Although Word usually earns its keep as a word processor, it is often pressed into service as a page layout program as well, usually for designing things like flyers and newsletters. Earlier versions handled such projects rather clumsily, but Word 2011 is a healthy step above them in terms of flexibility and functionality, making the program a viable tool for lightweight desktop publishing tasks.

For a start, the new Template gallery contains lots of genuinely useful document templates. The preview is sufficiently high resolution to make browsing worthwhile, and there are pulldown menus that quickly toggle between colour schemes and font options. Publishing View is much improved too, with features such as dynamic guides and visual styles making editing document content easier than ever before. Completed documents can be printed or exported to a variety of formats including PDF files, these latter ideal for sharing documents across platforms.

1. Choosing templates - Open the Gallery via the ‘New from Template…’ option from the ‘File’ menu. Template are categorised in a list on the left-hand side of the window; note the Online Templates additional to those installed as part of Office 2011. Use the box at top right to search for things like ‘Newsletter’ or ‘Christmas’, and so narrow down your options.

2. Review the options - Two pulldown menus below the preview let you trial different colour schemes and font options. The preview updates with each change; use the arrow buttons to flip through the preview pages. Click the ‘Choose’ button to set these options and start editing the document in the word processor.

3. Use colour carefully - Good design depends upon careful choice of colours and fonts. For professional documents, using corporate colours and fonts will help to reinforce identity. Other types of documents work best with colours and fonts that complement the theme. In this case a simple font, Arial, is used alongside shades of leafy green on a newsletter for a gardening club.

4. Add text - By default text boxes contain lorem ipsum placeholder text. This can be typed into directly, or text pasted in from other sources such as word processor documents or e-mails. When pasting from another document, choose ‘Paste Special’ from the ‘Edit’ menu and then choose ‘Unformatted Text’ otherwise the text won’t match the original style of the text box.