Understanding images: Part 3 – Anchoring

Why do figures (images) sometimes jump to a different page in your Word document?  This is one of the great mysteries of Word and today, I’ll reveal the answer.

To get to the bottom of this question, it’s important to understand the concept of anchoring. In a previous post, I covered the difference between floating and inline figures. Every floating figure in a Word document is actually attached to the page. This point of attachment is called the “anchor” and is indicated by a small anchor icon. To see this, you need to enable the display of the icon by clicking the File tab, and then clicking Options. In the Display section, select the check box next to Object Anchors.  Now, when you select a floating figure, you’ll see the anchor icon appear on the page. 

Page with text, floating figure, and arrow pointing to anchor

Figure and anchor relationship

There are two really important rules to understand about the relationship between anchors and figures:

Rule #1: The anchor and the figure must always be on the same page.
Rule #2: The anchor and the figure don’t have to be at the same place on the page.

By default, the anchor will be placed at the beginning of the closest paragraph above the top left corner of the figure. As you move the figure around the page, the anchor also moves, using the same logic to place the anchor. Word does this because placing a figure near specific text generally means there is a relationship between the two pieces of content.  It’s also possible to select the anchor and drag it to a new location on the page. For example, in the document below, the first paragraph describes the data in the chart but the chart looks better when I place it at the bottom of the page. 

 Page of text with chart at the bottom and anchor at top

The anchor is treated as a character, so when you select the text where the figure is anchored, the figure also is highlighted to help you see the relationship. If you move or delete the text where the figure is anchored, the figure will also be moved or deleted.  Also, as you add text above the anchor’s position, the anchor will be pushed down the page along with the rest of the text.  If the anchor is pushed to the next page, the associated figure will also jump to the next page (see rule #1 above). This can be especially confusing if the figure is located above the anchor.

Taking control

In many cases you want your text and figure to stay together, even if that means jumping to another page. In other cases, you may want to force a figure to stay in one position, regardless of what happens to the text around it. One simple way to make it less likely the figure will jump is to do the following:

  1. Select the figure so that the anchor icon is visible.
  2. Click the anchor and drag it to the first line of text on the page.
  3. If you add text before the first line on the page, remember to reposition the anchor at the top of the page.

There are many other aspects of anchoring that can give you very precise control over how your figure behaves. Stay tuned and I’ll delve into a couple of those in a future post. You can read the first two posts in this series here and here.

–Theresa Estrada is a program manager on the Word team who spends most of her days (and some nights) studying how users work with figures in their documents.