECTION BREAKS – SWITCHING ORIENTATION

A common question made to us at Office Watch comedy central is how to have portrait and landscape pages in the one document. Most commonly you want to switch to landscape to display a table, image or chart.

You can do this with section breaks (probably a ‘Next’ break because you need to start on a new page).

Insert a next page break where you want to switch to landscape and other where you want to revert to Portrait mode. Then put your cursor in the middle of the new section (the one you want in Landscape) and go to File | Page Setup and the Margins tab.

Then, and this is vital, change the ‘Applies to’ option to ‘this section’. If you don’t do this your changes will be applied to the entire document.

Finally change the page orientation to Landscape and click OK. You now have a set of Landscape pages in the middle of a Portrait formatted document.

Of course you can reverse this to have some Portrait pages in a Landscape document.

A common situation is a document with some Portrait formatted pages followed by a set of tables or charts in landscape. In this case you only need one section break where the page orientation changes – this will make two sections – from the start of the document to the break and another from that point to the end.

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USES FOR SECTION BREAKS – MULTIPLE COLUMNS

You may want to have a multi-column element in the middle of a single column document.

You can do this by creating a separate section then changing the column formatting of the new section.

Insert a section break where you want to switch column choice and another where you want to revert back. Then put your cursor in the middle of the new section (the one you want with different columns) and go to Format | Columns.

Choose the column formatting you want and make sure the ‘Applies to’ is changed to ‘This section’.

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OTHER USES FOR BREAKS

If you look through the File | Page Setup dialog box you’ll see that many options have the ‘Applies to’ pull-down list. Anywhere there’s a ‘This section’ choice, you can create a separate section and apply formatting to that section alone.

For example you could have a separate section that has line numbering displayed. We sometimes use this for code snippets with line numbers on the left for easy reference.

Section breaks will let you have custom headers / footers, margins, paper types or borders within a single document.

According to Microsoft the following formatting can be controlled on a ‘per section’ basis:



  • Columns
  • Endnotes
  • Footnotes
  • Headers and footers
  • Line numbering
  • Margins
  • Page borders
  • Page numbering
  • Paper orientation
  • Paper size
  • Vertical alignment
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AUTOMATIC SECTION BREAKS

In the Page Format dialog the ‘Applies to’ pull-down list may include ‘this point forward’ as an option. If you choose this, Word creates a continuous section break at the cursor and applies the new formatting from there to the end of the document.


MESSED UP SECTION BREAKS

If your document is behaving strangely, especially weird page breaks or formatting, it’s worth looking at the page / section breaks in Normal view. Over the years we’ve seen some horrible combinations of document breaks that have accidently crept into a document.

Sometimes just removing the excess section breaks will fix the problems.

You can remove a section break by selecting it and deleting it, just like any other element in a document.