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My team and I are involved on a re-brand for a vegan restaurant. Most of the print collateral has sailed through the approvals process.

The trickiest item so far is the menu. We laid the type out in InDesign onto a standard 11" x 17" given the volume of information. However, we were told the menu needs to update daily, sometimes weekly, to address the many kinds of seasonal foods they adapt into their dishes. So, we were asked to set-it up in Microsoft Word. Okay, not too hard right? Something that is easier to update from a typical user's perspective inside a program that many people are comfortable with.

Our problem is anticipating the adding or subtracting of entire dishes. There just doesn't seem to be a way for them (or us) to predict how the menu will shift. And given the volume of information, the menu needs to have at least 2 columns as opposed to stacking lines of text in a linear fashion from the top to the bottom of the page. But, as you begin to arrange information into columns, what ends up happening is that the column on the left expands which pushes information in the right column down. This creates an uneven and unbalanced look. It also disrupts the flow of information making it difficult to read and pushes other things down too (including the section for 'sides', 'soups', and 'salads').

Not only should the menu look well designed with acceptable hierarchy and pre-defined character styles, but it needs to have enough space built in for the user to add or take away volumes of text without ruining it. As it stands, there is so much information that needs to be on the front, that we are concerned about reducing the size of the type to the point where it would simply be illegible in service to more page space.

I'm willing to accept that it might not always look perfect. Styles are easy to set-up in Word. Sure, there's less physical control over every last detail. We can roll with that.

The question is: Is there a better way of approaching this? Some way that helps to address the needs of the staff? We've gone as far as to remove all graphic embellishments except for a simple header (just the logo) and a simple footer rule for visual weight. But beyond this, are there ways of approaching this process to make it easier overall? Restricting styles in Word? Creating a smarter menu?

We have never really worked on a menu much less a tool that would be used and read so frequently. And we thought we'd ask for the community's advice. Maybe there's something we're missing or something we haven't given much thought to.

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    Word is just not geared towards layout. If you want more control, you'll need a different application. – Scott Nov 25 '15 at 8:12
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    This is pretty much an impossible task, sorry to say. You’re not only dealing with the ever-changing makeup of the menu itself, but also quite likely with the lack of technical knowhow in those who are supposed to update the menu. Even if you do manage to find a solution for the former, creating styles that make sure additions and removals to the menu don’t break the mould (too badly), I can almost guarantee you that within a month or two of changes, the people updating the document will have changed and overridden all your styles to manual formatting, breaking the design entirely. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 25 '15 at 9:00
  • I'd suggest single column, multiple pages, purchase page holders for the actual menus. – DA01 Jan 7 '16 at 7:44
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    A suggestion...offer up a retainer deal. You'll spend 1 hour a week helping update the menu. In return, you get whatever your hourly rate is as a gift certificate to the establishment each week. Win-win? – DA01 Jan 7 '16 at 7:46
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There is always a solution to a problem. My first question is do you have a Google Drive account? If so great! If not I seediest getting one if not just for this feature, but that is just me. In Google Drive there is a "Google Docs" feature. This feature works as a basic version of word that you can allow others the opportunity to edit and comment. (I apologize if this is redundant information) I had a client who wanted to do her menus as a .doc file. So I created a template in a Google Doc and allowed her the ability to edit. I keep a copy of the doc on my drive. She then would go in and edit and update her menu when she needed. Sometimes she would ask if I could check to make sure it looked good, and I would. It was my solution to a complicated problem.

I hope this was helpful.

  • seediest = suggest? – Luciano Dec 7 '17 at 9:53
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If you want (or have) to use Word, it's possible to get balanced columns with section breaks.

Enter the entire text, then select the text you want in columns and set columns. Word will balance the length.

Word Page Layout/Columns

Word does this by inserting "Section Break (Continuous)" at either end of the selection and formatting the section between them.

Once the section is there, with its balanced columns, editing the text in that section will keep the balanced columns. It may be necessary to add empty lines if the columns need to break differently (or insert a column break, but this may be less intuitive).

You will probably need to ensure that page breaks are explicitly set, in order that a very short columnar section doesn't suck content off following pages.

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The simplest option is the Word-document. It allows for some flexibility and is easy to implement. A more controlled option would be a PDF-file with editable fields. It would restrict what goes in the file a whole lot, but it would ensure that styles do not break.

The most flexible and "client-proof" option would be to set up a system that creates a PDF on-the-fly after submitting data to it. The system would make sure that everything fits nicely and has the correct styles. This could, for instance, be done using PHP and mPDF so that the client can use a simple webpage to create the menu and get a PDF-file. The problem with this approach is that it can be pretty advanced to implement.

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