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Text Boundaries Display in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word has long had the option of displaying the page margins as "text boundaries." Here is a screenshot from Word 97 with them displayed and with the option dialog that turns display on or off:

Note that the Horizontal and Vertical Rulers also display the margins, but this is not quite as intuitive for many users. Here are two screenshots of the same document in Word 2010 with Text Boundaries displayed and not displayed:

 

 

Many Word users use this feature to tell them, at a glance, where their page margins are. Personally, I found them distracting and simply used the Rulers.

However, the designers at Microsoft were apparently unaware that these dotted lines were even being used for this purpose and changed their text layout engine in Word. This changed the display of these dotted lines to a paragraph boundary rather than a page boundary. There is no way to change this display in Word 2013 and it is highly unlikely that it will be changed back.

As reported by Suzanne Barnhill and others, Microsoft's take on this is that text boundaries are "a feature that was never supposed to be a feature," "a window into the internals of word" that should probably never have been exposed to users.

The feature "just draws a border around [Word's] internal drawing rectangles," and those have now changed with the switch to a hardware-accelerated display. So Word "is doing precisely what it has always done (drawing borders around internal data structures). Unfortunately, this means that scenarios that used to work accidentally now don’t work the same way. There’s really no way to bring back the old functionality – it truly doesn’t exist."

If the document in Word 2013/365 is opened in compatibility mode the boundaries revert to the previous display. For those interested, here is a link to discussions of this change:

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/office_2013_release-word/how-to-expand-text-boundaries-in-word-2013/bac7738a-7566-4b23-9fb8-d3156fca2c3b?page=1&tm=1395665485247

 

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