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4.7. Tables

How do you use Word to create a résumé, agenda, program booklet, list, multiple-choice test, Web page, or other document where numbers, words, and phrases must be aligned across the page? In the bad old days, people did it by pressing the Tab key to line up columns. As Figure 4-14 illustrates, this method is a recipe for disaster. (Unfortunately, thousands of people still use this method—or, worse, they still try to line up columns by continuously pressing the Space bar.)

Figure 4-14. Top: If you use tabs to set up a table, things may look good at first—as long as every line fits within its space and you never plan to insert any additional text. Middle: Here's what's wrong with the tab approach. When you insert the word Understudy into one of the columns, it pushes too far to the right, causing an ugly ripple effect that will take you a long time to straighten out. Bottom: If you use a table, you never have this kind of problem. Just type as much text as you like into a "cell," and that row of the table will simply expand to contain it. (The light gray gridlines don't print unless you want them to.)

Using Word's table feature is light-years easier and more flexible. As illustrated in Figure 4-14, each row of a table expands infinitely to contain whatever you put into it, while everything else on its row remains aligned. Tables also offer a few simple spreadsheet features.

4.7.1. Creating Tables

You can let Word build the table to your specifications, or you can draw it more or less freehand. Inserting a table

The quickest way to insert a table is to use the Insert Table pop-up button on the Standard toolbar (see Figure 4-15).

Figure 4-15. Left: A quick way to make a small table is to drag from the Insert Table button on the Standard toolbar. As you drag through the resulting grid, you're specifying the grid size you want. (You can drag beyond the boundaries shown here, by the way, to specify a 9 x 9 table, for example; the pop-up grid grows as necessary.) Right: If you frequently use the same kind of table, check the "Set as default for new tables" box to make your favorite settings the new defaults. They will appear in this dialog box each time you choose Table→Insert→Table.

If the toolbar isn't visible, choose Table→Insert→Table. The Insert Table dialog box opens, also shown in Figure 4-15.

After choosing the number of rows and columns you wish to start with (you can always add more later), click an AutoFit radio button to instruct Word how to size the columns across your table. If you know how wide in inches you'd like each column to be, click "Initial column width" and set a measurement in the size box. "AutoFit to contents" creates skinny columns that expand as you type into them, and "AutoFit to window" (the easiest way to go if you're not sure) spaces the selected number of columns evenly across the page. The table appears in your document at the insertion point when you click OK. Figure 4-16 depicts a small 6 x 4 table.

Figure 4-16. The light gray markings shown here appear when you click the Show/Hide ¶ button on the Standard toolbar or Formatting Palette. To select an entire column, click near the top of it; the cursor turns into a tiny arrow. To resize a row or column, drag the horizontal or vertical lines when the cursor turns into a double arrow. The resize box at lower right keeps all rows and columns in proportion as it expands or shrinks the entire table. Drawing a table

Word's Draw Table tool gives you free rein to form the table of your dreams—the trick is learning to control it.

To summon this toolbar, click the Tables and Borders button on the Standard toolbar, choose View→Toolbar→Tables and Borders, or choose Table→Draw Table. The Tables and Borders toolbar opens and the cursor turns into a pencil. (Press Esc whenever you want the normal cursor back.)

When you drag the pencil horizontally or vertically, it draws lines; when you drag diagonally, it draws boxes. Using these techniques, you can design even the most eccentric, asymmetrical table on earth.

The tidiest way to begin drawing a table is to drag diagonally to create the outer boundary (Figure 4-17, left), then drag horizontal and vertical lines to create the rows and columns. Drawing your own table is the best option when you want a variety of widths in your rows and columns, as shown in Figure 4-17, rather than evenly spaced ones.

Figure 4-17. Left: Drag diagonally to create the outer border of your table. Right: The Draw Table tool lets you create rows and columns of any size and shape just by drawing them.

To remove a cell or line you've just drawn, hold down the Shift key (or click the eraser tool on the Tables and Borders toolbar) and drag it across a line. The line promptly disappears.

When you're done designing your table's framework, you can dismiss the Tables and Borders toolbar. On the other hand, if you leave it open, you'll have buttons for sorting and formatting your table, or drawing more tables, ready at hand. The insertion point is now blinking in your new table, all set to begin typing.

If you really make a mess of things, press -Z to undo what you've done, one step at a time. Alternatively, vaporize the entire table by clicking inside it and choosing Table→Delete→Table. Typing into tables

To type into a table cell, click in that cell. You can use the up or down arrow keys to change rows; press Tab and Shift-Tab to jump forward or backward through the cells. (There's not much call for tabs within cells—after all, you've already aligned the text the way you like it. But if you need a tab character, press Option-Tab.)


Pressing Return or Enter doesn't take you to the next cell; it puts a line break in the current cell instead. Get in the habit of pressing Tab to move on to the next cell.

You can also navigate like this:

To move to:Press these keys:
First cell in the rowControl-Home
Last cell in the rowControl-End
Top cell in the columnControl-Page up
Bottom cell in the columnControl-Page down
Highlight whole tableOption-Clear

As you type, text wraps within the cell, forcing the row to grow taller as necessary. To widen the cell as you type, choose Table→AutoFit→AutoFit to Contents. (Even then, the cell will widen only until the table reaches the edge of the page—then the text will start to wrap down.)

Of course, this automatic wrapping is the principal charm of tables. But if you find yourself wishing Word would not wrap text in this way, select the cells in which you want wrapping turned off, and then choose Table→Table Properties→Cell tab. Click Options and uncheck the Wrap Text box. You can still enter as much text in a cell as you like, but the cell won't expand downward to show it—it will just disappear beyond the cell boundary. Selecting cells

To cut, copy, or drag material from cells in a table, you must first select it, as with any other Word text. Because it's a table, however, you have the following options:

  • Drag the mouse— down, across, or diagonally over the cells you'd like to select.

  • Click at the top of a column— the cursor changes into a downward-pointing arrow—to select an entire column. Likewise, click at the left of a row—the cursor changes into a right-slanting arrow—to select an entire row.

  • Click the thin, invisible selection bar at the left edge of a cell to highlight that cell. (Double-click the selection bar to highlight a whole row.)

  • Click one cell, row, or column, and then Shift-click another to extend the selection by additional cells, rows, or columns.

  • Option-click anywhere in a column to select the entire column.

  • Triple-click the cursor at the beginning of any row to select the entire table.

  • Use the Shift key in conjunction with any of the navigation keystrokes described above. Sizing rows and columns

You can make a row taller or shorter, or a column wider or narrower, much the way you adjust Word's text boxes or margins. Point to any line or boundary of a table without clicking, then drag when the cursor turns into a double-sided arrow.

You can also rely on Word's own automatic table features to help you design the table. They include:

  • Balanced columns. If a symmetrical, balanced look is what you crave, Word can automatically arrange the rows or columns across your table so that there's equal space between them. First select the rows and columns that you want to balance, then choose Table→AutoFit→Distribute Rows Evenly or Distribute Columns Evenly. (Corresponding buttons on the Tables and Borders toolbar and Formatting Palette can do all this with a single click.)

  • Automatic sizing. Often, you want the columns to stretch and shrink depending on what you type into them. Or, you just don't know in advance what size you want or need the columns to be. In such cases, choose Table→AutoFit→AutoFit to Contents. As you work, the columns will stretch to just the width necessary to accommodate the contents. For maximum room, Table→AutoFit→AutoFit to Window stretches your columns—no matter how many of them there are—to fill the page from margin to margin.

    At any time, you can resize the table using the mouse; doing so overrides and cancels the previous AutoFit setting. When you have the column widths right where you want them, choose AutoFit→Fixed Column Width. The same menu choices are available on the Tables and Borders toolbar (click the little arrow next to the Insert Table button) as well as the bottom of the Formatting Palette.

  • Numeric precision. To set row and column sizes using exact measurements, select the rows or columns in question and then choose Table→Table Properties. The resulting dialog box (see Figure 4-18) contains size boxes where you can enter exact measurements.

    Figure 4-18. When using the Table Properties dialog box, you can select a group of rows and columns and size them all at once, or you can use the Previous and Next buttons to work on each row or column one at a time.

    For columns, you can also specify a percentage of the table width instead of a measurement in inches. For rows, you have the option of setting an exact measurement, or an "At least" measurement. When "At least" is chosen, the cells in that row will stretch downward to wrap text as you type—even if you've turned off "Wrap Text" on the Cell tab.

  • The whole table. To resize the table as a whole, drag the lower-right corner. The rows and columns remain evenly spaced, or in whatever proportions you have chosen. Adding rows and columns

If you run out of room and need more rows at the bottom of your table, it's easy to add more: Click the lower-right cell and press Tab. A new row appears, identical to the one above, ready for your typing.

To add a new row or column anywhere in your table, click in the table and then use the Table→Insert submenu. Choose one of the options from the menu that appears: "Insert Columns to the Left," for example. (These commands are also available in the Insert Table pop-up button on the Tables and Borders toolbar.)

Adding multiple rows or columns at either end of your table, or anywhere within it, is a two-step process. First, highlight the same number of rows or columns as the ones you want to insert; to add two rows, select two existing rows.

Next, choose Table→Insert, and one of the submenu options (Insert→Rows Below, for example). Word instantly creates the requested number of new, empty rows or columns.

Inserting individual cells works much the same way. Insert one cell at a time by choosing Table→Insert→Cells, or by using the Insert Table menu on the Tables and Borders toolbar. To insert multiple cells, select the equivalent number of existing cells at the desired location in your table before choosing from the menu.

Of course, you may find it more fun simply to click the Draw Table tool on the Tables and Borders toolbar and draw the extra columns and rows onto your table.


If Word crashes when you're working with a very long table, or when you draw a table within a table cell, install the Office X Service Release 1, as described in Office Up to Date. Deleting table parts

It's easy to dismantle a table in various ways:

  • Deleting cells. Select one or more cells and choose Table→Delete→Cells. Word asks if you want to move the remaining cells up or leftward to fill the void; choose one and click OK (or press Return).

  • Deleting rows and columns. Select them (as shown in Figure 4-16) and choose Table→Delete→Rows (or Columns). You may find it faster to click anywhere in the row or column and choose Table→Delete→Cells, then choose a radio button to delete the entire row or column. Click OK or hit Return to confirm the deletion.

  • Deleting the whole table. Click anywhere in the table and choose Table→Delete→Table.

4.7.2. Formatting Tables

When you click inside a table, the ever-responsive Formatting Palette sprouts a new set of formatting tools—a section called Table Cells. In conjunction with the existing Borders and Shading section, you now have all the formatting controls you need.

To use them, begin by highlighting the cells, rows, or columns that you want to work on. Then you're all set to format any of these table elements:

  • Table border or gridlines. The Borders tools let you choose a line style (solid, dashed, and so on), color, and weight (thickness in points). Clicking the Type button triggers a menu where you can choose which sides of the table you want borders to appear on. For instance, you may want only vertical lines inside the table and no outside border. Or you may want a heavier top border on the top row of cells only. (The same border formatting tools appear on the top row of the Tables and Borders toolbar.)


    You can also eliminate certain table lines entirely. Just click the eraser tool on the top row of the Tables and Borders toolbar, and drag along each line you want to disappear from the table. Doing so merges the table cells (Section

  • Background shading in cells. Shading in a table is similar to a fill (see Section, except that you don't use the Fill palette; you use the Shading palette in the Formatting Palette (or Tables and Borders toolbar). You can choose from 40 colors and 24 shades of gray, or choose More Colors to use Word's color pickers (see Section 18.5).

The Thin Gray Lines

I like the concept of a table, but I don't want thick black lines in my résumé (or Web page). How do I get rid of them?

You're right: Unless you intervene, these lines will actually print out. One of the quickest ways to delete the borders and gridlines is to click inside the table and then choose Format→ Borders and Shading; in the resulting dialog box, click None, then click OK.

Even then, however, you may still see thin gray lines. These don't print; they're just on the screen to help you understand the "tableness" of your table. You can hide even these lines, if you like, by choosing Table→Gridlines so that the checkmark disappears.

At this point, you might want to consider clicking the Show/Hide (¶) icon on the Standard toolbar. The end-of-row and end-of-cell marks become visible, defining the bounds of your table. Autoformatting tables

With creative combinations of borders, lines, and shading, you can make a table look right for anything from Citibank annual reports to Sesame Street. When you're in a hurry, though, choose a Table AutoFormat for instant good looks.

Click anywhere in your table and choose Table→Table AutoFormat. There's a long list of potential formats in the list box at the left of the Table AutoFormat dialog box. Simply click on each for a preview. If you want to use some of the features in the format but not others (font, color, and so on), then just turn on the boxes for the ones you wish to use.


Turning on AutoFit is a good idea, since it ensures that the new format will exactly fit the existing information in your table, instead of vice versa.

Many of the formats have a different typeface or shading applied to the top (heading) row, first column, last column, and so on. The checkboxes in the "Apply special formats to" section control whether you take those features along with the rest of the format. For instance, if you're not using the last row of your table for totals, don't turn on the "Last row" box. Table headings

For the purposes of Autoformatting, Word considers the first row of a table to be a heading. But what if your table is longer than a page? Wouldn't it be nice if Word could repeat the column titles at the top of each page? Well, it can, thanks to the Heading Rows Repeat feature.

Select the top row of your table (and any additional rows that you'll want to repeat). Then choose Table→Heading Rows Repeat; that's all there is to it. When your table flows onto a new page (page breaks you insert yourself don't count), the heading will appear at the top of each new page of your table. Cell margins and spacing

To enhance the look of your text in a table, adjust the gap between the characters and the borderlines. You can also put a little space around the outside of each cell—an especially attractive effect on Web pages (see Chapter 7).

Just select one or more cells and choose Table→Table Properties→Cell tab. Click Options, and set measurements in the size boxes for the distance between the text and the top, bottom, left, and right edges of the cell. The "Same as the whole table" box changes the margins of the selected cell to match the default cell margins for the table. To set the default margins for all cells in the table at once, choose Table→Table Properties→Table tab; click Options and enter measurements in the "Default cell margins" boxes.

To add more spacing around the outside of cells, click anywhere in the table and choose Table→Table Properties→Table tab. Click the Options button and turn on "Allow spacing between cells"; enter a setting in the size box. When you click OK, that amount of white space will surround each cell, simulating the effect of thicker cell walls. Usually .1" or less looks good. More space than that creates a waffle-like effect, as illustrated in Figure 4-21.

Figure 4-21. Top: A 2 x 2 table. Middle: The same table after merging the top two cells. Bottom: The table after splitting the top two cells in two. If the "Merge cells before split" box had been checked in the Split Cells dialog box, Farewell would immediately follow So Long in the upper-right cell. Text formatting within cells

Like text anywhere in Word, you can change the direction and alignment of selected text in a table using the Format→Text Direction command—a great effect for row or column labels (Figure 4-21, right). In the resulting dialog box, choose the text orientation—horizontal, vertical, or bottom-to-top—and click OK.

Figure 4-19. Left: You can create some unusual table looks using, for example, .15" spacing between cells. Right: Rotated text.

You can also make the text in selected cells hug the left or right side of its cell, center it right in the middle, or make it stick to the "floor" or "ceiling" of a cell. After selecting the cells, click the arrow button next to the alignment button on the Tables and Borders toolbar and choose the alignment pattern you're seeking. Align Top Left, for example, aligns text to the top and left margins of the cell, so that the text starts in the upper-left corner. Table layout on the page

When you created your table, you probably dragged it where you wanted it, or built it starting from the insertion point. To position it exactly where it looks best on the page and apply advanced features like text wrapping, use the tools in the Table→Table Properties→Table tab, shown in Figure 4-20.

Figure 4-20. The Table Properties dialog box. Clicking the Borders and Shading button opens a dialog box where you can choose lines and fills for the table, as well as page borders.


If you try to drag a table down in your document (to add text above the table, for example), the table may not break properly across pages. The workaround: Copy the table, open a new Word document, type the new text, then paste the table below it.

  • Size. Use this box to set a width for the entire table. (It says "Preferred width" because it may change if you use the AutoFit feature, as described in Section

  • Alignment. Choose left, centered, or right alignment. "Indent from left" tells Word where to start aligning, measured from the edge of the page. (If your table already spans the page, margin to margin, you won't see any difference.)

  • Text Wrapping. For large tables, you'll usually choose None. If you choose Around, the Positioning button becomes activated; clicking opens a dialog box where you can use advanced layout features like those described in Section 4.4.5. Nested tables

A nested table is a table-within-a-table, or, more specifically, a table within a cell of another table. This feature is especially valuable when you're using Word as a Web-design tool. For example, you can create a table with four large cells to divide your Web page into quarters, and put a smaller table in each one.

To create a nested table, click in the cell where you want the table to start, then click the Insert Table button on the Tables and Borders toolbar. Choose the number of rows and columns for your nested table. Now you can click in one of the nested cells and start typing. (Because the nested table must remain within one cell, either resize the cell to hold the nested table, or choose Table→AutoFit→ AutoFit to Contents to allow the holding cell to expand.) Merging and splitting cells

Merging and splitting are nothing more than ways of subtracting or adding columns en masse. Merging cells (or rows or columns) turns two into one, and pours their contents together. Splitting cells (or rows or columns) divides them, forcing their contents into the cell above or to the left of the split.

Start by highlighting the cells, rows, or columns you want to merge. Then choose Table→Merge Cells, or click the Merge Cells button on the Tables and Borders toolbar; the selected cells instantly merge. Another way to proceed: Use the eraser tool to remove the line dividing two cells, columns, or rows; this way you can see directly how merging cells works.

The quickest and most satisfying way to split cells is to draw new lines right smack across existing cells, using the Draw Table tool on the Tables and Borders toolbar.

If you need computer-aided precision, however, you can split cells, rows, or columns perfectly evenly by selecting them and then choosing Table→Split Cells (or click the Split Cells button on the Tables and Borders toolbar). In the Split Cells dialog box, choose the number of rows and columns you want each cell to be divided into. For example, the cells at the right in Figure 4-21 were split into two columns and one row; the one row that was selected stayed one row, and the two columns became a total of four.


You can also split a table, creating a blank line between its top and bottom portions—a great trick when you need to insert some regular text into the middle of it. Just click where you want the split and then choose Table→Split Table. Converting text to a table

Sometimes you want to create a table from information that's already in Word, such as a table that a novice Word person (perhaps even a younger you) created by trying to line up text with the Tab key. At other times, you've got a table and want to extract its information without maintaining its tableness (before importing into a page-layout program, for example, because page-layout programs don't understand Word tables). Word is happy to be your obedient servant.

The key to turning highlighted text into a table is the Table→Convert→Convert Text to Table command. Presumably, the text is a list, a number of words separated by tabs, or some other vaguely table-like blob of text. In the Convert Text to Table dialog box, start with the "Separate text at" settings. Choose the most logical place to divide your selected text into cells. If that's not a paragraph, comma, or tab, then click Other and press the key that represents your choice—Space bar, Return, period, and so on.

Word automatically suggests the number of columns you'll need to hold all the text; you can also specify the number of rows and columns you want. You also have the chance to use the AutoFit and AutoFormat features now—or you can always save them for later. Click OK to begin the conversion process.

If the table doesn't look quite as you had hoped, examine it and learn how Word interpreted your choices in the Convert Text to Table dialog box. Then press -Z to undo the conversion and try again with different selections. Or just reformat your table using the tools described in this section. Converting a table into text

Converting a table to text is easier still. Click the table and choose Table→Convert→Convert Table to Text.

Your only decision is how to divide the contents of one cell from the next—you don't want them all to run together, of course. You have a choice of paragraph marks (each cell's contents will become a new Word paragraph), tabs, commas, or any other character you enter in the Other box by pressing its key. If you choose tabs, the result is what you've heard described as tab delimited text; that is, one tab separating each word or phrase that formerly occupied a cell on a single row, with a Return character at the end of each line. Formulas in tables

Word is no Excel, but Microsoft is at least aware that you may want to do simple math from time to time. Fortunately, a table can carry out many of the most common spreadsheet tasks with the help of functions and operators. You can add up a column of numbers, for example, or have Word average them and display the results.

To add a column of figures, click in the bottom cell of the column (making sure that it's blank, of course) and click the AutoSum (Σ) button in the Tables and Borders toolbar (see Figure 4-22, left). Your answer appears immediately against a gray background (which doesn't print). This gray box indicates that you're dealing with an uneditable field (see Section 6.9).

Figure 4-22. Top: Clicking in the bottom cell and the clicking AutoSum adds up the numbers in each column. Middle: The Tables and Borders toolbar shows the AutoSum button responsible for this magic. Bottom: The Table→Formula command reveals that the AutoSum function does nothing more than insert the invisible formula =SUM(ABOVE) into the selected cell. You could have typed it in this dialog box yourself, if you had very little else to do. In this case, currency formatting was selected from the pop-up menu. You can also choose simpler formatting without the dollar sign and decimal point.


This kind of field doesn't update automatically. If your table numbers change, you must repeat the click on the AutoSum button (or click the field and then press F9).

For more complex formulas, click the cell where you want to place the results of your calculations and choose Table→Formula. Word's guess at what formula you're looking for already appears in the Formula window. If that's not right, press Delete, type an equal sign to begin your formula, and build it with the following (see Figure 4-22):

  • Cell references. Cells in Word tables are named the same way as in Excel spreadsheets, except that you can't see the row letters and column numbers. The columns are named A, B, C, and so on, from left to right; the rows are numbered 1, 2, 3, and so on, from top to bottom. The upper-leftmost cell is A1.

    To refer to the entire column above the formula cell, use the expression (ABOVE); to refer to the entire row, use (LEFT). For a range of cells (a block of them), use a colon to separate the top left and lower-right cells of the range, such as A1:B2 to name a four-cell range.

  • Operators. Operators are symbols like + for addition, – for subtraction, * for multiplication, / for division, and > for greater than. To view a complete list, type Mathematical and relational operators into the search box of Word's Help system. Using operators in combination, you can set up a table cell to add sales tax (* 1.06) to a subtotal column, for example.

  • Functions. Choose formulas from the "Paste function" list in the Table→Formula dialog box. These are the same as the Excel formulas described in Chapter 12.

  • Click the arrow next to the Number format box to tell Word what you want the results to look like—AutoFormatted with a dollar sign, with commas, and so on.

Click OK to place the formula in the current cell; see Chapter 12 for much more on using formulas in Office X. Sorting tables

If your table contains names, dates, or other listed items, you may want to arrange them in numerical or alphabetical order. To do so, click the table and choose Table→Sort.

In the "Sort by" box, Word helpfully suggests that you start with "Column 1," the first column on the left. All the columns in the current table are listed in a menu; click the arrows to choose one. For instance, to sort chronologically, choose the column that contains your dates. You can sort by Text (alphabetically), Number, or Date; just choose the one that matches your data.

You can choose second and third sort columns as well. For example, after the first column sorts by date, you may want to sort names alphabetically within each date. Use the "Then by" boxes to set up these second and third internal sorts.

Click OK to begin the sort. (Note that you can't sort columns—only rows.)

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