Making MS Word Tables work for you

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

MS Word tables are great as an organisational tool that lets you present information in an interesting, easy-to-read format.  They are excellent for presenting text and graphics, creating a form or checklist.  You can also use tables for page layout.

Word facilitates tabular layout by enabling you to merge and split certain cells, creating uneven numbers of rows and columns to accommodate nonstandard designs.  You can even use them to sort data and include formulas.

This blog includes four tips when working with tables. How to:

Quickly resize an entire table

To quickly resize a whole table, drag one of its outside borders.  You will get different results, though, depending on where you drag. See diagram below:

  • Left border – changes the width of the leftmost column
  • Right border – changes the width of the rightmost column
  • Bottom border – changes the height of the bottom row
  • Bottom-right corner – changes the height and width of the table overall, with all rows and columns adjusted proportionally.
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Figure 1:  Options to resize a table

Apply table styles

Table styles are similar to the character and paragraph styles.  The main difference is that a table style contains table-specific features such as cell border formatting, cell shading, and special designations for the first and last row and column.

To apply a table style, click anywhere in the table and then select one of the table styles from the Table tools Design tab.  For more style choices, click the down-arrow button to open a larger menu.


Figure 2: Table style options

After applying a table style, you can use the check boxes in the Table Style Options group (Table Tools Design tab) to turn on/off certain formatting extras.  Each of these designates certain rows or columns to receive different formatting.  For example:

  • Header Row – formats the first row differently
  • Total Row – formats the last row differently
  • Banded – options make every other row or column different for easier reading.

Note: Not all styles support banded rows and columns.  If nothing seems to be happening when you turn on Banded Rows or Banded Columns, try selecting a different table style.

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Figure 3: Table with banded rows and inserted sum formula

If you are happy with the current table style, but you want to add bands, you can modify the style.  To do this:

  1. Open the Tables Styles list (from the Table Tools Design tab) and choose Modify Table Style…
  2. Assign a new name in the Name box, then open the Apply Formatting To menu and choose one of the band options (such as Banded Rows or Banded Columns).
  3. Change the formatting as desired, and click OK.

Set the default table style

To set a style as the default for new tables, follow the steps below:

  1. Right-click the desired style on the Tables Styles list and choose Set As Default.
  2. Choose either This Document Only or All Documents Based on the Normal.dotm Template in the Microsoft Word dialog box to specify the scope of the settings.
  3. Click OK to make the style the new default.

Save your commonly used table to Quick Tables Gallery

Quick Tables are tables that are stored in galleries as building blocks. You can access and reuse Quick Tables at any time. If you frequently use a table with specific formatting, you can save a copy of that table in the Quick Tables gallery so that you don’t need to recreate the table each time that you want to use it.

To save your table to the Quick Styles gallery, follow the steps below:

  1. Insert and format your table to how you want it to appear, remembering to remove changing text.
  2. Select the table.
  3. On the Insert tab, in the Tables group, click Tables.
  4. Point to Quick Tables, click Save Selection to Quick Tables Gallery.
  5. Fill out the information in the Create New Building Block dialog box:
    • Name: Type a unique name for the building block.
    • Gallery: Select Tables from the list.
    • Category: Select a category, such as General or Built-In, or create a new category.
    • Description: Type a description of the building block.
    • Save in: Click Building Blocks in the list.
      You can select a different template in the Save in list if you want the table to be available in that template. A template must be open to be displayed in the list of template names.
    • Options: Choose one of the following:
      • Select Insert in own paragraph to make the content into its own paragraph, even if the cursor is in the middle of a paragraph.
      • Select Insert content in its own page to place the building block on a separate page with page breaks before and after the building block.
  6. Now test it.

I don’t see any tables in the Quick Tables gallery

If you don’t see any built-in table designs in the gallery or you can’t access the gallery, building block add-ins may be unavailable. To make sure that built-in designs appear in all of the Microsoft Office Word building block galleries, do the following:

  1. Click File, and then click Word Options.
  2. Click Add-Ins.
  3. In the Manage list, select Disabled Items, and then click Go.
  4. Click Building Blocks.dotx, and then click Enable. Restart Word.

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

Here is a thought from Rishika Jain “Learn something new each day – keep your eyes, ears, and – most of all – your mind open.”   Until next time… Heather.

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