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Guide to Tables in Office Word

    Location and Setup

    • The table creator is available on Word's "Insert" tab. After clicking the tab, click the "Table" button directly below the tab. This opens the "Insert Table" drop down menu, where you can click and drag the cursor across rows and columns to denote the intended dimensions of the table, which Word then inserts onto the page. Also on the drop-down menu is the "Quick Tables" option, which has a fly-out menu of pre-designed tables that you can quickly insert and then customize.


    • Whether you created a table from scratch or selected a "quick table," clicking the table's border opens a new tab at the top of the screen, "Table Tools." The tab opens its own ribbon where you can customize and format the table. Options include shading alternate rows or columns in the table, selecting new borders and creating patterns in the table shading, such as diagonal lines. Formatting the text within the cells of a table works just as it would in a regular Word document. Highlight the cell(s) to format, click the "Home" tab and use the options in the "Font" section to change the text's appearance or right-click the cells and choose shading and fill options.


    • Tables will not only break up a text-heavy word document, but they can help readers quickly scan and digest information too technical to read word by word. Use tables to summarize financial data in an annual report, for example, or to show an employee job task roster for a new hire welcome packet. Because of the ability to customize tables, you can create them to fit just about any use, such as a two column table serving as a checklist.


    • Using tables in Word is an ideal way to organize and corral information, but there are a few ways a table can get derailed and actually detract from your document. Because a table's cells restrict how many characters can appear on a line, having a large chunk of text in a cell can distort the table, making it run long vertically and enlarging the size of cells in the rest of the table. Sometimes there is no way around this, but careful planning of the table's layout and considering what will be going in the cells may help avoid the issue. Tables don't auto-resize, which means that if you change the size of the Word page, going from legal to copy paper for example, you'll have to manually click and drag the table's borders to resize it appropriately.

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