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Three Ways to Insert Placeholder Text in Microsoft Word

Last Updated Sep 6, 2010 1:17 PM EDT

If you have ever had to design a newsletter, Web page, or some other document that needs a lot of text which hasn't been written yet, you've probably gone looking for placeholder text. Publishers have relied on lorem Ipsum -- pseudo Latin based on an ancient blog post by Cicero -- for ages for just this sort of thing. What you might not realize is that Word has not one, not two, but three different kinds of placeholder text you can insert with a few keystrokes.

lorem Ipsum. If you have traditional tastes and want to fill white space with something that looks like Latin, type lorem(m,n) where m is how many paragraphs you need and n is the number of lines in each paragraph.

Quick Brown Fox. You probably know the old typing exercise, "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." You might not realize this phrase is used because it contains all 26 letters in the English alphabet. You might also be unaware that this sentence is also built into Word as a placeholder: Type =rand.old(m,n), where m and n are again paragraphs and lines.

Plain English Instructions. If there's a rand.old, you can probably guess that something replaced good-old-rand. Enter =rand(P,S) and get plain English sentences, apparently lifted from some help topic for Microsoft Office. As I mentioned in an older post on placeholder text, this one is handy because it doesn't look obviously like temporary blurbs, and some graphic designers are squeamish about using Lorem Ipsum because the original text is derived from Cicero's discourse on "pain," which is potentially offensive to some people.

Speaking of the quick brown fox, enjoy this real-life recreation of the iconic typing exercise. The action starts at 55 seconds:

By the way -- if you're mocking up pages and need placeholder text, you might also need placeholder art. It's mercifully easy to create dummy images exactly the size you need.

Photo courtesy Flickr user hjortholm

Dave Johnson was employed by Microsoft Corporation at the time this article was written.