wireframe Images in Microsoft Word

Images are a great way to make a document easier to read. Here's how to add images to Microsoft Word documents.

Images can make documentation better. Whether it's a diagram that shows how to assemble a component, or a chart to represent a collection of data, images help the reader to understand what's going on.

In "everyday" professional writing, you might not need a dedicated technical writing tool or technology; if it's just a report for your director, you don't need to craft that in a web page or a DITA topic. Instead, the venerable desktop word processor can do the job. Let's look at how to insert images into documents using Microsoft Word.

Insert a new image

When you're working with images in a desktop word processor, it's not all about centering a photo on its own line. Sometimes, it makes more sense to move an image to one side of the page and let the text flow around it.

Let's start with a plain document for our example:

Microsoft Word

A new document in Microsoft Word

Use the Insert menu to insert a new image into your document. If you're writing a report and need to insert a chart or diagram for your project, you'll likely have the image that you need already on your computer. Or if you want to search the internet for a new image, you can do that from the Insert menu as well. Here, I've added a plain image that shows a color pattern:

Microsoft Word

Inserting an image into a document

Change the image size

Once you've added the image, you can adjust its size and position. For images that will be on their own line, you may want the image to take up the full width. But for this example, I want to show how you can add an image to one side of the document. For that, I'll need to make the image narrower.

Right-click on the image and use the pop-up menu to select Size and Position:

Microsoft Word

Select Size and Position in the pop-up menu

Word will bring up a modal window where you can adjust the size or position of the image. To resize the image, select the Size tab, and make sure to check the Lock aspect ratio box. This preserves the image proportions - without it, resizing the image width will not adjust the height accordingly, making your image look either "stretched" or "squished."

Microsoft Word

Adjust the image height and width

In this example, I set the width to 3 inches. When you press Tab, Word will calculate the new image height - this is 2.75 inches for this "almost square" image. Click Ok to go back the document, where Word will display the resized image in your document:

Microsoft Word

Word will resize the image for you

Adjust the image position

By default, Word will insert images so they are inline with the rest of the text. This makes it easy if you need to include an icon or some other small graphic in the middle of a paragraph. But for a larger image like this image, it makes more sense to align the image to one side of the page and let the text flow around it..

Use the Position menu on the Ribbon to change the text position. You should see a "grid" of different layouts: "Square left" will align the image to the left of the paragraph area so the text flows to the right. "Square right" will align the image to the right of the page, with text flowing to the left. You can also select other alignments, but I usually use either "Square left" or "Square right" for most images like this.

Microsoft Word

You can choose different image alignment options

For this example, I've selected "Square right." Notice how my paragraph text flows to the left of the image:

Microsoft Word

"Square right" places the image on the right and text flows to the left

Other image options

Word provides several other options to place images and wrap text. Use the Wrap Text button on the Ribbon to control different options for text wrapping. I use "Square" most of the time for smaller images, such as image highlights. If you need the image to show up on its own line, you can also use "Top and Bottom."

Microsoft Word

Different text wrapping options

You usually want the image to show up in front of the text, but sometimes it can be handy to shift the text so it appears "underneath" the paragraph text. One reason to do this is if you need to create a custom "watermark" in your document that cannot be created another way, such as a "washed out" version of your company logo.

Use the Position button on the Ribbon for quick access to image placement. Use this menu to set the image to be inline with the text, such as an icon. You might use inline images if you write a technical document or a how-to that requires inserting an icon, such as an instruction document that tells the user to "Click the (icon)Power button to turn on the device."

Microsoft Word

The Position menu lets you control placement of images

Images are a great way to make a document easier to read. With the right image, you can actually remove text from the document. Consider placing images such as diagrams to explain how components work together, such as in a workflow. Use charts to explain trends over time.