An Unruly Ruler

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated March 25, 2020)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Most people who do a lot of work with Word utilize the horizontal ruler that appears just below the toolbar at the top of your document. You may not know it, but the behavior of the ruler is fairly complex, and is affected by several settings in Word.

You can control the availability of the ruler by using the Ruler option on the View menu. When this option is selected, the ruler is visible most of the time. In reality, the ruler is only displayed in Normal, Page Layout (Word 97), Print Layout (Word 2000 and later), and Web Layout (Word 2000 and later) views. It is also visible if the Document Map is turned on. The ruler is not visible if you are using the Outline or Master Document views.

Even with the ruler turned off, it may still be available to you. This availability is controlled by a rather obscure setting in Word. Select Options from the Tools menu, then make sure the General tab is selected. If the Provide Feedback with Animation check box is selected, the ruler is available even when turned off—at least in some of the views.

What happens is that with the ruler turned off (again, from the View menu), it "rolls up" to a thin gray line that appears just below the toolbar. If you position the mouse pointer over the gray line for a short period of time (about the time it takes to normally display a Tool Tip), the ruler becomes visible. When you subsequently move the mouse pointer away from the ruler, it rolls back up to the thin gray line.

This behavior of the rolled-up ruler is available in Normal, Web Layout (Word 2000 and later), Page Layout (Word 97), and Print Layout (Word 2000 and later) views. It is also available with the Document Map turned on. It is not available in Outline or Master Document view.

Online Layout view, which is available only in Word 97, is a bit different. If you have Provide Feedback with Animation selected, the ruler always appears as a thin gray line, even if it is selected on the View menu. If the Provide Feedback with Animation option is not selected, then the ruler is not displayed, even if it is selected on the View menu.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1362) 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. ...

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