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I am using Microsoft Word 2019 (16.67) on macOS Monterey (12.6.1).

I don’t know if this is a bug in Word for Mac, or if Microsoft somehow considers this a ‘feature’, but it is bloody annoying…

I have a long document with lots of images, most of which are inline (text wrapping set to “In line with text”). A few need to be absolutely positioned on the page, however. These have their text wrapping set to “Top and bottom”.

Here is an example of how their positioning options might look:

Positioning options

This works and positions the image exactly where I want it: 2 cm from the top of the page, centred inside the text margins, fixed, not moving with the text.

The trouble is that, seemingly quite at random, these settings are all undone by Word.

For example, if a heading gets a page break before it somewhere (doesn’t matter where – before or after any of the images), then all the absolutely positioned images in the entire document have their position changed. For the screenshot above, the change would result in:

  • Horizontal changes to “Absolute position [xx cm] to the right of Margin”
  • Vertical changes to “Absolute position [5 cm] below Page”
  • Lock anchor is disabled
  • Move object with text is enabled

Note that in the GUI, setting the vertical position to “Absolute position below Page” automatically disables “Move object with text”, so I can’t even create a screenshot with these settings – they’re not normally possible to set. But somehow both are selected whenever this auto-change thing happens.

I’ve noticed that this happens most consistently whenever

  • the document text reflows, especially if the reflow causes the document to become a page longer or shorter
  • the document is closed and reopened

But it happens randomly as well. Sometimes, while the program is just sitting there and I’m not even interacting with it, it will suddenly hang for about 20 or 30 seconds, and then afterwards the absolutely positioned images are all screwed up… again.

Is there some way to make Word understand that I want my settings to stay as they are, no matter what?

1 Answer 1

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Not sure there is a way to do this using the standard positioning dialogs.

Your best bet may be to work around the problem by insert the image in a header or footer (i.e. so it is anchored to a paragraph in the header) - you can still position it where you want in the page, but it shouldn't be affected by what happens in the document body.

To ensure it only appears on one page, you would probably have to put the relevant page in a Word section of its own and define suitable headers for that section and the surrounding sections. That may introduce other layout problems. Another possibility that would avoid sections might be to insert field coding like this in the header (let's say you want the image on Page 10):

{ IF { PAGE } = 10 "¶
" }¶

All the { } have to be the special field brace pairs you can insert using command/cmd-F9 or fn-command/cmd-F9 on macOS. The ¶ are the normal paragraph marks you'll see if you Show formatting marks.

Then anchor the image to the paragraph that starts with ". That may be tricky because Word becomes reluctant to display the anchor in this situation, but it seems to be possible to do it by moving the image around.

Not nice, but if there's no other way it may do the trick.

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  • I was hoping there was some obscure setting somewhere that would stop Word from randomly overruling the settings I’ve manually chosen. Putting the images in the header might work – but I suspect it may not. What’s to stop Word from doing the exact same there and just pushing the image up into the header area and halfway off the page? I just updated the question, since I’ve discovered that this isn’t just triggered by changes in the file, but also just happens completely at random. Nov 27, 2022 at 18:59
  • @JanusBahsJacquet always worth waiting to see if someone else has a better suggestion. "What's to stop Word?". Quite. I can't fix Word's shortcomings or provide any guarantee of certainty about its behaviour, and can at best suggest workarounds that might or might not work in any given situation. But if you don't try people's suggestions you may deny yourself a solution. Probably worth reporting the randomness problem to Microsoft if you can, but IME they don't even bother to solve serious problems in Mac Word now unless they are security showstoppers.
    – jonsson
    Nov 27, 2022 at 19:16
  • Sorry, I didn’t mean to take my frustrations at Word out on you! I will try the header workaround in a throwaway copy of the file to see if perhaps it does work. The reason I hesitate is that the document already has about a thousand sections, and getting running headers to play nice across them has been a Herculean task – I’m scared to start messing with them again. Nov 27, 2022 at 19:47
  • @JanusBahsJacquet yes. a lot to fix if things go wrong! Possibly split the document into several files to limit the consequences of any problems?
    – jonsson
    Nov 27, 2022 at 20:15
  • Yeah, that would normally be my own approach. Unfortunately, the file also requires going back and forth with an octogenarian author for proofs, and he is not tech-savvy in the slightest. The less it changes, the better! Nov 27, 2022 at 20:36

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