Elusive White Space

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Where did my header and footer go?

Users of Word 2002 and above (see below for Word 2007 and above) are often puzzled by the sudden disappearance of headers and footers in their documents in Print Layout view. Instead of seeing the usual space between pages, they find that their document text is continuous, with only a solid line marking the page break, as shown in Figure 1.

No space between pages

Figure 1. No space between pages

Users may also describe this problem as a change in the vertical ruler (no blue area at the top) or even in the page size, saying that their page is only 9" high or that the text area "starts right at the top of the page."

The reason for all these phenomena is a new feature added in Word 2002 that allows users to hide the "white space" between pages. This option may be toggled on the View tab of Tools | Options, as shown in Figure 2.

View tab of Options dialog showing "white space" option

Figure 2. View tab of Options dialog showing "white space" option

An alternative way to return to the usual view is to hover the mouse over the line between pages until the mouse pointer changes to a double arrow and the "Show White Space" ScreenTip is displayed (see Figure 3), then click.

Click when you see this mouse pointer to restore your header and footer.

Figure 3. Click when you see this mouse pointer to restore your header and footer.

If you now hover your mouse over the space between pages, you will see the "Hide White Space" pointer and ScreenTip (see Figure 4). If you click now, you'll be back where you started (and that's probably how you got there).

Click now to hide white space

Figure 4. Click now to hide white space

Because it is so easy to do this by accident, many users find this option very annoying. But it can be very useful when you want to read text continuously (as you can do in Normal view) but still take advantage of the more WYSIWYG Print Layout view, which can show footnotes, graphics, columns, and other complex layout in place.

Two important points about this setting:

  1. When white space is hidden, the setting affects not just the “white space between pages,” as described in the View Options, but anything that is part of the header or footer, including watermarks and other graphics (including text boxes) anchored to the header or footer. If you have created complex letterhead with text boxes in the margin, this can cause a good bit of your letterhead to disappear, which can be very disconcerting the first time you experience it!

  2. Whether white space is hidden or displayed can be very puzzling and appear capricious, but in fact the display status follows very definite rules, which are laid out in the Microsoft Knowledge Base article “Description of the 'White space between pages' option in Word.’”

Note for users of Word 2007 and above

Users of Word 2007 and above are much less likely to encounter this problem without warning since those versions require a double click (rather than a single one) to hide or show white space. The Word 2007 setting corresponding to the Tools | Options | View checkbox shown in Figure 2 is found at Office Button | Word Options | Display: Page display options. In Word 2010 or 2013, go to File | Options | Display: Page display options.

This article copyright © 2004, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2014 by Suzanne S. Barnhill.