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Word: Tables

This month we are going to look at some tips for working with tables in Word:

Inserting a Table

If you use the menu command Table - Insert Table, try the Insert Table button instead. By dragging across the grid that appears after clicking, you can specify the number of rows and columns you need. Drag beyond the edge of the grid and it will expand to allow more rows and columns.

This will create a table that is as wide as your margins.


As you probably know, you can select cells by dragging across them.

If you want to select a row, move the mouse to the left of the table, into the margin of the page, and click to select the row it is level with. Drag downwards to select more than one row.

To select a column, point inside the column and [Alt]+Click (hold down the [Alt] key and then click).

To select the whole table use [Alt]+Double-Click. You may struggle with this if you are in Page Layout View, because the system thinks you want to change to centre alignment. To select the table, make sure you are pointing at the left-hand end of a cell and then use [Alt]+Double-Click.

Changing Column Widths

Just like Excel, you can double-click the vertical line dividing the columns to set the column on the left to "best fit". This will change the width of the table, because all the other columns will stay as they were.

If you don't want the "best fit" option you can point at the vertical line and drag it to the left or right accordingly. This has the effect of changing the widths of both columns either side of the line, so the overall width of the table is unchanged.

To change the width of one column only by dragging, point at the vertical line to the right of the column you want to change, hold down [Shift] first and then start dragging the line. This will change the width of table too.

If you hold down [Ctrl] as you drag, this keeps the table the same overall width, but also changes the width of all columns to the right of the one you are changing. If you try this you'll see that the columns change in proportion to their current widths.

The [Alt] key doesn't have an effect on the width of the columns, but if you hold it down as you drag to change the widths, the Ruler at the top of the screen shows the size of each column. You can hold down [Alt] whether or not you are using [Shift] or [Ctrl].

Don't forget that you can make sure columns are of equal width, by using the Distribute Columns Evenly command. Hightlight the columns you want to equalize, then either click the button on the Tables and Borders Toolbar or use the menu command. (Different versions of Word will have the command in a different part of the menu, but it is always somewhere in the Table menu.)

Table Width

People often change the width of their table by dragging the right hand edge - with the result that the last column is the only one that changes size.

Instead, try using [Shift] to drag the right-hand edge of the first column until the table is the right width. This will probably result in the first column being wrong but you can then use [Ctrl] to change that width and the other columns will change to share the available space.

Remember, you have to hold the key down before you use the mouse!

Adding New Rows

As well as using the Table - Insert command to add a new row, you can use the keyboard too.

You probably use [Tab] to move from one cell to the next when you are typing information into your table, When you are at the last cell of the table, pressing [Tab] automatically creates a new row underneath. At Black Swan we usually create a one-row table and add the rows as we are going along, using this technique.

You can also add new rows into the middle of your table by clicking at the end of a row, outside the table boundary on the right, and pressing [Enter]. This adds a new row below your cursor.

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