Understanding Frames and Text Boxes

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated April 10, 2021)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


If you are a relatively new user of Word, you may not be familiar with the term frame. Prior to Word 95, the only way to place boxed text in a document, independent of the main document text, was to use a frame. In Word 97, Microsoft made the switch and focused almost exclusively on text boxes. In modern versions of Word, if you want to insert a frame, you need to either customize your toolbars or go through a rather convoluted process. This is described in a previous issue of WordTips.

The relationship between frames and text boxes may be confusing to some people. Why, for instance, should one be used in preference to the other? If text boxes are the latest-and-greatest thing, then why didn't Microsoft simply make frames more robust rather than come out with text boxes in addition to frames?

According to Microsoft sources, even though frames continue to be available in the latest versions of Word, in most cases you should use a text box in preference to a frame. Text boxes provide nearly all the advantages of frames, along with many additional advantages. For example, text boxes allow you to do the following, which cannot be done directly with frames:

  • Create links that allow text to flow from one text box to another.
  • Create watermarks.
  • Use most of the formatting options on the Drawing toolbar, including 3-D effects, shadows, border styles, colors, fills, and backgrounds.
  • Select from a greater variety of text-wrapping options.
  • Change the orientation of text within a text box.
  • Group text boxes together and collectively change their alignment or distribution.

This is not to say that text boxes are suitable for all uses. Indeed, text boxes cannot handle some Word features, which are available in frames. You should use frames if you want to use text that contains the following:

  • Comments (annotations).
  • Footnotes.
  • Some fields, such as AutoNum, AutoNumLgl, AutoNumOut, TC, TOC, RD, XE, TA, and TOA.

The upshot of all this is that you need to carefully consider how you will be using your frames or text boxes in order to determine which is the best for you. If you are still in doubt, you can always start with a text box and later convert it to a frame, if you discover you can't do what you want.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1055) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Protecting Print Settings

Need to have your print settings always be a certain way? Tired of resetting the settings after others use the workbook ...

Discover More

Changing ToolTips for a Macro Button

Want to change the ToolTip that appears when you hover the mouse over a button on a toolbar? It's a bit more involved ...

Discover More

Item Not Available in Library

When sharing workbooks with others, you may find that the macros in those workbooks may not work as you expect. This tip ...

Discover More

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!

More WordTips (menu)

Wrapping Text Around a Text Box or Frame

Text boxes and frames can be used for all sorts of information and objects in a document. You can wrap text around the ...

Discover More

Automatically Adjusting Height for Text Boxes

Text boxes are often used to enhance the layout of documents. You may want a text box that adjusts its height ...

Discover More

Finding Text Boxes

Need to search for various text boxes in your document? It's easy to do with the handy macro provided in this tip.

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is two more than 9?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the menu interface (Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, or Word 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Videos
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.