Create Custom Headers and Footers in Word 2007

Wednesday Aug 13th 2008 by Helen Bradley

Tapping into the new document properties and content controls in Word 2007 generates some very sharp-looking professional building blocks.

While Word 2007 ships with a swag of handy Quick Parts for creating great-looking headers and footers in your documents, sometimes these don't look exactly as you want them to look. With the new tools available in Word 2007 you can create custom headers and footers for your documents that function in the same way that other Quick Parts behave and that insert document properties automatically for you.

If you haven't previously used Quick Parts to build intelligent documents in Word 2007, check out my earlier tutorial on Exploring Office 2007: Building Word Docs Using Building Blocks. There you'll learn how Building Blocks (aka Quick Parts) work and how you can create your own building block content. In this article we'll take the process one step further and tap into the document properties and content controls new to Word 2007 to make some very sharp-looking building blocks.

» Step 1: Create a Simple Header

To get started creating your own custom header open a document in Word 2007 and double click in the header area in the page margin at the very top of the page. The screen should change slightly, positioning you in the header area and displaying a blue dashed line and a header tab.

You can create your own custom header content by typing the text that you want in the top of the document. When you're done, click in the document itself to return to working on the document.

The content you type can be regular text or, if the content already exists in the document's properties, you can insert this content automatically so you don't have to type it manually. A side benefit of this is that if the document property value changes, the content in the header will too.

To add the document author, for example, from the ribbon select Insert > Quick Parts > Document Property and select the Author document property. The author name will be inserted automatically into your header.

If the document property for Author or any other property you want to use is not yet complete, the field will contain the property name. Later on you can double click the field in the header and type the information and it will be added automatically to the header and linked to the relevant document property too. For now leave the prompt there so you can save your header as a usable template.

Later on you can also complete the document properties from a special dialog by clicking the Office button and choosing Prepare > Properties. The Document Properties pane will appear across the top of the document and you can complete the listed values. Click the Document Properties' down-pointing arrow and choose Advanced Properties to access additional document properties.

To save the header you've created, double click in the header area and select the content that you have inserted. Choose Insert > Quick Parts and select the Save Selection to Quick Parts Gallery option. From the Gallery dropdown list choose Header, type a description, if desired, and click OK.

Your new header is now saved to the Quick Parts Gallery and available for use at any time. So, for example, to add your Header to a document, choose Insert > Header and select the header you just saved from the Header list. You can create custom footers the same way, just save the content to the Footer Gallery.

» More Complex Solutions

Consider the situation where you want to prepare a header that will prompt the user to enter text other than text that exists as a document property. In this case, you need a content control with a prompt to the user for the text to enter.

To create a control, choose the Developer tab on the ribbon and click Design mode. If the Developer tab isn't visible, click the Office button and choose Word Options > Popular category and select the Show Developer tab in the ribbon checkbox. With Design mode selected you'll be able to see the elements included in Word's own headers and to add your own.

For example, to include a custom text area, click where the entry should appear and select the Rich Text control from the Developer tab. To prompt the user for the text to appear in this position, between the markers type a prompt indicating the information they should insert.

To make these prompts look like Word's own prompts, type them inside a set of square brackets. These prompts provide a visible placeholder for your user so they will see the field and know what should appear here.

Each content control, whether you put it there or Word does, is positioned on the page using an alignment option or positioned inside a table cell. You can change the alignment of a control by selecting it and then, from the Home tab, choosing an alternate alignment option such as Left, Right, or Center, or you can adjust the table cell dimensions.

Lines above and below objects in the header are created using borders around paragraphs or, if the header content is in a table they are applied using table borders. To change the line style or to delete a line, select the content control that has the line attached to it and from the Home tab select the Borders dropdown list to create or configure the desired border style and color.

If the content is in a table, configure the table borders instead. If you use colors to format lines and text that are Theme colors they will later change if the theme itself is changed.

Another handy content control you can use is the Date Picker, which you'll find in the Controls area on the Developer tab. Add one to your header and then select it and choose Properties to configure how the date will look when inserted into the document.

Later on, when you actually use the header, you can click the date picker and select a date to insert into the header from a small calendar display.

When you've finished creating or editing your header, return to the Developer tab and disable Design mode. You can then select and save the customized header as a header in the Quick Parts Gallery for use later on.

Creating smart headers and footers and other content for your documents using the new Word content controls is an easy process. When you use these you'll get more professional-looking documents and the ability to create interfaces that source already existing data where it is available.

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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