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You just cannot create beautiful Word documents by cutting corners on tables.

On Word, tables are not just containers for data – they are essential formatting tools. Microsoft Word 2013 brought a new layout engine and finer controls for creating those little grid of cells. One of the little improvements was that text inside tables is not forced to align with text outside the table.

Microsoft made it easier to create and format basic tables. Smart and subtle improvements are sure to continue with the arrival of Microsoft Office 2016 A Microsoft Office 2016 Preview: Smart & Subtle Changes A Microsoft Office 2016 Preview: Smart & Subtle Changes Office 2016 for Mac was just released and the Windows version will follow in the fall. We show you the new look and features of the world's most popular productivity suite. Will you upgrade? Read More .

But let’s start with an apology. We haven’t covered tables as much as we would have liked to. It’s time to correct that as the number of people asking questions on how to format tables properly is piling up. Maybe these eight table tips can be an appetizer.

Use Table Properties for Perfect Table Manners

Using tables and even changing them on the fly according to the data has become far easier in Word 2013. New formatting features give you finer (and quicker) control over how a table looks. But first head to the Ribbon > Insert > Table > Insert Table for making your first table. It gives you five options for creating your first table.

The quickest way to start is with Quick Tables. The built-in designs save you from the lack of design skills. You can modify the designs by adding your own rows and columns or deleting the ones you don’t need.

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Quick Tables in MS Word

Word 2013 introduced the Insert Control feature for inserting a new column or row with one click. Hover the mouse over a table. A bar appears right outside your table between two existing columns or rows. click on it when it appears, and a new column or row will be inserted at that position.

Word 2013 - Insert Control

When you want to move / order a row around, use the combination of Alt+Shift+Up Arrow and Alt+Shift+Down Arrow to order the row up or down. Move contiguous rows by selecting them all first.

The Table Properties dialog box is for precise control over the data and its display. Control the size, alignment, and indentation of the table. Do remember that table margins by default extend from the left margin to the right margin of the page. The Indent figure controls the distance of the table from the left margin.

Table Properties

Position the table according to the text around it for a visually aesthetic look. Wrap text around tables by dragging it by the handle. The text wrapping changes automatically from None to Around. From the Table Positioning dialog box you can set the Distance from surrounding text for each side of the table.

Positioning a Table

Select Move with Text if the text is directly related to the table data. The table is vertically aligned to the related paragraph around it. If the table data applies to the whole document, you can keep the option unchecked.

Use the Ruler

Sizing tables and positioning them accurately is an art in itself. If you need precise measurements to size your rows and columns – use the ruler.

Use The Word Ruler

Hover the mouse over a border. When the double-arrow pointer appears, click the border and hold down the ALT key. Word shows specific measurements on the ruler. Move the rows and columns to fit your measurements.

Convert Text to Table (and Vice Versa)

Tabular data gives information its structure. It would have been frustrating if Word didn’t have something to handle non-tabular data. You can convert data to tables instantly from the Insert Table command.

Select the text. Go to Ribbon > Insert > Table > Insert Table

Convert Text to Table

Word determines the required number of rows and columns by considering the text separators and then auto-fits the contents. The Convert Text to Table dialog box allows you more control if the previous operation doesn’t work out right. You can also choose how to fit the contents of the table on the page.

Word 2013 - Convert Text to Table

You can specify how Word should separate the data into rows and columns. Paragraph, tabs, commas, or any other delimiting character. This allows you to easily import non-tabular data from CSV files or plain TXT files and convert them into formatted tables.

And…Convert Table to Text

Engineer the reverse process if someone asks you to send them files with comma separated values or any other delineator. Select the entire table by clicking the “move” handle above the table.

Go to Ribbon > Table Tools > Layout > In the Data Group, click Convert to Text.

Convert to Text

Auto-Fill Column Numbers

Excel makes auto-filling a sequence of numbers very easy. Word 2013 does not and you may have to resort to a manual job. There is a simpler way.

Create a new column for the serial numbers if it does not exist. Select this column by positioning the mouse over the column.

With the column selected, go to Home > Paragraph > Click the Numbering button for inserting a numbered list.

Insert Numbers in Tables

A number sequence is inserted in the column automatically.

Freeze Those Tables!

Word tables change their dimension to accommodate new data. There may be times when you do not want the table to change size at all, even when new data is inserted. That is — “freeze” the size of cells.

The first step is to specify a fixed size for the cells. Go to Table Properties > Row > Enter a value in the Specify height box. For Row height is select Exactly from the dropdown.

Word 2013 Freeze Cells

Now, select the Table tab > click the Options button > uncheck the Automatically Resize to Fit Contents check box.

Freeze Cells

Click OK twice to exit the Table Properties dialog box.

This also solves the problem of inserting an image into a cell without the cell expanding to accommodate the image. If the image is bigger than the available space in the cell, it gets cropped to fit within the cell.

Change Rows Into Columns in a Table

There are situations where you have to change rows into columns and columns into rows. One possible scenario is where the number of columns exceeds the page margin. Switching columns around to rows and vice-versa is called transposition. The bad news is that Word does not have an in-built method for handling this. Microsoft suggests that you copy-paste your table into Excel and use its Transpose command.

Change Rows Into Columns in a Table

Dann shows how easy it is in Excel with this short tutorial on switching rows into columns Excel Quick Tips: How to Flip Cells & Switch Rows or Columns Excel Quick Tips: How to Flip Cells & Switch Rows or Columns Quickly bring your data into the proper format, so Excel can do its magic. Use these strategies to quickly flip rows, turn columns into rows, flip rows, and save a lot of manual labor. Read More . The transposed table can now be copy-pasted back into Word.

Paste Perfect Excel Tables into Gmail

You will find a use for this simple workaround. By default, Gmail does not retain the spreadsheet format when you paste from Excel. To email tabular data without sending it as a separate attachment, use Microsoft Word as a bridge.

Paste Perfect Excel Tables into Gmail

Select and copy-paste the Excel table to a Word document with the source formatting. Now, copy-paste from Word to Gmail. As you can see from the screenshot, the problem is solved. You might have to tweak the more heavily formatted tables slightly, but most of the formatting is retained.

Reuse Your Tables to Save Time

You can save a lot of time by re-using tables when you create professional reports and documents How To Create Professional Reports & Docs on Word How To Create Professional Reports & Docs on Word This guide looks at the elements of a good report, as well as review the structuring, styling, and finalizing of your document. Read More . Save empty table formats and insert new data when required. With this quick save, you won’t have to recreate the layout from scratch for new data.

Select a table. Go to Ribbon > Insert > Text group > click Quick Parts > Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery.

Reuse Your Tables to Save Time

After you save a selection to the Quick Part Gallery, you can reuse the selection by clicking Quick Parts and choosing the selection from the gallery.

Use the Building Blocks Organizer to preview any table you created. You can also edit properties and delete the tables from here. 

Do Word Tables Confuse You?

Just eight tips aren’t enough to cover the scope of tables in our everyday work. I haven’t talked about the role of the Design tab in creating eye-catching tables. That is a topic in itself. But it is one of the lesser areas to get confused over thanks to the visual help in that tab.

Tables are one common area between Word and Excel. Excel is for power managing tabular data, but doing them well in both is an essential Office skill 5 Microsoft Word & Excel Skills You Must Have to Succeed at the Office 5 Microsoft Word & Excel Skills You Must Have to Succeed at the Office "Get that report to me, ASAP!" A core set of Microsoft Excel and Word tricks can make this task less stressful and help you whiz up a stylish report in no time. Read More . So, jump in with your input.

Are tables an important Microsoft Word routine 10 Essential Microsoft Word Routines You Have to Know 10 Essential Microsoft Word Routines You Have to Know The word "routine" is the very image of boring. Except when it comes to a productivity app like Microsoft Word. Every second saved adds to the comfort of using it for our daily needs. Read More for you? Which is the particular Word table annoyance that confuses you? Maybe, we can help each other with tips.

  1. Jennifer
    September 13, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    Hello! I am working with Table Styles, and am trying to use the “Repeat as header row at the top of each page” function. I am able to get it to work in individual tables, but not as an general Table Style. I need to provide this as a template to my client, so I need it to be a preset attribute of the Table Style. As a test, I tried to select the “Repeat as header…” functionality in one of Word’s preset Table Styles, and it gave me the same error—putting the background color of the top row into the entire table. Any help much appreciated!

    • Saikat Basu
      September 14, 2016 at 7:21 am

      Possible reasons:
      - The table is joined to an earlier table (which had gridlines hidden). Once you disconnect the table, the header row will appear on all pages.
      - If the table contains a manual page break, the header will not repeat. You can, however, insert a page break without breaking the table by formatting a row as "Page break before" (on the Line and Page Breaks tab of the Paragraph dialog).
      - The table must have text wrapping set to None (Table tab of Table Properties).

      Doe this help?

    • Jennifer
      September 14, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      Hi Saikat,
      Thanks so much for your prompt reply. Unfortunately, none of your suggestions apply to my file. None of the tables are joined, there are no manual page breaks, and I have set text wrapping to "none". Also, the repeat header functionality works fine, as long as I'm applying it to a single table in the document. It only malfunctions when I try to apply it to a "Table Style". I have searched extensively online, and I find little evidence of this issue in relation to Table Styles, which makes me think people aren't using that aspect of this program very often (the Table Style part). And could it be a bug? I don't want to give up yet, but find it hard to believe Word has a functionality that works in a document, but they didn't carry it over to an overarching Style application (even though the interface is there to support it--you can select "Repeat as header row..." in a Table Style, it just doesn't work). Thanks again for your help.

    • Jennifer
      September 14, 2016 at 6:09 pm

      Ah-hah! I think I figured it out! When you are modifying a Table Style, you need to make sure you've selected ""Header row" from the "Apply formatting to" dropdown. This is not required when you are placing the "repeat header" setting into a single table. So far, so good, we'll see if this gives me any more trouble moving forward. Thanks again for fielding my question!

    • Saikat Basu
      September 15, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      So, glad you could work it Jennifer :)

      The problem with answering so many of these questions is that it is often so difficult to duplicate. But NOW, the solution makes me see the problem more clearly!

  2. Laura
    August 9, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    I am trying to make a number/bullet list within a table, but it's not working properly. The initial list goes in fine, but I can't indent any lower bullets. For example, I can do this:
    1.
    2.
    3.

    But I can't do this:
    1.
    a.
    2.
    a.
    3.
    a.

    How can I indent bullet/number lists within a table? Thanks for your help.

    • Laura
      August 9, 2016 at 9:47 pm

      I tried to indent the list, but the comment format didn't take it. I mean that I can't do this, pretending the underscores aren't there:
      1.
      ___a.
      2.
      ___a.
      3.
      ___a.

    • Saikat Basu
      August 21, 2016 at 7:14 am

      Type 1 and press enter.

      Type a, but, instead of clicking enter, right-click and select "Increase Indent".
      "a" moves into the proper indentation of a nested bullet.

      Is this okay?

  3. Ture
    August 4, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    The text inside and outside of tables in my document has the same font and same size (11) when in editing mode - but in reading mode in Word 2016 the text in the table turns out to be smaller than the text outside of the tables, and the table itself is also smaller than in editing mode - why?

    How can this be fixed?

    I want the text size inside and outside of the table to be the same. At one point they were in my doc, but at some time it has changed ...

  4. SSENTONGO EMMANUEL
    July 29, 2016 at 9:35 am

    when i click in a cell in ms word to begin typing it selects the whole row. How can i stop or remove it?

  5. Ali
    July 5, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Hey,

    I am trying to align in the same row of a column in Word 2013 both flush left and flush right the text and I can t manage to do that using the tab command.

    Thanks in advance.

    A.

  6. Gorlax
    June 21, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    Is there a way to disable the "Insert Control?" It's always in the way. Every time I try to edit text above or below a table and add an extra column. The ratio of accidental clicks to intentional ones is at least 10:1.

  7. mccarthy
    June 20, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Is there a maximum amount of data in a cell that is visible to the reader when viewing an electronic version of the table? The data is in the cell, but it is only visible in part when I view the table on my computer screen. I selected autofit content when I created the table.

  8. jayashree
    June 15, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    i Have a huge Table with no inside border, when the table splits across pages the top and bottom border does not appear for the next page, How to fix this.

  9. William Holman
    June 3, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    Hello, We use tables quite a bit. We like our "paragraph" spacing to be 6 before and 6 after. This keeps nice distance between the top/bottom line of a cell within the table from the text. It keeps everything uncluttered. We have the spacing set at 6 for all of our tables. However, when we go to paste the information from Excel into the table, it reverts the spacing back to zero. This occurs even using paste text only and keep the current format. Anyway to get the same result or fix this issue?

  10. brenda
    May 30, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    i have created a student report for my school made up of several small tables. when the teachers insert text the tables grow nicely but this causes the tables below to shift down and leave a clumsy space. how can i fix this so the tables are fixed in their position?

    • Saikat Basu
      May 31, 2016 at 11:38 am

      From what I can visualize: text in a cell wraps and pushes everything else down which throws off the design.

      Go to Table Properties. Make sure the "Fit Text" check box is selected in the Cell options. of the cell where you are entering the text.

      Word decreases the width of the text horizontally, without adjusting it vertically.

  11. Clare
    April 15, 2016 at 7:35 am

    Hi there, I'm still using word 2010 and am looking to flip the pages so that the current last page of my document will be the top page and the current first page will be the last page...is there a quick way of doing this or is it all cut and paste?

    • Saikat Basu
      April 22, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      What you are looking for are decreasing page numbers. There is a solution though it's a bit complicated. Follow the instructions here

  12. Robert Moody
    March 14, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Hey Saikat (or should it be Hey Basu?),

    I'm using Word 2016 in Windows 10 Home.

    I am in the process of "cleaning up" numerous forms created by numerous inexperienced users over many years on our county school web site. As a rule, I create all my forms with tables and use table borders to create the "fill in the blank" parts.

    My problem is that often, after I choose "No borders" and when I go back to a cell to turn on the bottom border (creating the "fill-n-the-blank" line), Word will turn on the top border for the entire row beneath instead/as well. In some of the tables, I can turn off the top border for each individual cell below and that works...leaving the one cell with a bottom border like I intended. But, often, this turns off the bottom as well and I cannot get a bottom border on a single cell without leaving the top on across the entire row below.

    Here is an example that I've recently given up on.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxRO-fHY_nAZY3phOUc1ZmYxYk0/view?usp=sharing

    I'm beginning to wonder if this is a uninstall and reinstall Office 2016 situation.

    rmoody at henry.k12.va.us

    • EC
      May 20, 2016 at 7:49 pm

      I have the exact same thing happening and it was driving me crazy! I figured out that I can bypass turning on the bottom border of the cell and instead use the border painter - it will paint just the bottom of the individual cell without turning on the top border of the row beneath.

  13. pat
    March 5, 2016 at 4:06 am

    Why - why - why do my stupid tables hug the top of my page overlapping even headers? Why would anyone, ever want a table to lie on top of a header?
    I have a margin set, and I have the wrap text set to none on the table. Still I fight this thing. I try to move it down, it hops back up.
    Why can I just move a table to where I want it to be? And why is the only tool to move a table up in one corner and you have to be a mouse whisperer to find the secret tiny spot to made the four-way arrow to appear. Moving a table is like moving a piano....with a VW.
    And who do I have to kill to get a page to be deleted?
    If anyone - anyone that programs for MS Word sat down and worked a program that is user friendly, and could steal some, even a few, of the intuitive, wysiwyg operations - I would throw a party.
    it is SOOOOOO frustrating - I have spent more time trying to format F-ing tables than I spent writing this whole *&@! proposal; and in the process Word shut down once losing all my most recent edits, then as I tried to cut and paste my tables into separate pages I lost a part of my table and had to re-key in 2 pages worth of data.
    what the hell guys?

    • Saikat Basu
      March 9, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      Frustrations adequately expressed :)

      Sometimes the best way to deal with tables is to start from scratch again!

  14. tammy
    February 24, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    I am having issues trying to get my lines________ to right align correctly when entering them after the name: address: city: etc.

    • Saikat Basu
      February 26, 2016 at 4:56 am

      Try this excellent "MVPS" article and tweak it according to the version of Word you use.

  15. Dianne
    February 18, 2016 at 1:09 am

    I'm having difficulty getting Header Rows to repeat on second page of a table which breaks across two pages.

    Any help with this would be appreciated.

    • Saikat Basu
      February 18, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      Which version of Word, Dianne?

      Did you choose this >

      Under Table Tools, on the Layout tab, in the Data group, click Repeat Header Rows.

      • Dianne
        February 18, 2016 at 8:36 pm

        Version 2013.

        I did try this and it shows the header rows highlighted but does not come up on the second page as 'header rows'.

        When the table goes over the page it just continues, with no 'header rows' inserted.

        Thanks for your help so far.

        • Saikat Basu
          February 20, 2016 at 1:43 am

          Also, the repeat is only visible in Print Layout or Print Preview. Just check.

          I did a Google search (try searching with a keyword like "[Solved] get header rows to repeat on second page of a table").

          Maybe, this similar solution could work for you as well.

  16. anantha krishna
    January 6, 2016 at 5:18 am

    there is another and yet very simpler way to create table in ms word. instead of insert-->table-->pick number of rows and columns (this is default), just type
    +-----+------+-----+-----+ (dont forget to close the line with a + again) and give enter.
    since each + denotes column and each - denotes width, you can pre-decide the width of each filed by using as many - - as the width of the field you need.

    also you can have two tables side by side, by creating two tables using above trick, then drop an drag one table to the side of other.

    feed back shall be appreciated.....kakrishna@mmtclimited.com / kakris60@yahoo.com

  17. Austin Pope
    October 16, 2015 at 2:01 am

    I received a document that has numerous formatting issues with tables. I have no idea where to begin. The table parts are on separate pages, and when I try to move a table is creates a blank page in between. I need serious help now. Willing to pay

  18. Barbara Nelson
    October 8, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    I hunted around and found it. I kept looking on the ribbon/tab "Insert" but it was on the higher level Insert menu. What I didn't get was that this was simply an auto text capability, but it is sweet! I was able to insert a nicely formatted table without text in the cells.

    Thanks for responding!

    • Saikat Basu
      October 8, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      Glad it worked out. It does save a lot of time in table rich documents :)

  19. Barbara Nelson
    October 8, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Re-use tables - very excited to see this, but I can't find where to do this in the new Mac 2016 version. Do you know whether it is available?

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