Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Selecting a Graphic Behind a Text Box.

Selecting a Graphic Behind a Text Box

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated August 7, 2021)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


You can overlay graphics and text boxes in a document. This can lead to problems in easily selecting objects, however. For instance, if you place a graphic in your document and then place a text box over the top of it, the graphic is essentially "hidden" by the text box, even if you can see the graphic through the text box. You then cannot directly click on the graphic to select it.

There are several things you can do to select the "hidden" graphic. The answers depend, in part, on how the graphic was inserted in your document.

The first way to select the graphic is to simply select the text box and send it behind the graphic. Right-click the text box, then choose Order, and Send to Back. (If the graphic is inline with the text, you will need to choose Send Behind Text.) You can then click on the graphic to select it. When you are done, again right-click on the text box, choose Order, and Bring to Front (or Bring In Front of Text).

If the graphic is floating over the text, not inline, and it is markedly smaller than the text box that obscures it, you can click the Select Objects arrow on the Drawing toolbar and draw a selection box that encompasses the graphic but not the text box. Once the arrow is active, click the mouse somewhere outside the bounds of the text box. Hold down the mouse button as you drag to "surround" the graphic, but without surrounding the text box. When you let go of the mouse button, the graphic should be selected.

Another way to select the obscured graphic (if it is floating over the text) is to use the Tab or Ctrl+Tab keys. If you have an object selected—such as the text box—and you press either of these keys, then the next object in the document is selected. If the text box and the graphic are the only objects, then the keys cycle between the two.

You should note that the Tab or Ctrl+Tab method only works if you start with the text box selected. If the insertion point is visible in the text box, then the text box itself is not selected. To select the text box, you need to click the border of the text box, and the insertion point disappears. If you press Tab or Ctrl+Tab while the insertion point is visible in the text box, then you only modify the text in the text box; you don't select the next object.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (3806) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Selecting a Graphic Behind a Text Box.

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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