What is Microsoft Publisher? A Beginner’s Guide

Do you want to design flyers, brochures or cards and publish them yourself? Microsoft Publisher is perhaps the program best suited for this if you use Microsoft 365.

It is similar to Microsoft Word, but has more to do with the commercial Adobe InDesign (part of Adobe’s Expensive Creative Cloud) and free Scribus software. Publisher is desktop publishing software with page layout and design features.

What can you do in Microsoft Publisher?

You can design anything in Microsoft Publisher by combining images with beautiful text. Start with simple things like cards and printable labels† Move on to bigger projects like wedding invitations, brochures, flyers, newsletters, lesson plans, and even books.

You can start from scratch. But it’s a lot easier to start with a design from the rich library of templates Microsoft provides. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll start with a built-in template and show you the basics to customize it.

Start a publisher document from a template

You can choose to go with the ready-made templates in Publisher or search for online templates from Microsoft.

  • Start Publisher and click New from the backstage screen. Select the Built-in tab above the templates shown.
  • Scroll down a bit and select greeting cards
  • Go through the templates and select a Publisher template. In our example, we chose a birthday template.
  • You can customize the template from the options on the right or do it later.
  • Click on the To create button in the right pane.

Once the template is open in Publisher, you can start formatting and editing.

Customize a publisher template

The pages of each document appear as thumbnails on the left side of Publisher. You can select and customize any page.

In Publisher, everything is contained within borders with borders. These are known as objects and they are like containers for any design element like text, lines, images, headers etc.

The boxes allow you to move those elements throughout the document to place them wherever you want. You can easily change their attributes, stack them on top of each other, group them and even change their visibility.

To understand it better, think about how to work with a simple text box in Microsoft Word.

Since this is a beginner tutorial on Publisher, let’s start by working with two of the most common elements in any design: Text and Pictures

Add text to your document

Templates have text boxes with dummy text. But you can always make your own.

  1. Click Home > Draw text box (In the Objects group) and drag the cross-shaped cursor to draw a box where you want the text.
  • Type your text in the text box. You can make the text box larger by dragging the handles or link it to another text box. Publisher has a unique way of dealing with text that overflows.
  • Text boxes can run out of space if they contain too much text. A new text box can handle any text that overflows from the first. Text boxes can be connected. You can create new text boxes and have your content span more than one page or create columns of different widths.
  • A small box of ellipses appears in the lower right corner of a text box when the text overflows.
  • Create a new text box.
  • Click on the ellipses in the first text box and it will turn into a pitcher symbol. Locate the new text box and click on it. The overflow text moves to the new text box.

Remark: Publisher uses the same Windows fonts you see in Microsoft Word. So if you want to use a special font, you will have to download and install fonts.

Add images to your document

The Illustration group on the Insert tab provides you with three methods for adding images.

  • Click Pictures and upload an image file from your desktop.
  • Click Online photos and use the Bing-powered search to use a public domain image or an image you have stored on OneDrive.
  • click on Image placeholder to reserve space for an image you want to add later.

You can also use the to shape collection to combine simple shapes into interesting logos.

Add elements with building blocks

Building blocks are pre-formatted elements that you can simply ‘fit’ into your design. You can reuse these blocks and adapt them to your overall design. Examples of building blocks include headings, quote formats, bars, borders, frames, calendars, and billboards such as coupons.

Building blocks help you create your Publisher documents faster. You can also save any design element that you want to reuse as a building block.

  1. Go to Insert > Group Building Blocks and click on any building block gallery.
  2. Choose from the choices in the drop-down list or click More [Building Block type] to see if there are any more in the gallery.
  3. Click on it to insert it into the document.

Remember, like any other element, you can drag the building block onto the page and manipulate it to fit your design. Building blocks are a combination of text, AutoShapes, and objects.

To quickly access their formatting options, right-click on the building block and choose Format from the menu.

Check your document with the Design Checker

Microsoft Publisher is a desktop publishing program. So, in most cases, your ultimate goal is to print the document. Before you hit print, check the consistency of your layout with another Publisher feature called Design Checker.

Go to File > About > Run Design Checker

It is a troubleshooting step and saves you printing trouble. click on Design control optionsand then select the checks tab to see the many errors it tries to avoid.

You can use this dialog box to enable or disable the controls.

Print your document

This is your ultimate goal. However, keep in mind that you still need to print your content correctly on the type of paper you need for your project.

  1. Click File > Print
  2. On the Print screen, and enter a number in the Print Job Copies box.
  3. Choose the right printer.
  4. Use the Settings according to the print order. It varies by type of document.

Microsoft Publisher also gives you a few export options. Go to File and select Export† There are three choices under Pack and go if you want to keep your document and later export it for print run at a commercial press.

The Pack and Go wizard packs your files and their assets such as images, fonts, and colors into one file for commercial printing.

Start creating professional looking documents

Microsoft Publisher is easy to master and is a good starting point for learning desktop publishing. Start designing your own resume. Or create a simple infographic and share it. Like anything else, the best way to learn is by doing.

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