Office 2007: Building Word Docs With Building Blocks

Friday May 30th 2008 by Helen Bradley

This article reveals a handy new tool in Word 2007 that makes it easy to quickly add professional formatting options such as cover pages and headers and footers into your documents.

One of the new features of Microsoft Word 2007 is its Building Blocks tool. On the face of it this looks like a simple tool for storing repeatedly used text and adding this text to your document.

While at one level this is the case, at another level building blocks are a lot more sophisticated than they might first appear. Word's own Building Blocks contain some smart content creation options that make it easier than ever for you to create and format your documents. Let's take a closer look.

» Built-In Building Blocks

If you've worked with Word 2007, you might be familiar with the new cover pages and fancy headers and footers. These are building blocks and they are just some of the handy items you can use to build and finish your Word documents.

Using them is as simple as clicking the Insert tab on the ribbon, next clicking the Cover Page option (for example), and then selecting a cover page for your document. Each cover page has a name that describes its style — remember this as you can coordinate other building blocks with it.

Even if you are not positioned at the beginning of the document when you select your cover page it will be placed at the beginning of the document because that's the logical place for it to appear. If you change your mind and select a different cover page the existing one will be removed and the new one will replace it. As you can see, building blocks are pretty intelligent.

Once you've added your cover page, you can add a header and footer to the document. Click in the first text page of your document and, for example, choose Insert > Footer and select a footer for your document that has the same style name as the cover page. You can also add a header in a similar way. While you don't have to use the same style of header and footer as you used for the cover page it makes better sense if you do so because they are designed to match.

On the cover page and in the header and footer you have inserted you will see there are prompts to type information such as the title of the document and the year. When you click and type the text you will find that anywhere that prompt appeared in any of the building blocks, your text will appear.

You may also find that some information already appears in the building block page (such as your name). This text is inserted based on information that Word knows about you. To see what this is and edit it if necessary, choose the Office button, and click Prepare, Properties.

Building blocks are also linked to the current document theme, so if you choose the Page Layout tab on the Ribbon and change the Theme, the look of the cover page and any building block elements will change to match the color and font style of that theme.

In addition, the building block elements are smart enough to adjust to different page layouts. So, if you click the Page Layout tab on the ribbon and change the orientation of the document from Portrait to Landscape, or vice versa, the cover page and other building block elements will resize automatically to fit the new page dimensions.

One other handy building block type that comes with Word is the textbox building block. There are two types of each style, one of which is a quote and the other is a sidebar. You can use these to place pull quotes and sidebar text in your documents that reflect the overall style of the rest of the document.

» DIY Building Blocks

If building blocks were limited to just these elements that Word 2007 provides you with, they would be very useful indeed. There is more to the feature, however, and you can create your own building blocks which Word somewhat confusingly calls both Quick Parts and Building blocks. Any piece of text or image that you use frequently can be created as a quick part and added to a document very quickly.

To make a quick part element, first create and format the text as you want it to look every time you insert it into a document and from the Insert tab select the Quick Parts dropdown list. Click the Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery option. Type a name for the Building Block — this will be what you will click on to select it and to add it to your document so make it self explanatory.

Select the Gallery to attach the building block to. This will typically be the Quick Parts gallery. You then select the Category of building block — everything can be saved to the General category or you can create subcategories by clicking the Create New Category option and type a new category name. Using Categories to organize the building blocks makes sense if you're going to create a lot of building blocks and if they logically fall into categories such as images, legal content, and so forth.

Type a description for the building block if it is necessary to identify what it is and leave the Save In option set to buildingblocks.dotx as this is where Word expects your building blocks to be stored.

In the Options area, select whether you want the building block content to appear in line with the text, as a new paragraph, or as a new page when it is inserted into the document. Then OK to create your building block.

Building blocks are stored in such a way that they are available to all Word documents you create. So, to insert a building block into any Word document, click in the position in the document where the building block text or image is to appear, choose Insert and Quick Parts.

In the dialog you can click the building block to insert if it appears in the list or click the Building Blocks Organizer to gain access to all the building blocks available for use. In the Organizer you can order the building blocks by name, gallery, category, or template name to make them easier to find.

Click to select the one to add to your document and click the Insert button to insert it into the document.

As you can see, building blocks can make it easy for your to insert text and images that you use frequently into your documents and they can make it easy to add professional formatting options such as cover pages and headers and footers into your documents.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. She blogs at

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