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Vector, Bitmap, Inline, Floating: What?

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I recently taught the first day of my Productivity Academy workshop, the focus of which was creating vector and bitmap graphics and investigating whether they are inline or if they float when inserted into documents. Many people do not understood the difference between graphic types, nor do they understand the attributes of each of the graphics. Because of this, it's common for many people to feel frustration over inserting graphics into a word-processed document.

Vector graphics, created by lines and shapes, maintain their integrity when enlarged and create objects identified by "handles" when active. The most popular programs for creating these graphics for K-8 education include, but are not limited to, AppleWorks Draw, the Microsoft Office Draw toolbar, and Tech4Learning Twist.

Bitmap, or raster, graphics are generally represented by a rectangular grid of pixels (picture elements) and correspond bit for bit with the image displayed on the screen. These graphics do not retain their integrity when enlarged; they become pixilated, or "blocky."

However, unlike the shapes created by vector-graphics programs, the individual pixels in these graphics can be changed, copied or deleted. An example of an altered raster graphic is correcting the red-eye effect in a photograph. When either of the graphic types is inserted into a Microsoft Word document, the graphic usually comes into the document as an inline graphic with black handles inside the frame of the graphic. The inline graphic comes into the document in the line of text, increasing the line space to the height of the image.

The image can be changed to a floating graphic by double-clicking on the image to display the Format Picture toolbar. Select the Layout tab and click on the desired layout, such as Tight. The handles will turn to clear squares on the outside of the image. The image can be moved, and the text will now wrap around the image. What problems have you had when inserting graphics? Are there other suggestions you can offer?

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Lelia's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have been using the "tight" layout for quite awhile. However, I am at a loss to explain exactly what that means or why thay allows the graphic to be so much easier to work with. Help? Thanks.

Karen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I learned the "trick" to getting graphics - any sort - to move around easily by changing the layout from fellow listserv members. There was nothing in Microsoft help files. I'm happy to say, however, that in Office 2003, one of the options you can change is how pictures/graphics are brought into a word document. By choosing any of the other layout formats except the default "inline with text" one, the graphics are instantly and always movable when more having to go to format > layout unless you want to.

Jamie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)


Tight layout makes the words go to the exact edge of the graphic. Square layout allows the text to form a square around the graphic. I like this because it makes a clean edge around the graphic.

Bill Dunsay's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is very helpful. Thank you for the explanations. I will try out the tight or square layouts.

Trudy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Another way I have found to be useful when inserting graphics into Word documents, is the paste special option under the edit menu. You cut the original graphic out of the document and then paste it special. When this is selected, a new window opens and I always choose paste as a picture. This gives me the same results and I don't have to wrap the picture around the words.

Anne Gordon's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I usually choose "edit wrap points" from the picture menu. You can completely customize how you want the text to wrap by dragging all the wrap points.

Peggy Bryant's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I use the Layout method of releasing the graphic from the text line in MS Word however the same procedure does not work when using MS Outlook in mail messages. The graphics can be moved from one margin to the other, but never to the middle of the message. How can this be solved?

Carolyn Stanley's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have been helping students with handling the wrapping of graphics for years. The default on our computers is for the graphics to enter "in line with text" which means they can only be repositioned by moving the cursor in an area of text. I have students use the page icon with the little dog on the picture toolbar to choose a wrapping option that suits their needs. It might be float on top of text, tight, top and bottom, etc. They need to figure out which one works best for them. If the picture toolbar is not showing, they can right click on the graphic and select, "show picture tool bar."

If you are on a computer that saves preferences. (Ours reset with DeepFreeze), you can go to Tools - Options - Edit Tab. About half way down there is a field which shows Microsoft Office Word as the picture editor. Under that is a field where you can choose how to "Insert/Past picture as". On my teaching computer, which holds preferences, I choose "in front of text." Once my picture is in my document, I might use another wrap option as necessary.

As for at the comment on "edit wrap points", I have never played with this. Thanks! There is always an opportunity to learn something new.

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