How to Make Index Cards in Microsoft Word 2016

Saikat Basu 27-04-2017

What is your favorite low-tech tool?


A lot of my friends tell me it is the Post-it note. A few say that they favor its less colorful cousin – the index card.

Ask around. Some of your own friends may have a stack of index cards tucked away for learning a new language or as presentation notes for the next meeting. Apply them as a memory aid and they become flash cards.

For me, the no-frills index card leaps to the rescue when life is bottle-necked by details. The little rectangle of paper helps to simplify with a few lines of text or a hastily drawn doodle. I use it to remember a little from the umpteen life hack tips How to Easily Organize & Remember All the Life Hack Tips You Read We forget things if we don't repeat them. That's bad news for the endless words of wisdom we read every day. The good news is that forgetfulness can be beaten. Read More I read every day.

And I am not the only one who finds the productivity in it.

I believe in lists and I believe in taking notes, and I believe in index cards for doing both.

~ Anne Lamott (Author of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

Carl Linnaeus invented the index card and he is often considered as a pioneer of information retrieval. People had problems with information overload even three hundred years ago. The term does sound familiar, doesn’t it?


The deluge of information has swamped us again. So thankfully, index cards are still around. And we can use them to sharpen the capacity of our data-numbed brains. Head to your nearest office supplies store and buy a stack. Or, save yourself the cost and launch Microsoft Word Yes, Get Microsoft Word for Free: Here's How Don't want to pay for the full Microsoft Word experience? Here are some ways on how you can use Microsoft Word for free. Read More . It does a fine job of creating index cards from scratch.

All you need now are the ideal measurements and the right kind of paper to print your index cards on. I will leave that choice to you as we pick one from the three methods.

The Quickest Way – Use Index Card Templates

Templates can save you a lot of time. Microsoft Word has an entire gallery of templates 10 Templates to Save Time at the Office Are there documents that you write over and over again? Whether it's meeting agendas, invoices, or status reports, templates could make your work easier. We have compiled 10 template ideas to save you time. Read More that are designed for any personal or professional need. And, it hasn’t forgotten about index cards or flash cards. The way to get to them is through a search.

Open Microsoft Word. Go to File > New. Type Index card in the search field.


Microsoft Word - Index Card Templates

The results are displayed as thumbnails and you can easily sort through them visually or with the category list on the right. If you need a specific type of index card, try a search with that.

Microsoft Word - Index Card Category

For instance, you can type “flash card” to scour for educational flash cards. The template gallery has a variety of flash cards for basic English and Math. Select the template and it opens as a new Microsoft Word document.


Vocabulary Index Cards

Use the index card as it is or re-purpose it around your content. For instance: how about styling your fonts How to Style Fonts in Microsoft Word to Make Your Text Stand Out A well formatted text can grab your reader's attention and help them flow through your document. We show you how to add that final touch in Microsoft Word. Read More and make the text on the card stand out.

Make an Index Card in Microsoft Word from Scratch

The templates won’t fill every need. So, a do-it-yourself approach will not only give you the power to make your own custom designed index cards but also fit it around the printer you have at your disposal. The good news is that Microsoft Word makes the process easy.

Open a new Microsoft Word document. To set the right size for the index cards, head to the Layout tab on the Ribbon. Click the little arrow at the edge of the Page Setup group to open the options.


Microsoft Word - Page Setup

On the Page Setup panel click on the tab for Paper. Scroll down the paper sizes given. If you get a size close to your desired number select that. If not then select Custom Size which is the last choice on the drop-down list. Enter the Width and Height as per the dimensions of the size of your index card. Click OK to set the dimensions.

Microsoft Word - Set Index Card Size

You can also arrive at the same options by selecting Size from the Layout tab. The scroll-down list brings you to different paper sizes and the More Paper Sizes command at the end. It opens the same dialog box we see above.

Microsoft Word - Layout - Size

Index cards can be of different sizes. Wikipedia says that the most common size for index cards in North America and the UK is 3 by 5 inches. It is commonly known as the 3 by 5 card. Other available sizes include 4 by 6 inches, 5 by 8 inches, and ISO-size A7 (74 by 105 mm or 2.9 by 4.1 in).

Set the Margin (& Other Design Tweaks) 

If you want to keep them organized in a binder file, you might like to set a margin that leaves space for a punch hole.

Set the print margins on the card from the default 1″ to the Narrow .5″. Go to the first button on the Layout tab that says Margins. Choose Normal (which is the default) or Narrow from the drop-down. Or, any other dimension that is suitable for the look of the cards.

Microsoft Word - Set margins

The Word document is now set up with your custom dimensions. By default, Microsoft Word will print the cards in portrait. Flip the orientation between Portrait and Landscape if you wish (Layout > Orientation). For instance, a recipe card would look better in portrait. A vocabulary card would be ideal with a landscape adjustment.

Design Your Index Cards to Fit Their Purpose. Your first blank index card is ready. Now you can fill it with any information you desire. From clipart for illustrated information The Best Websites for Free Clipart Downloads Today's clipart needs to be modern, colorful, and less cartoonish. Try these 13 the top websites for free clipart downloads when you need to search for the right image in a short time. Read More to charts or just normal text — format the look as you would do for a normal Microsoft Word document.

Press Enter or do a Page Break to open the second page or in this case the second index card with the same dimensions. Create as many index cards as you wish.

Make an Index Card with Word’s Inbuilt Label Standards

Open a blank Microsoft Word document. Go to the Mailings tab on the Ribbon.

Microsoft Word Labels

On the Create (Envelopes and Labels) panel click on Labels. In the Envelopes and Labels settings choose the Labels tab click on Options.

Envelopes and Lables

The Options box lists a huge number of Label Vendors and their Product Numbers. You can use these pre-configured label templates to create index cards easily. The Label Information on the right gives the dimensions and the page size required.

Label Options

From the drop-down, choose Microsoft or a vendor like Avery US Letter. Scroll down to an Index card dimension (Avery Number 5388) – it will give you three 3″ x 5″ cards on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet. This is an Avery standard for the index card type chosen (I got the number from the Avery website). Select OK.

Like any print job, you should check that your label dimensions and page margins are not larger than the actual paper size. Click on Details to preview the dimensions. Tweak a setting like Page Size as per the size of the paper you plan to print on.

How to Make Index Cards in Microsoft Word 2016 Index Card Details

Microsoft Word as always allows you to make your own custom-sized labels when the pre-configured measurements don’t help.

Select New Label in the Label Options box and enter the dimensions in the Label Details dialog box. The custom label will be added to the list with the descriptive name you attach to it.

How to Make Index Cards in Microsoft Word 2016 Customize Index Card


Click OK. In the Envelopes and Labels dialog box, select New Document. The Microsoft Word document shows the three index cards marked out by dashed border lines. All you have to do is to insert the content, print it and cut it out into three. Click on New Document again to get the next sheet of index cards.

When Was the Last Time You Used Index Cards?

Paper can still be the killer productivity app 6 Simple Reasons Why Paper Can Still Be Your Killer Productivity App Paper can be a more potent tool for productivity than a computer or a touch device, and shouldn't immediately be dismissed. Not convinced? Here are six reasons why paper is still relevant. Read More . A few extra bits of card stock won’t harm it.

America’s first woman ambassador once said that the height of sophistication is simplicity. Much before it was mis-attributed to Steve Jobs. Even Google has embraced this simplicity and has brought back the index card in a new digital avatar.

The look of everything from the Knowledge Graph to Google Keep is a subtle tribute to the index card. In a Co.Design article, Matias Duarte, UX director for Android said,

We’ve actually tapped into one of the oldest pieces of graphic and information design around–business cards, calling cards, greeting cards, playing cards.

Now, what about you?

Maybe, you can use them like a memory index of alternative ideas as Maria Popova does? Or, be like Ronald Reagan who used them to throw out his funny one-liners? You can mimic Vladimir Nabokov and plot your entire book (or just the next term paper) on a series of index cards. At the very least, you can use them to leave love notes for your better half!

Tell us your own experience with index cards. And, throw your best creative ideas in the comments that will help us squeeze benefits from a simple stack of card stock.

Related topics: Education Technology, Language Learning, Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft Word, Printables.

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  1. William Caldwell
    October 24, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    I love paper. I love index cards. I use post-it notes, index cards, a paper planner (Day-Timers), a paper calendar. But the calendar on my MacBook is also useful because I only have to enter birthdays once and because I can always see five weeks at a time.

    And here is a non-paper note-cardy trick that has served me well for more than a decade: The Excel Ultimate-Simplicity Database. Open a workbook. On a spreadsheet, change the width of column A to approximately the width of the screen. Okay, programming is now finished. Begin data-entry: Every idea or piece of information you want to save, type it on a line. Give it a 2-4 letter code: "add" for an address or phone number you need to write down. "home" followed by a space and then the name of the plumber or electrician whose name you will need later. "travel" and the name of the B & B you stayed in in Michigan. Save the file under the name Misc Note for Miscellaneous Notes. You can do a data sort to put all items together. You can use search function to find information faster than with a stack of index cards. You can create a new spreadsheet for each year.

    I'm the local hero when my wife can't remember the name of the person who worked on the stucco five years ago. I search the workbook for "stucco" and there it is. I collect humor, make notes about events in our lives. It never takes more than seconds, but later it is a treasure trove. "When were we in Paris?" "That was five years ago." "Are you sure?" "Yeah, just looked it up."

    • Saikat Basu
      October 29, 2017 at 7:16 am

      Love the tip. Hope you don't mind if I use it in a small article here at MakeUseOf, William? Of course, I will credit you :)

  2. Arm
    December 11, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Thank you very much, you just made studying for my psychology finals a thousand times easier :]

  3. elk_5
    October 1, 2009 at 4:06 am

    ok - sorry to jump the gun - it worked - many thanks...

  4. elk_5
    October 1, 2009 at 4:05 am

    hi, i tried this - but can get only 1 label in the new document and not three as shown in the picture.

    please help,


    • Lynn
      May 23, 2018 at 10:57 pm

      I have a similar problem - I need to make hundreds of Spanish Verb conjugation flashcards, but I want to make 6 flashcards per 8.5 x 11 sheet...haven't figured out how to do it on Word yet...sigh...

    • Saikat Basu
      May 25, 2018 at 5:07 am

      Are you choosing the right paper size? And the right index card -- Index card dimension (Avery Number 5388).

  5. Zachary
    July 25, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I wish this tutorial had came out earlier - it would have come in very handy for an earlier project. Well, thanks; I've been looking for instructions on how to do this.

    • Saikat
      July 26, 2009 at 3:24 am

      Better late than never, I say :)

  6. dan
    July 24, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Can you do a tutorial for OpenOffice users?