Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Finally: A Solution for Creating Letterhead Templates in (the dreaded) Word

I'm not big into doing tutorials... I think they're great; just not real interested in investing the time. However, this issue has been the bane of my professional design existence for years. Thus, the following tutorial: Creating Letterhead Templates in Microsoft (blah... sigh) Word.

AAAAHHHHH! Run for your lives?! There has to be a way to disable this visual menu view. 

Allow me to begin with a quick aside to set the stage: I cannot express my utter disdain for this program. It's really not meant for design... just typing a simple letter or maybe a term paper. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, Microsoft impresses yet again... the 2003+ versions have the most complicated, illogical user interface system known to man. Now, even though I know what I'm looking for (only from years of epic clashes with the program), I have to figure out visually where the item may reside and then crack the code of the UI designer's thinking for what a visual representation of that item may look like. In other words, instead of using the drop-down menus at the top like every other program known to man, Word has decided to be edgy and create a visual, icon based one. Sigh... enough with the ranting, on with the tutorial.

You may wonder, what kind of designer works in Word? Well, any one who has to interact with the rest of the non-design world. Clients as well as my in-house colleagues all use Word (or PPT... or worse yet, Publisher) to create any and every document. It's the only program that they have readily available to them. It's a necessary evil for their many day-to-day flyer/info-dissemination needs that I've come to terms with.

The problem is when you try to get Word to act like a design program. The biggest and most frequent situation is when creating an electronic letterhead for a stationary package. I'm thrilled to share with you a tutorial that helped me to create Letterheads in Word without any buggy issues?!

I've deviated a bit from this tutorial to create a process that worked well for me. It is still a huge pain but the following outlines what I did to get a letterhead template to work. (Note: I created the original document on a PC. Gasp?!, right? Nope, get over it, die-hard designers. Most of the people who will ever use these templates are using PCs and the Mac version of the program puts extra bugs in the Docs to further complicate the process.)

  • Export letterhead as PDF (press-quality)

  • Open PDF in Photoshop (300 dpi) and duplicate so you have two
  • Crop the page down to only include the graphics that you need... one for header image / one for footer image
    (Note: in this letterhead instance I just created, the only graphics I needed were a header at the top 1.5" and a footer at the bottom 1"... overall, it saves on file size so that your Word docs aren't huge when you imsert the images) 
  • Do not flatten, 'Save for Web', select PNG-8 (make sure 'transparency' is selected)

  • In Word doc, File > Page Setup > Margins Tab: if different first and second page, set doc margins to the sizes you'll need for second page of letterhead); Layout Tab: select 'Different First Page' 
  • View > Headers/Footers
  • In Header, Insert > Picture from File, select PNG
  • Right click image, click 'Format Picture' > Size Tab: change scale to 32%; Wrapping Tab: select 'Behind Text' then click 'Advanced' and change absolute positioning (for top, horizontal is 0" to Page and vertical is 0" to Page)
    (Note: in Word 2003 or newer, there are separate menu items when you right click (blah)... select 'Size' to change scale to 32%; select 'Text Wrapping' and then select 'More Layout Options' to change the 'Text Wrapping' to behind and 'Picture Position' to absolute) 
  • In Footer, repeat same steps as above to insert and format PNG. I set the vertical absolute positioning for the footer image to 10.1" to Page and it worked for a 1" tall image.
  • If 1st page is supposed to have a larger 'top margin' to accommodate logo, double click on header to edit and enter several Returns. You'll have to guestimate but by adding the returns, the header box increases and it determines where the body copy will begin.  
  • If different second page: In normal view (outside of headers/footers), 'Control or Apple + Enter keys' to get down to the second page. Repeat steps to insert/format PNGs for header & footer. 
Note: Headers/footers in Word are always screened when the user enters body copy (I haven't found a way to change that yet). However, when printing or saving as a PDF, the headers/footer images will appear normal (not screened). Having the letterhead images in the headers/footers keeps the users from ever accidentally moving the images when clicking around the body copy... just inform them to not mess with the headers/footers too much to avoid altering the template. It is possible to also have text over top of the images in the header, if you need to add page numbers for instance.

In the recent letterhead I created, the PNG images were something ridiculously small like 10Kb, so the Word file remains super small as well.

Hope this helps for future Word letterhead creation; making it a little less dreadful -- at least in this one instance:)

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