Recurring text box in Word?
May 14, 2009 2:03 PM   Subscribe

I need to make a sticker sheet in MS Word updatable -- all the stickers on the sheet look the same, but if I type "Q" in the first sticker, "Q" will appear on all the other stickers. Is this possible?

Working on making an Avery-compatible label sheet for a company that only sells eight different things, but in a range of varying sizes. So ideally, he'll be able to print label sheets one sheet at a time, with the same product type on every label on the sheet (say, GRAPPLEGROMMET ALPHA), and then a space to the left of the first GRAPPLEGROMMET ALPHA sticker, where he can type an XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL or XXL and see every other sticker on the sheet update automatically.

Idea being this saves (a) the time-consuming process of typing S on every single sticker on the sheet when he needs a bunch of "S" stickers for GRAPPLEGROMMET ALPHA, and (b) saves the time-consuming process of doing that ourselves, and then creating 64 label templates when all we really need are 8.

I would think that there's a simple way of doing this, but everything I look at veers abruptly into Visual Basic programming and odd form-driven functions that don't really work. Is there some way of just making a text box whose contents will be copied in linked text boxes across the same document?
posted by Shepherd to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
I don't have an answer for Word, but have you considered doing this in Excel? It'll be a bit of work to recreate the label template, but it's quite doable, and it's really easy to make one cell mirror another in Excel.
posted by likedoomsday at 2:34 PM on May 14, 2009

take a look at this, the Avery Wizard for Microsoft Word (will open in a new window)

basically you want smart-insert files which auto-update when the original has changed, so there could be one file that your boss types "xxl" into, then replaces with "s", saves it, and it will auto-update on the template 12 times, coz it's linked there 12 times. this is what we do in indesign etc, but i am not sure if such a function exists in word. but it could! and you may find it if you seek it.

sorry i couldn't be of more help..
posted by ravingOak at 2:42 PM on May 14, 2009

In Word 2003, choose "Tools", "Letters and Mailings", "Envelopes and Labels". Type whatever you want in the Deliver Address part of the Address tab. Right mouse click to get to the "Fonts" menu if you want to format the text. Then choose the Labels tab. There's an option there to print a full page of the same label. Click the Options button to choose your avery label type.
posted by elle.jeezy at 2:44 PM on May 14, 2009

You could use a mail merge for this. You create a document that fits your labels, with the widget name on each label. Then you create a new data file (list), with a single column in it, and the different sizes, each on its own line. Then, you enter a field (the same one) that ties to your data file column, at the start of each label.

When you print the mail merge, it will print a page of labels for each entry in your data file column, i.e. you'll have one page of XXS labels, one page of XS, one page of S etc. You can obviously only print a subset of the pages if you wish, by excluding those sizes you don't want.

You can have a copy of the mail merge master document for each product line, each linked to the same data file for the sizes, but the widget name different. If you want a different set of sizes for one particular product line, you create a new data file. If you want to add a new size to your existing widget sheets, you just add a new line in the data file.

You can do it cleverer than this (so you also autogenerate your widget name), but for only 8 widget types that's probably overcomplicated.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:54 PM on May 14, 2009

I've used autofillPDF with good results for several similar tasks. I discovered it through this little entry on Lifehacker a couple months ago.

It's very simple and straight forward...
posted by Barnsie at 6:18 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mail merge, using an Excel spreadsheet to generate the data and a Word document to format it for printing, is the right approach for this if you have Office skills but don't want to do any scripting or learn any new software.

I once had a similar need (printing sheets of sequential bar code stickers) and I did it all in OpenOffice Writer, by veering abruptly into Visual Basic programming and pounding on some odd form-driven functions until they mostly worked. I can dig out a copy of the resulting document and post it if you want to play with it.
posted by flabdablet at 6:31 PM on May 14, 2009

Why you'd rather edit your template every time you print rather than just making individual templates for each label, I don't understand, but that's not the question. Your best option in Word 2007 is the Replace function on the far right of the Home tab. Copy your text containing the size information from the current label and paste it in the "Find what" field. Copy it again in the "Replace with" field and change the size. Click "Replace all". Enjoy your updated labels, however briefly.

Please note that if you try to simply replace "S" with "M", if there are any other occurrences of the letter S on the label, they will be changed to M. You must enter a unique string of text if you want to replace with minimal errors.
posted by ashabanapal at 6:57 PM on May 14, 2009

I was going to suggest something similar to ashabanapal -- just find/replace. If you need to, you can search for " M " (that's an "M" with a space before and after) to ensure that you are only replacing the "size" Ms, not all the Ms everywhere...

But once you have done this once, why not just save-as each and never have to worry about it again going forward? Seems like you are prioritizing slickness over simplicity
posted by misterbrandt at 7:04 PM on May 14, 2009

In Word versions after 2003, you can do this easily. I don't have Word in front of me, but it goes something like this:

-Open a blank document
-Show the Mail Merge toolbar
-Find the button where you can set the document type (Main Document Setup), and set it to labels (This is required, otherwise the "Propagate Labels" button is greyed out.)
-Use the popup boxes you get to enter the information you need in the first label (or alternatively, just hit cancel, then enter the text in the first label by hand.
-Use the button on the Mail Merge toolbar called "Propagate Labels" to copy the text from the first label to the other labels on the sheet.
-Save the document. Next time you open it, change the first label to the correct info. Then hit the "Propagate Labels" button again, and it will copy the changes to each label on the sheet.

That said, I would also agree that saving each version as a separate document, then just opening the correct one and printing it when needed, would be the easiest.
posted by gemmy at 7:52 PM on May 14, 2009

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