Calculating Page Margins

In past newsletters, I’ve sometimes discussed aspects of typesetting in Microsoft Word:

One item I haven’t addressed is how to calculate page margins *for publication,* which is not the same as just clicking File > Page Setup and putting in some numbers. If you needed to set up page margins for a printed book, for example, you’d need to set your margins to accommodate the size of your page and the text block on your page. This is not the same as *paper* size, which we’ll say is 8.5 by 11 inches, a U.S. standard.

Let’s say you want your *page* size (the size of your book) to be 7.5 by 9 inches. Here’s what you’d do:

1. Calculate the margins you’d need to set to obtain the trimmed page size. (If you were using crop marks, this would be the measurement between them and the edge of the paper.)

– For the side margins, 8.5 minus 7.5 equals 1 inch. Divide that inch in half because, by golly, you have two side margins. That gives you a margin of .5 inch on each side of the page.

– For the top and bottom margins, 11 minus 9 equals 2 inches, divided in half equals a 1-inch margin for top and bottom.

2. Calculate the space from the edges of your *text block* to the top, bottom, and sides of your page. For convenience, let’s say you’re going to have 1 inch all around, but you could make those measurements anything you wanted. If it’s 1 inch, then you’d just add 1 inch to the side margins, making 1.5 inches for each, and 1 inch to the top and bottom margins, making 2 inches for each.

4. Finally, click File > Page Setup and set your margins according to your calculations: side margins should be 1.5 inches, and top and bottom margins should be 2 inches.

Now when you type in your text, you’ll get a text block of, let’s see, 8.5 – (1.5 + 1.5) = 5.5 inches wide, and 11 – (2 + 2) = 7 inches high.

Depicted graphically (sort of), here’s what we’ve created:


| ————- |

| | ——— | |

| | | xxx xxxx| | |

| | |xx xxx xx| | |

| | |xxx x xxx| | |

| | |x xx xxxx| | |

| | | xxxx xxx| | |

| | |xx xxx xx| | |

| | |xxx x xxx| | |

| | ——— | |

| ————- |


The smallest box, in the middle, is the text block, 5.5 by 7 inches.

Out from that is the trim size (page size), 7.5 by 9 inches.

And the outside border, of course, is the paper size, 8.5 by 11 inches.

You can adjust the position of header and footer on the page by modifying their paragraph style to include space before and after as needed.

If you need to add crop marks, you should check out our WordSetter program, which will create them for you–yes, even in Microsoft Word:

Thanks to Dorian Cougias for suggesting this topic.



Autoformatting in Tables

Steve Hudson wrote:

You cannot add new table types to the Table Autoformat list, nor can you edit existing ones.

HOWEVER, you *can* get many more autoformat layouts by setting various properties of the autoformat to FALSE. For example, setting them all to false for table style normal gives you an invisible (borderless) table. By using grid with no first column, font changes, or first row, you get a nice boxed grid. You can also set the default line width for tables as well.

Anything more complex has to be handled by first inserting a table and then styling it up via macro. Ninety-nine out of a hundred times, this is accomplished by styling the table, then styling the first row, then styling the first column.

In Word XP we get table styles (they are making styles even more abominable by giving us different flavours), so I am guessing it MAY be possible to set autoformats of your own to a greater degree. Until they work properly however, I ain’t investigating them.

An extract from my Word Spellbook (available from

Auto-formatting or custom default tables (Word 2000)

Highly specialized custom formats are difficult (when not impossible) to do. Very simple formats are somewhat easier and more likely to succeed. If you are prepared to bend your style guide to what is possible and what is not, you can get some satisfactory automatic results without having to resort to macros.

You can also just use Autotext entries to store a pre-formatted table in–you can drag these Autotext entries onto a menu if required.

As a quick aside, when dealing programmatically with tables, there are two subtle tricks. One is the .range.cells(n) object that serializes all the cells in the selected range. This tables(1).range.cells(k) is an easier way to address the collection. Secondly, you can do groovy table stuff via the selection object that you can’t via a range . . .

Back to the plot. Inspect the Insert Table > AutoFormat dialog. To get all your tables inserted with invisible borders, select the simple 1 format and CLEAR all the little checkboxes. Viola! Problem solved.

Whatever rows and columns I give it will be the default that is used from there on in when I tick “Use this as the default style.”

To extend this concept, you are NOT limited to JUST the formats presented. You can also use just parts of them! We did this above and used NO PARTS to give us NO styling–or an auto-invisible table.

For example, many people could get away with Grid 5 with the font option cleared to make themselves a nice grid.


Rob Little wrote:

First, in 2002, any new table style becomes a table autoformat (it shows up in the table autoformat dialog).

Second, as for basing your table style on an empty style, use “Table Normal.” Table normal is statically defined (like “Default Paragraph Font” for character styles) and cannot be changed by any user. (This is different than the “Normal” paragraph style which can be edited by users). “Table Grid” is the default table style because it includes a Grid border (among other things).

Here are a couple of things to know about table styles:

* Table styles cannot define “structural” elements of a table (merging of cells, etc). This means they cannot define the width of cells or the height of rows (changing the width of cells from row to row implicitly merges cells, for example).

* All table autoformats in Word 2002 are Table Styles and can be customized by the user. (New styles can be based on them, too.) Conversely, this means that anything you see done in the table autoformats can be built from scratch through the table styles user interface.

* Table styles define character, paragraph, and table/cell/row properties. These properties are evaluated *before* the paragraph style’s properties (order of calculation is TableStyle + ParaStyle + CharStyle + DirectFormatting = Calculated Properties). For example: If your table style defines the “Whole Table” as being “Arial,” then you’ll see “Arial.” If you apply a paragraph style that applies “Courier,” then “Arial” + “Courier” = “Courier” (because the paragraph style wins).

* When you apply a table style, the character and paragraph properties of the table are *not* reset. This is different than paragraph styles, which reset the character properties of the paragraph before applying the paragraph (with some exceptions). So, if you have a table which has a lot of direct character/paragraph formatting (for example, fonts, sizes, justification, and so on), and you apply a Table Style (or Table Autoformat), that direct formatting will still be there (and will beat any table style properties). If you want to get rid of that direct formatting, select the table and choose Edit/Clear/Formats (or click Clear Formatting on the Styles and Formatting taskpane). This will reset the table contents to just the table style. (You can clear formatting before or after applying the table style; it makes no difference.)

* When you use the “Applies to” part of table styles (this is used in almost all autoformats), you are telling Word to run a set of rules against your table when it applies formatting. For example, if you tell it to format the “First Row” with bold text, then every time the table changes, Word makes sure to format the first row with bold text–even if a new first row is inserted. In Word 2000 and before, the table autoformats were “static”–once the last row (for example) was formatted, if you inserted a new last row, you would end up with 2 rows looking like the last row. In 2002, the last row recalculates, and you get just one last row. This allows things like banding (every other row shaded, for example).

* There is a delicate interaction between table styles and the Normal style. Recall that the paragraph style is applied on top of the table style. This means that any formatting you have in your Normal style will almost always override your table style formatting (I say almost because not *all* styles are based on “Normal”). For example: If your Normal style has “Arial” in it, and you apply a table style that defines “Courier,” you will see Arial. The paragraph style wins. There is a way around this, but it would take some space to explain, so I’ll provide the solution if people ask for it (or I could leave it as an exercise for the reader). Are there really people still reading at this point?

* Because of the interaction between the Normal style and table styles, there is an even more delicate interaction with font sizes. First, you just plain can’t force the table to use 10-point text. If you set the table style to 10 points, it won’t apply it. I really don’t want to try to explain why.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I think everything above is accurate, but it’s late and its entirely possible that I flubbed something up. Feel free to send me comments or corrections and I’ll incorporate them.

Thanks to Steve and Rob for all of this useful information.



I recently changed my Web browser’s home page from Google to Why? Because Refdesk includes a Google search box *and* a bunch of useful references that I’ve already had occasion to use in editing. Maybe you’ll find it helpful too:

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