Making MS Word Tables work for you – Part 3

(The following text has been adapted from Wempen, F. (2013). Word 2013 In Depth. USA: Pearson Education, Inc.)

This article is a little late because I have just completed one of my bucket list items – cycling the Karakoram Highway from Gilgit, North Pakistan to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The adventure was all I had hoped for plus more: magnificent scenery; enjoyable company; delicious and nutritious food, and only 3 hrs of very cold rain in 20 days!! (Here check it out if you are interested Pakistan – Kyrgyzstan cycling adventure)

This blog continues from the previous table topic, making MS Word tables work for you, and includes two more tips when working with tables.

How to:

Sort tabular data

As mentioned earlier, data stored in table format makes the data easier to search and sort.  If you not sure how to do this, check out this website link:

In the example below, data will be sorted by Town/City in ascending order and then PostCode in ascending order.  To sort this data, follow the steps below:

  • Click anywhere in the table and then, on the Table Tools Layout tab, click Sort. (The Sort dialog box opens, as shown below:


  • If the first row contains header labels, select the Header Row option button; otherwise, click No Header Row.
  • In the Sort By list, select the column by which to sort, in this instance Town/City. (If you choose No Header Row in step 2, generic names appear (Column 1, Column 2, and so on).
  • Open the Type list and select Text.
  • Click Ascending or Descending.
  • In the Then By section, select PostCode from the drop-down list; open the Type list and number and select Ascending order. (This secondary sort takes effect only in the event of a tie in the primary column: Town/City.)
  • (Optional) You can also enter a third level in the subsequent Then By section.
  • (Optional) To make the sort case sensitive, click the Options button, mark the Case Sensitive check box, and click OK.
  • Click OK to perform the sort.


Delimited data

Delimited data is text, phrases etc that are separated by commas, tabs or quotation marks, that is separated into columns.  For example, comma-delimited data consists of regular paragraphs (one per row) in which the data for each column is separated by commas, like this:

  • Comma delimited data: data1,data2,data3,data4
  • Tab-delimited data: data1àdata2àdata3àdata4

Sorting Delimited Data that’s not in a table

What if your data is not in a table but instead is delimited with commas, tabs or some other character?  You have a couple of options:

  • Option 1: Convert the delimited data into a table with the Convert Text to Table feature.
  • Option 2: Perform the sort and specify the delimiter character.  Select the paragraphs to sort and then go through the preceding steps.  In step 8, clicking the Options button opens the Sort Options dialog box.  One of the choices in this dialog box is Separate Fields At.  You can specify Tabs, Commas, or Other as the delimiter character.  Then, click OK and perform the sort normally.


Perform math calculations in a table

Word has some basic built-in math functions.  It is no substitute for Excel.  You can perform math operations such as:  sum, average, count and round.  You can also type in your own math formulas for the cells, with or without functions.

There is one drawback in using formulas in a Word table and this is cells don’t have names, at least not in the same sense as in Excel.  There are no visible letters designating columns or numbers designating rows.

There’s a secret to that, though; they actually do respond to those same names as in Excel.  The columns have names starting with A at the left, and the rows have numbers starting with 1 at the top.  For example, the word Product (in the table below) would have a cell reference as A1.

Math formulas in a Word table always begin with equal signs = just like in Excel.  You can use the traditional math operators:

  • Additional (+)
  • Subtraction (-)
  • Multiplication (*)



You can’t just type a formula into a cell; you must use the Formula dialog box to set it up.  To set up the Total for Flat whites in the table above, follow the steps below:

  • Click in the cell where you want to place the formula. In this example E2.
  • Click Formula command on the Table Tools Layout tab to open the Formula dialog box, see below. (If you don’t see the Formula command, the Data group may be collapsed; click the Data button and then click Formula.)

Figure 4: Inserting a math formula for Total Sales in the above table

  • In the Formula box, a default function might appear, depending on the position of the cell within the table. Accept it, modify it, or delete it and type a different formula or function entirely.
  • (Optional) Choose a number format from the Number Format list. A number of currency, percentage, and other numeric formats are available.
  • Click OK.

The GST column has been added to show additional options.

Setting the Order of Operations

When including multiple math operators in a formula, keep in mind the default order of operation.  Word processes multiplication and division first, followed by addition and the subtraction.  If you need to change that order, enclose the portions to be calculated first in parentheses.

For example, in the formula

  • =A1+A2*5

The A2*5 portion is calculated first, and then the result is added to A1.  If you want the addition done first, write your formula this way:

  • =(A1+A2)*5

Trust you have found these tips useful.

If you would like a particular topic covered, or have any questions, please contact me, (

Till next time ….. Heather :)

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