Sometimes paragraphs and headings aren't the only things you want in your document. On this page, we'll look at how to insert other kinds of content, from getting your images (and their captions) right to adding in tables and linking to other material and webpages.
Both Word and Google Docs have Insert options (a ribbon tab in Word, a drop-down menu in Google Docs) that allows you to insert a range of content and structural elements as needed.
Using options from the Insert menu is usually more reliable than copying and pasting in content, whether you're inserting images, data, or text from another document. There's also a range of options for inserting shapes and drawings.
If you find that inserting content in a document often messes up the rest of your formatting, don't fear! The rest of this box will explore some useful tips for inserting content to keep the structure and formatting of your document correct.
It has become somewhat of a meme that when you insert an image or similar into a Word document, all formatting rules may go out of the window. However, this is often because people try to put multiple images together in a Word document, without knowing some helpful tricks for keeping those images in the right places.
Especially if you're sharing documents rather than printing them, you might want to insert other kinds of media, like videos and audio. The first thing to consider is if you really want to insert the media into the document itself, or just link out to it. Embedding media into a document can slow down the document, and (obviously) won't work if you print it.
Some features of documents might seem like text, but actually have clever code behind them. For example, captions on images, diagrams, and tables can be created so they are linked to the image in question, with automatic numbering. This also allows you to create lists of figures and tables in your document automatically.
Cross-references are another clever feature, that allow you to link to other parts of a document (such as headings, figures, and tables) within text. This is useful if your document is designed to be read on a computer rather than printed out.
Note: Both of these features currently exist in Word, but not in Google Docs. To create captions in Google Docs, you can only use 'inline' formatting to put the text with the picture, and can't include automatic numbering. You can link to headings and bookmarks in Google Docs, instead of cross-references, which we'll look at below.
Captions are crucial in documents, especially academic documents. Using captions for any images, diagrams, and tables you insert into your document means these can be automatically numbered, so you can refer to them in the text (using cross-references) and create lists of your figures and tables.
To create a caption, right click on the item you want to give a caption to, then choose Insert caption. You can also select the item and then go to the References tab on the ribbon, then Insert caption. A box will option allow you to write your caption alongside the automatic label (by default this is figure, but you can change it to equation or table or create a new label as needed) and automatic number (Word uses the label given to work out the number, so if you give something the label 'figure', it will check how many figures are before this one in the document and then put the corresponding number). You can also choose the position of your caption in relation to your item and change the numbering format if needed.
Once you've created your caption, you'll notice that the number in it is highlighted grey if you click on it. This means that it is a Word field, so it automatically generated, so you should not try and type to change this number. If it is incorrect, you may need to select your whole document (Ctrl + A, or Cmd + A on a Mac) and right click to use Update Field to make sure these are up to date.
If you need to change the appearance of your captions, then you can do this using the Caption style, which is already set for any captions inserted this way. See the Using styles page for how to modify the apperance of a particular style.
Cross-references allow you to refer to other parts of your document in a way that will automatically update numbering as this changes. Cross-references can also link to the part in question, so the user can click on the cross-reference and be taken to that part of the document. For example, to refer to a figure you had inserted, you could use a cross-reference which might insert Figure 1, and then if you added two more figures before that one in your document, the cross-reference in your text would update to Figure 3 automatically, without you needing to manually edit it.
You can make a cross-reference that refers to a numbered item, a heading, a bookmark, a footnote, an endnote, an equation, a figure or a table.
To insert a cross-reference in your text, you will first need to ensure that you have created the item in question (or it cannot be linked to!). Then, put your cursor in your document at the point you want your cross-reference to appear in your text. Go to the References tab and choose the Cross-reference button to open the cross-reference dialogue box. This allows you to select which reference type you want to use, e.g. whether you want to link to a heading, a figure, etc. Once you select one, you will see a list of all of your available captions/items of that type, so you can select the right one to insert. You can also choose if it uses the whole caption or just the label and number, and whether or not it links to that item. Then click Insert to add your cross-reference.
Google Docs doesn't have cross-references, but it does include some features within its link options to link to other parts of your document. If you highlight text and click on the Insert link button (the chain link icon), as well as pasting in a link or searching for a file on Google Drive or online, there is an option at the bottom of the list for Headings and bookmarks. Clicking this will show a list to all of the headings and bookmarks in the document, so you can select one to link to.
To create headings, you must use heading styles, and then those headings will appear in this list to link to. If you want to link to another part of the document that is not a heading, you must first create a bookmark. Put your cursor where you want the bookmark to go, then go to the Insert menu, then choose Bookmark. This creates a bookmark, or anchor point, at that place in your document. This can then be linked to using the option mentioned above.
You can also use the IDs that headings are given in a Google Doc to give people a URL to the whole document that sends them to a particular heading. In your document, click on a heading, and you'll notice that the URL in the address bar in your web browser will have changed to have #heading=h.[string of characters] at the end. If you copy and paste this link (which works the same as the link to a heading mentioned above) you can send it to others who have sharing permissions to access that file, and then will be taken straight to the heading in question when they open the document.
If you need to put tables of data into your document, there's a few things you need to consider, whether you're using Word or Google Docs.
Firstly, and most importantly, is to decide if your data is right for a table. Tables are designed to hold rows of data, with columns for different aspects of that data. The formatting of tables is designed to work best where each cell holds an item of data, rather than lots of different items of data. Thinking about how your table needs to be laid out and if it is the best way to communicate your data is important, saving you time and effort.
If you do need to use a table, you'll then need to work out the column headers and what each row of data is. You might already have the table stored in another application, like a spreadsheet, or you might be putting the data together for the first time as you write up.
When you insert a table, make sure you give your table a label so readers know what the table is. In Word, you'll need to right click and insert a caption. Google Docs does not have a caption feature, but make sure to add a label before your table.
Once you've gone over the material on this page, try the following exercises to apply your knowledge: