Word 2004: Needs a ‘Keep With Previous’ option

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
August 7th, 2004 • 4:30 am

The so-called “Keep” options available in Word 2004 (and in other word processors and page layout programs, including Adobe InDesign) are very important, because they let you control — to a certain extent — the way your text flows across several pages or columns without having to use ugly tricks such as forced manual column breaks or page breaks (which are “ugly” because any further changes to the text of your document is likely to… break the page layout artificially created with such manual breaks and require a lot of additional work).

Word has two paragraph-specific formatting settings called “Keep with next” and “Keep lines together“. A paragraph with the “Keep with next” setting will always stay (in theory) with the next paragraph, and Word will (in theory) make sure that they always are on the same page or column. Similarly, you can use the “Keep lines together” setting to force Word to always keep all the lines in a given paragraph together on a same page. Here again, in theory, Word will always make sure that the entire paragraph formatted using this option stays together on the same page or column.

As I say, this is the theory. In practice, unfortunately, Word fails to honour such settings when the formatted paragraphs are placed in a table. Even if you apply the “Keep lines together” setting to all the paragraphs of text in a table cell, Word will not hesitate to insert a page break in the middle of a paragraph in that table cell if the “Allow row to break across pages” option (in “Table Properties“) is checked.

Obviously the “Allow row to break across pages” option (in “Table Properties” table formatting setting overrides the “Keep” options of the paragraphs of text inside the table cells. So much for using tables to try and achieve certain page layout effects in Word.

In addition to this flaw, the sad truth about “Keep” options in Word is that they haven’t improved in years. There’s still nothing in the Word interface that promotes their use — and they still lack the flexibility of true page layout options. For example, in InDesign, you can not only instruct the application to keep a paragraph with the next, but you can also fine-tune that setting by specifying the number of lines in the next paragraph that the initial paragraph should be kept with. And, for the “Keep lines together” option, you can choose between keeping all lines in the paragraph together or keeping only a certain number of lines together at the beginning and at the end of the paragraph.

There are no such options in Word.

One other feature that I find is missing in both Word and InDesign is a “Keep with previous” setting. For example, I often have a paragraph that introduces a list of items, like so:

  • Item 1
  • Item 2
  • Item 3

(The paragraph ending with “like so” introduces the list of items here.)

I want the list of items to always stay with its introductory paragraph. The local thing would be to use a “Keep with previous” setting for the list items themselves. But such an option doesn’t exist. Instead, I have to apply the “Keep with next” option to the introductory paragraph. It’s unfortunate, because I have to create a different paragraph style just for that purpose (if I don’t want to use manual formatting) — whereas if I had a “Keep with previous” option I could just include that option in the style definition for the list items.

The fact that the “Keep” options haven’t improved in years is yet another illustration of the current lack of innovation in Microsoft Word.

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