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Using Tables for Organizing and Formatting in Microsoft Word

What You Will Learn

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:
bullet Insert a table
bulletUse Word's Quick Tables (Ribbon Versions of Word) and add your own to the list.
bullet Modify an existing table
bulletKnow about the Tables and Borders Toolbar or the Table Tools Ribbons
bulletUsing and Creating Table Styles
bulletKnow how to Select parts of a Table to apply changes or do a sort
bulletUse the Backspace and Delete keys to modify your Tables
bulletSet one or more rows to repeat at top if table breaks across page(s) - Header Row(s)
bulletCreate a (continued) label in a header row for a table.
bulletCreate a Caption for a Table
bulletCreate a Table of Tables
bulletWrap text around a Table and have it float on a page like a graphic
bulletUse Microsoft Excel to increase the functionality of tables
bulletUse the Table tools to manipulate and format Labels
bulletView non-printing Gridlines when working with Tables.
bulletKnow how to use Tabs and Tab Settings within a Table.
bulletKnow how to Convert a Table to text or text to a Table.
bulletCreate a pleading caption using a Table
bulletUse Cell properties to change text appearance within the cell.
bulletLinks to Troubleshooting resources

Tables of Contents and Tables of Authorities (Figures, etc.) are not covered in this chapter (CK Note)

bulletThis chapter is about a method of formatting or layout - it is not involved with what goes into a table
bulletSee: Complex Documents for information on Tables of Contents / Tables of Authorities / Tables of Figures
Additional Written and Web Resources
Word for Law Firms and Lawyers
bullet Word 97 for Law Firms (also at UK)
bullet Word 2000 for Law Firms (also at UK)
bullet Word X (2002) for Law Firms (also at UK)
bullet Word 2003 for Law Firms (also at UK)
bullet Word 2013 for Law Firms by Payne Consulting Group

The Lawyer's Guide to Microsoft Word 2007 by Ben M. Schorr


The Lawyer's Guide to Microsoft Word 2010 by Ben M. Schorr


Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010 for Law Professionals Unveiling the Rules and Secrets of Legal Word Processing by Patricia Gordon and KAS Training

bullet other books about using Word
bullet Nested Tables Demonstration - change from Word 97 to Word 2000
bullet My Seven Favorite Word Table Tricks by Legal Guru Debora Savadra
bullet MVP FAQ on Tables
bullet How to make rows in a table the same height by Shauna Kelly, MVP
bullet Smart ways to to control vertical and horizontal spacing in a table by Shauna Kelly, MVP
bullet Table Basics by Suzanne S. Barnhill, MVP and Dave Rado, MVP
bullet Table Basics (Ribbon) by Suzanne S. Barhill, MVP
bullet Setting Tabs in Tables (MVP FAQ page)
bullet Table Styles (advanced) by Romke Soldaat
bullet Table Styles (advanced - vba) Word 2000 and later
bullet Sort Table Entries by legal guru Deborah Savadra (video)
bullet Why I don’t use Custom Table Styles in Microsoft Word 2002 and 2003 by Shauna Kelly, MVP
bullet Using (Table) Borders in Microsoft Word - Run for the Border by Suzanne S. Barnhill, MVP.
bullet Why Don't My Table Borders Print?
bullet How to Add a Graphic or Logo to Every Label (KB)
bullet Maximising the Performance of Word Tables by Dave Rado, MVP
bullet Keep Tables on One Page (assuming they'll fit) by Suzanne S. Barnhill, MVP
bullet Table Movement Tricks - Woody's Office Watch
bullet Sorting in Word - Woody's Office Watch
bullet Changing table rules with compatibility options (KB) these can change how Word acts with tables.
bulletInsert logos /graphics on business cards and mailing labels by Graham Mayor, MVP.
bullet Master Documents "Feature" in Microsoft Word
bullet How to create a "Continued" table title?
bullet Continuation headings and other creative use of fields in tables by Peter Jamieson
bullet AuthorTec Table Styles by Rich Michaels, MVP - Add-in to make Table Styles that work
bullet Automating Word Tables for Data Insertion and Extraction by Cindy Meister, MVP
bullet How to Format Microsoft Word Tables Using Table Styles (Advantix Learning)
bullet Create Flashcards Using Microsoft Word (web search)
bullet Three Ways to Insert Tables by Erin Wright
bullet Advanced Tables in Word: Table Styles, Breaks and Formulas - video from Simon Sez IT
bullet This chapter (unsupplemented) for Word 2002 in Word Format

This chapter last edited by Charles Kenyon on Tuesday 08 August 2023

Click to return to table of contents page of Legal Users' Guide to Microsoft Word.Click to go to Microsoft Word new users frequently asked questions site in a new browser window.
(this guide table of contents) ------- (MS Word New Users FAQ)

Tables Overview

Everything from pleading captions to file indices to stock certificate listings can be managed in tables. In this chapter, we cover the basics first—how to create, modify, and prepare your tables for the legal environment. Next we'll look at some of the ways to make tables useful in your firm. You will also see a greater number of references to Word 2000 than in other chapters. This is because the Table feature in Word 2000 has been greatly enhanced to offer more functionality. The enhancements continued through Word 2021. You may prefer Table Basics (Ribbon) by Suzanne S. Barhill, MVP.

You can use tables to align numbers in columns, and then sort and perform calculations on them. You can also use tables to create interesting page layouts and arrange text and graphics.

"Like a hammer, the time-proven spacebar has been used countless times to perform chores for which it was never intended. Yes, a hammer can compel a screw to join two pieces of wood together, and a spacebar can be used to move text around so it looks like a table. However, just as a hammered screw makes for a shaky wooden table, a word processing table fashioned together with spaces is equally fragile. Add something to the table and it doesn't hold together. Which table? Take your pick."
   Microsoft Word 2010 Bible by Herb Tyson

Creating Tables

There are many ways to create tables in Word. Some of the more commonly used methods include:
bulletUsing a button on the Insert tab to insert the table (Word 2007 and later),
bulletChoosing Insert from the Table menu (Word 2003 and earlier),
bulletPicking a Quick Table (Word 2007 and later)
bulletDrawing the table using the Tables and Borders toolbar tools (Word 2003 and earlier).

Some less common ways to insert a table include:
bulletInserting an Excel worksheet into a document,
bulletCopying and pasting Excel information into Word, and
bulletConverting existing text not in a table to a table format by choosing Convert Text to Table from the Table menu.

Method 1: The Insert Table button (on the Insert Tab in Word 2007+; on the Table Menu in Word 97-2003)

Insert table button on the Standard toolbar



  The Insert Table button on the Standard toolbar or Insert Tab is one of the fastest ways to insert a table in a document. If you click the button, a box extends below the button with smaller boxes inside. Move your mouse over the number of cells you'd like to insert into the document. Notice that the cells change color as you move the mouse over them. This indicates the size of the table to be created. When you have the desired number of cells selected, click to insert the table into the current location of the mouse pointer. In Word 2007 and later, you can also select a Quick Table using this button.


Note Note  You can increase the size of the table you insert. Hold down the left mouse button and drag farther down, to the right, or click the bottom right corner of the table and drag to increase both length and width of the table. The number of cells that can be inserted using this method is dependent on the size of your display, and the position of the Insert Table button on the toolbar. You can only select as far to the right as is visible on your monitor.

CK Note: In the Word version of the Legal Users' Guide all Notes, Tips, and Warnings (with the little pictures) are contained in two-cell tables.

Tip Tip  To increase the number of cells that can be selected using the Insert Table button you first need to reposition the button further to the left on the toolbar. Hold the ALT key, and drag the Insert Table button to a position to the left of the current location.

Method 2: The Insert Table dialog

The Insert Table button is limited in how many cells it can display initially. When building a large or more complex table, you may find using the Table menu more useful. In Word 97, from the Table menu, choose Insert Table; in Word 2000-2003, from the Table menu, choose Insert, and then select Table. The Word 2000-2003 Insert Table dialog box is shown in the next figure.

Insert table dialog available off of the Insert menu

The Insert Table dialog box in both Word 97 and Word 2000 allows up to 63 columns and 32,767 rows in a table, but Word 2000 lets you exercise more formatting choices and allows you to set defaults for subsequent visits to the dialog box.

Practice: Insert a Table with the Insert Table dialog
  1. Make sure you're on a blank line in your document.
  2. In Word 97, from the Table menu choose Insert Table. In Word 2000, from the Table menu choose Insert, then select Table.
  3. In the Number of columns box, type 100.
  4. Click OK. Note the error message (Both Word 97 and 2000 have a limit of 63 columns, no matter the paper size, orientation, etc.).
  5. In the Number of columns box, type 4.
  6. In the Number of rows box, type 100.
  7. Click OK.

If you need more than 63 columns or 32767 rows, consider using Microsoft Excel or Access, depending on the task.

Note Note  Microsoft Excel is a powerful spreadsheet program that includes functions for data analysis, database, and presentation. The entire Excel worksheet is like a very large table made up of cells.

Microsoft Access is a relational database application that is easy to use for simple or complicated tasks.

Method 3: Draw a Table

One of the most exciting things about Word is a feature called Draw Table. Draw Table allows you to create your own tables with special row and column dimensions to begin with—no more messy eyeballing your row and column sizes. To activate the table-drawing tool, click the Tables and Borders button on the Standard toolbar—the button resembles a pencil resting over a table.

Notice that now you not only see the Tables and Borders toolbar if you couldn't before, but you can also click and drag with the mouse pointer in the document to create a table. Draw Table is a great feature for situations where a standard-sized table won't do: pleading captions are a perfect example. Let's draw one.

Practice: Insert a Table with the Draw Table tool
  1. On the Standard toolbar, click the Tables and Borders button. If you want to add the new toolbar near your menu bar instead of having it float over the document, you can "dock" it by double-clicking anywhere in the title bar that says "Tables and Borders." This gets the toolbar out of the way of your work and gives you more room to create and modify your table.
  2. Notice that when you move your mouse pointer within the document, the mouse pointer changes shape and resembles the pencil. Click and drag from one corner of the table you're making to the opposite corner. You should see a large box, which is really a one-celled table. Your table should resemble the following example:

One-celled table

  1. Inside the middle of the table, click and drag from top to bottom. Repeat to create a very narrow column in the center of the table as shown in the next example.

Three-celled table

Tip Tip  To eliminate all of the printing borders in your table, place your cursor in the table and then press ALT+CTRL+U.

  1. Type your scallops in the middle column and you're on your way (scallops are created using the ")" key) and pressing ENTER multiple times. Your pleading caption probably still needs some touching up, but once you're finished, you could save this as an AutoText entry and never have to create a pleading caption again!

If you accidentally lose the Draw Table tool on your mouse pointer, click the pencil button at the far left side of the Tables and Borders toolbar to reactivate it.

Note Note  To create an AutoText entry, select the text or object and then from the Insert menu choose AutoText, and then choose New. Type a unique name for the AutoText entry and click OK. If your AutoText name is less than four characters, or if the name applied is not unique, you will need to press F3 to complete the AutoText entry and place the text or object within the document at the current location. If the entry is four or more characters, after you type the fourth character, a ScreenTip appears as you type. Press TAB, F3, or ENTER to insert the AutoText entry.

Note Note  A new feature to Word 2000 is guidelines that appear on the ruler as you create the table (shown in the following figure). This provides a visual representation of the measurement of the table being created.

Table inserted into a document

While these three methods are the most common for creating a table in Word, other methods are also available. They include:
bulletInserting an Excel worksheet into the document by clicking the Insert Microsoft Excel Worksheet button on the Standard toolbar,
bulletUsing the Text to Table feature under the Table menu.

These methods are discussed further throughout the rest of this chapter. Help on each method to inserting a table into a document can be found in Help files in Word.

Method 4: Import Data from Another Application

If you have already created data in a tabular format in another application, there is a good chance that all you need to do to create a table with that data in Word is copy and paste.

Practice: Create a Table from Another Application
  1. Make sure Word is open. Open the file in the other application that contains your tabular data.
  2. Select (if necessary) and copy the data from the source file.
  3. Switch to Word.
  4. Choose Paste from the Edit menu.

Note Note  For most applications (and especially those in the Microsoft Office suite), this will be all you need to do. For others, a more complicated export procedure is required.

Method 5: Insert a Table Using on of the Quick Tables (Ribbon Version)

See the Quick Tables section below.

Nested Tables

Word 2000 and later has the ability to "nest" tables within another table. Nested tables are particularly useful when you use a table to lay out a page and then want to use a table to present other information such as quarterly earnings as a table within the table. To create a nested table:

  1. On the Tables and Borders click Draw Table. The pointer changes to a pencil.
  2. Position the pencil in the cell where you want the nested table (or a table inside another table).
  3. Draw the new table. To define the table boundaries, draw a rectangle.
  4. Then draw the column and row lines inside the rectangle. When you finish creating the nested table, click a cell, and start typing or insert a graphic.
Warning CK Note: WARNING:

Using nested tables will make your document incompatible with Word 97. A nested table is a table within a table. You can follow the directions given above pretty much in Word 97 and create a good result. That is, you can use the pencil to draw new cells within an existing cell. What you can't do in Word 97 is create that second table outside of the first one and then copy or move it into the first table. 

You can download samples of a nested table and a pseudo-nested table if you want to look at this more closely. One document is compatible with Word 97, the nested table sample can't be properly opened in Word 97. (It will open, it is just that the table will be scrambled.)

Download Page 

Modifying Tables

The size of a table is dependent on information being added or removed from the table structure. To insert a row at the end of a table, press TAB while in the last cell of the table. You can also add a row or column in different locations within the table by accessing the Table or Shortcut menu (alternate click) while the mouse pointer is within the table.

To insert or delete rows and columns, select what you want to affect—rows to affect rows, columns to affect columns—and then select the appropriate option from the Table menu (rows or columns).

Note Note  

In Word 97, rows are inserted above the selected row(s), and columns to the left of a selected column(s). In Word 2000, you can define whether rows are inserted above or below the current row, and whether columns are inserted to the left or right of the current column.

To change row or column height in a table, pause the mouse pointer over the border between two rows or columns and click and drag to alter the table structure. In Word 2000, tables act as drawing objects, which means you can use the drawing handle in the bottom right corner of the table to modify the table easily. Just click and drag.

Tip Tip  You must be in Page Layout view (Print Layout in Word 2000) in order to change the height of a row by dragging the border.

Tip Tip  In Word 2000+, if you click within a table, you'll see a move handle that allows you to click and drag the table to another place on the page. (See the following figure for an example of this new feature).

Table inserted into a document

Word 2013-2021/365 lets you insert rows and columns using your mouse

Word 2013 added another on-screen control to allow insertion of rows or columns. It is a plus sign in a circle at the beginning of a row or top of a column.

When active, it will put a slight division between rows/columns showing where the insertion will take place. Clicking on the plus sign inserts the number of rows/columns that were selected at the division mark.

If you click on the + sign Word will insert a row or column where the divider shows in the table. If you have multiple rows or columns selected, it will insert the same number of rows or columns as you have selected.



The Tools for Working with Tables - Toolbars and Ribbon Tabs

You can manipulate tables using tools on the Tables and Borders Toolbar (Word 97-2003) or on the Table Tools Tab Ribbons (Word 2007-2021)

Tables and Borders Toolbar (long form above, compacted below)

You can choose to view the Tables and Borders Ribbon by selecting it under the View Menu or by right-clicking on one of the docked toolbars at the top of the page. (Word 97-2003) They may be docked already at the top of your page (or along the side or at the bottom of the page).


Table Tools Design Ribbon (above) and Table Tools Layout Ribbon (below) - Word 2007 and later

These Table ribbons are context ribbons. They become visible and active when you are in a table and are hidden when you are not.


Formatting Text in Tables

You can use any of the tools you normally would use to format text in tables. See Basic Formatting. Probably the best method, though, is to use Styles.

Text in selected cells can be aligned in any of nine directions using the alignment buttons on the Tables and Borders Toolbar or the Alignment group of the Table Layout Ribbon. This is a form of direct formatting.


Table Styles and Table AutoFormat

Your author does not know much about Table Styles and they were introduced after the original chapter on Tables was written.
You can see them in the Design Ribbon above; here is a screenshot from the Word 2010 Table Style Gallery.

See more below on using and creating Table Styles.

You can get many of these same built-in styles using the Table AutoFormat command in Word 97-2003 (on the Tables menu).
For creating new Tables uniformly, also consider using Quick Tables.

Using either of these can allow you to make dramatic changes for better or worse to your table's appearance. Remember, UnDo is your friend!

See Why I Don't Use Custom Table Styles by Shauna Kelly

Select Parts of a Table - CK Note

There are a number of operations you can do to selected parts of a table but first you have to select those parts!

The most straightforward way is to click in one cell, hold the mouse button down, and click in a different cell. A rectagular section of your table will be selected.

If you move your mouse pointer outside the table near the left edge of a row or top edge of a column, it becomes a superpointer. Clicking when that is active will select the row or column. The superpointer for a column is a small black arrow pointing down. That for rows is a right-pointing white arrow. If, after selecting one column or row, you hold the Shift key down, you can select one or more contiguous columns or rows.

In Word 2007 and later, on the far left side of the Table Layout Tab there is a Select button you can use to select the Table, a Cell, a Row, or a Column.

In Word 97-2003 there are Select commands under the Table Menu that allow this.

In Word 2010 and later, you can also right-click in any cell and pick the Select command from the pop-up context menu.

Once you have portions of a Table selected, you can apply formatting, copy, paste, and perform other operations on that portion. One of the key things you can do is to mark one or more rows as a "Header Row" for the table. This is something completely different from Headers and Footers for pages.

Keyboard Shortcuts - with selection point (cursor) in table

Alt+5 (on the numeric keypad) Selects the entire table.

Move the selection to the top or bottom of a row and use the following to select the column:

Shift+Alt+PgDn to select entire column from the top cell.

Shift+Alt+PgUp to select entire column from the bottom cell.


Using the Backspace and Delete Keys to Modify Tables

The Backspace and Delete keys act on selected text to delete the preceding character (Backspace) or delete the following character (Delete). When text is selected, both will delete the selected text.

However, in a Table when the table or cells are selected (rather than just text), they act differently.

When you have a table, rows, columns, or cells selected, the Delete key will empty whatever you have selected, leaving the table structure intact.

The backspace key will delete the structure as well.

bulletIf a row is selected, it will be deleted and rows below will be shifted up.
bulletIf a column is selected, it will be deleted and columns will be shifted to the left.
bulletIf cells are selected, you will be prompted on what to do with the remaining cells.
Marking Header Row(s) - Table Rows that repeat after a page break - CK Addition Word 2003-2021

Tables often have header rows that describe what is in the columns underneath. When a table breaks across a page it is useful to have these header rows repeat. Documentation and tooltips talk about "the first" row, but multiple contiguous rows can be marked as the table header.

They do need to be the first row(s) in the table, though.

Word 2003-2021
  1. Select the row(s) at the top of the table that you want to repeat.
  2. Right-click on one of the cells in the selected row(s)
  3. Pick Table Properties from the context menu
  4. Click on the Row tab in the dialog box
  5. Check the box to "Repeat as header row at the top of each page"

Note this may work in earlier versions than 2003 but does not work in Word 97. I believe this feature was introduced with Word 2000 but do not know for sure.

Word 2007-2021 (Ribbon versions) can also use the ribbons
  1. Select the Row(s) you want to repeat across page breaks.
  2. On the right end of the Table Tools Layout Tab check the option to "Repeat Header Rows."


Two variations on the Ribbon command to Repeat Header Rows

  1. Note, that there is on the Design Tab also a checkbox for header row. This is a design choice for picking a table style and has nothing to do with repeating on the next page.

Header rows in Word tables help

  1. Final note, header rows do not work if you have a table set to have text wrap around it.

Using Cell Properties to Change the Appearance of Text in a Cell (Wrapping and Fit Text Options)

It is easy to miss these Options which have been available at least since Word 2003.

Table Properties -> Cell -> Options

Wrap Text is checked by default and Fit text is unchecked by default.

The table shown below has the top two cells set to fit text. The font typeface and size is the same in all three cells.

The text in the top cell appears compressed. It is the same text as the first three sentences in the bottom cell.

Use Word's Quick Tables and Add Your Own (Ribbon Versions of Word - CK Section)
The ribbon versions of Word added a gallery of sample tables called Quick Tables. These are Building Blocks.


Quick Tables in Microsoft Word


Word 2007 and later come with nine built-in sample "quick" tables. Again, these are building blocks and come in the file Built-In Building Blocks.dotx in Word 2010 and later (Building Blocks.dotx in Word 2007).

Unlike table styles, these are actual tables. The user can add their own table to the Table or Custom Table Quick Parts Gallery and have them show up in this menu.

At the bottom of the Quick Tables dropdown you can see the command "Save Selection to Quick Tables Gallery. That command is active only if a table is currently selected when this drop-down is used.

You can reach the same Create New Building Block dialog by using the keyboard shortcut of Alt+F3. *

The Create New Building Block dialog gives you the opportunity to choose:

  1. The name for your Quick Table. The tables will be listed in alphabetical order, within the category.
  2. The Gallery to store it in. If you want it to show up under Quick Tables, you must save it in the Tables Gallery.
  3. The Category. The tables appear in alphabetical order in their categories which also appear in alphabetical order. The default category is "General," which will appear after "Built-In" in the list. The category shown above is "_My Quick Tables" which would appear before either.
  4. The "Save in" Template to store the Quick Table. The dialog above shows Building Blocks,dotx which is the default. I recommend saving it in a different template if you want to share your quick table. See Where can Building Blocks be stored?

* If you use the keyboard shortcut of Alt+F3 to reach the "Create New Building Block" dialog, the default gallery will be AutoText and the default save-in location will be the normal template.


Naming the Quick Table

I recommend using a name that you will not normally be typing and starting with an underscore. The underscore puts it ahead of other entries in the list.

However, since this is, like AutoText, a building block, you can simply type the start of the name and press Enter or F3 to insert in your document without ever going to the menu.



See my answer in this thread: Keeping Table Rows Together For All Tables

Changing the Appearance of Your Table with Table Styles

Quick Tables give you a tool for uniformly creating tables. However, they do not help with existing tables. For that, you may want to be using Table Styles.

Once you have a table and your insertion point is in the table, you can get to Table Styles under the Table Design Tab (Office 2007&2010, Design Tab under Table Tools).

(This part does not address Table Styles in Word 2003.)

Table Styles control the appearance of a Table as a whole. They are poorly documented. They are based on the Normal style in Word and also rely on other settings.

Here are MVP Shauna Kelly's articles on Table Styles.

Here is what developer and Word  MVP John Korchok says about his method for creating a table style:

"Creating table styles is a bit of an advanced topic. Microsoft's crummy interface doesn't help. Here's my routine:

  1. Create a table.

  2. Look at the Microsoft table styles on the Table Styles gallery for a design that is most similar to the style you want to create. Don't select that style or apply it to a table, but make a note of it's name.

  3. At the bottom of the Table Style gallery, choose New Table Style.

  4. Give the style a name.

  5. Change the Style based on dropdown to the name of the similar style that you noted in step 2.

  6. By default, the Apply formatting to dropdown is set to Whole table. This means that the changes you make with the controls below that dropdown will affect all cells in the table. The first row of controls sets font and language settings. The second row sets borders, cell fill color and cell text alignment. Then, under the Format button, you can set other characteristic for the whole table.

  7. After the whole table is formatting the other choices on the Apply formatting to dropdown create over-rides for specific areas of the table. So you can set the header row to a different color, set the text to be white, bold and centered over the columns.

  8. When you've finished setting the different table part formatting, OK out and apply the table to your sample. You new style will appear in a new Custom row above the Microsoft styles.

  9. You'll probably want to tweak the style. Right-click on the icon in the Table Styles gallery and choose Modify Table Style. Your updates will automatically get applied to your sample table.

  10. Using the Table Style Options, you can turn table attributes on and off, so one table style can create a variety of looks.

Like anything else in Word, the more you work with tables styles, the easier and more predictable they get."

See also How to Format Microsoft Word Tables Using Table Styles (Advantix Learning)

Note that if you have your Styles display set to show all styles, Table Styles will show up in the legacy drop-down menu for styles but not in the Styles Pane.



Creating a Caption for a Table - CK Note

A "caption" is a label that appears with a Table. It can be sequentially numbered and automatically inserted with each Table if you wish.

Insertion of captions is covered in the chapter on Complex Documents.

If you need the caption to repeat you would need to put a cross-reference to it in the first row of the table and set that as a repeating table header row. That row need not have top or side borders. Multiple rows can be designated as header rows. Once you insert a caption, it can appear in a Table of Tables.

Creating a Table of Tables (or Figures or Equations)

Often a table of the tables in a document is desired (similar to a Table of Contents). This can be done relatively easily in Word. Insertion of such tables in covered in the chapter on Complex Documents.

Positioning Tables (Like Floating Graphics) on a Page - CK Addition

It is possible to have a table act like a graphic and have text wrap around it. This is done through the Table Properties and the Positioning Button. Here are two screenshots showing the controls in Word 2003 and Word 2010. (Controls are identical.) The Word 2010 screen shot shows positioning relative to the bottom page margin.



The default settings are for no text wrapping and the Table is simply inserted at the insertion point in the document. The Word 2003 screen shot has the default settings for the Table Positioning dialog. The table positioning button is not active on the Table Properties unless the text wrapping is set for "Around."

I am unsure when this floating table ability was added to Word but suspect it came with Word 2002. It is not available in Word 97.

Note that repeating headers in tables do not work if the table is floating rather than in the document layer.

Here are some screenshots of floating tables set for text wrapping. They essentially act much like graphics in this mode.

One table set for wrapping with the tool to move it displayed (red circle)


Two tables, both set to wrap.


The same two tables with wrapping set, one nested inside the other.



Converting Tables to Text and Text to Tables

It is relatively easy to convert a table to a similar formal structure without a table.

In Word 2007 and later, the command for this is found on the right side of the Table Tools Layout tab.

Converting a Table to Text in Microsoft Word - Word Help

In earlier (menu versions) of Word the commands are found under the Tables menu.

Converting a Table to Text in Microsoft Word - Word Help

To convert a table to text, there must be a table and the insertion point must be inside the table. Using the choice will give a dialog box

Converting a Table to Text in Microsoft Word - Word Help

The default choice is tabs which gives a traditional tabbed table rather than an Word table. It is certainly appropriate for many tables. If a table cell has text that would extend beyond the tab area, you can have something unworkable, or at least requiring more work.

Here is a brief table:

Converting a Table to Text in Microsoft Word - Word Help

Converted to text using the Tabs setting it does not line up. Tabs settings for those paragraphs would need to be adjusted.

Converting a Table to Text in Microsoft Word - Word Help

That was done in the following screenshot. However, in many tables this would not be practical and one of the other dividers would be needed.

Converting a Table to Text in Microsoft Word - Word Help

Conversely, it is possible to convert text to a table. To do this, you need to select the text you want to convert.

The command for this in Ribbon versions of Word is found on the Insert Tab under Table. In menu versions, it is found under Tables > Convert. It will pop up a dialog.

Converting a Table to Text in Microsoft Word - Word Help

This dialog lets you adjust the number of columns, but not rows. It lets you modify column width and pick the text separators. Note that you do not have to have everything precisely laid out for this to work.

In the following screenshot, a single word in a sentence is selected.

Converting a Table to Text in Microsoft Word - Word Help

So long as you are not changing the number of columns, you get the same result as you would if you, instead, just inserted a table. The selected word(s) are inserted into a single column table and preceding and following words become their own paragraphs.

Converting a Table to Text in Microsoft Word - Word Help

So long as the marker to separate text is not found in the selected text, it does not matter which marker is chosen.

Examples of Use of Tables

These are ad-hoc examples.

Fax Transmittal Coversheet Word 97 - still available as Fax (elegant)

(There is more about how the prompts and checkboxes in this work under MacroButton Fields.)


Pleading Caption Using Tables

These tables were set up originally using Word 97 with splitting and merging cells. Gridlines are shown but do not print. The formatting of individual cells is done using styles. (The names, addresses, and other case-specific details are inserted using Mail Merge.)

Using Tab Settings and Tabs Inside Tables

Word allows you to set your own tab stops and use different kinds of tabs. However, you have to use Ctrl+Tab to generate a tab inside a table; the Tab key, by itself, will simply move you to the next cell.

decimal tabs behave a bit differently inside tables than they do outside a table. If you have a decimal tab set and no other tab settings, your text will immediately align to that tab, without an actual tab character being inserted using Ctrl+Tab.

Use of a decimal tab is illustrated below. Note the Ruler at the top of each screenshot.

Table cell with no tabs set


Table cell with left tab set looks the same


Table cell with decimal tab set uses tab to align number to decimal


Add a "dot leader" using the tab setting dialog


And finally, what would happen without the left tab having been set first!



While the ruler can be used to tabs, once they have been set you should create a Paragraph Style to hold these settings and use that style when you want to use them again. That way, if you later change the width of your table cells and have to change the setting, you can do it in all of the cells by modifying the Style.


Tabs are often better set using the Tab Setting Dialog box. The quickest way to access this dialog is to double-click on a tab in the ruler or to use the Keyboard shortcut Alt+O,T.

Legal Q&A on Tables
How can I make a pleading caption in Word?

There are a couple of different methods you can use to create a pleading caption in Word, but tables are one of the best ways to do this.

Practice: Make a "Scalloped" Caption Using Tables
  1. Perform steps 1 through 5 in the "Insert a Table with Draw Table tool" in the preceding exercise.
  2. At this point the bottom left border needs fixing. Click in the left-most cell and from the Format menu, and choose Borders and Shading. Click on the diagram on the right side of the dialog box to have only a bottom border. Click OK.

If you have a lengthy caption (you've probably seen some that go on for pages), you may have noticed that the scallops don't automatically copy down the center column of the table. If you don't find this acceptable, consider another way to make a caption where you use a border line separating the parties from the pleading title. Many courts now accept captions prepared this way—check your court rules to see if you can use this type of caption.

See also the example pleading caption (above) using Tables.

Practice: Make a "Bordered" Caption Using Tables
  1. In a blank document, create a table with two columns and only one row.
  2. Remove the printing borders by clicking inside the table, and then pressing ALT+CTRL+U.
  3. Fix the bottom left border as described in step 2 in the "Make a "Scalloped" Caption Using Tables" example that preceded this exercise. While you're in the Borders and Shading dialog, turn on the printing border for the right side of the leftmost cell as well.

In this type of caption, the border automatically extends as you add cross-complainants or type a long pleading title.

How can I get the first row to repeat at the top of each page throughout the table?

In lengthy tables such as file or pleading indices, holdings lists, and other legal documents, if a table spills onto subsequent pages you can make headings repeat at the top of each new page that contains a part of the table.

Practice: Create Table Headings
  1. In a blank document, from the Table menu, choose Insert Table (Insert, then Table in Word 2000).
  2. Create a table with two columns and 250 rows.
  3. In the first cell of the first column, type Attorney.
  4. In the second cell of the first column, type Extension.
  5. Select the first row of your table, and then from the Table menu, choose Headings (it's called Heading Rows Repeat in Word 2000).
  6. Go to Print Preview and view your handiwork.
  7. Word also allows you to have more than one row repeat at the top of the page. Just select the rows that you want to repeat and perform step 5 above.

How to have the word "Continued" in the header row of multipage tables on continuation pages but not on the first page.

There is no automatic way to do this. Several Word MVPs have posted the following solution, though, and it works.

Put the word "continued" in the heading line on the first page. Then create a textbox or autoshape anchored outside the heading row and use it to cover the word. The shape or text box should have no border and white fill. This way, the word continued will not appear on the first page but will appear when the row (without the textbox or shape) is repeated on subsquent pages.

While this is less than ideal, it works. Here is an example of using a textbox anchored in the table but outside the header row.

The Text Box is shown as semi-transparent for this demonstration it would be opaque in use.

It can be anchored anywhere outside the header row, including outside the table itself.

Note the displayed anchor in the  screenshot showing the textbox anchored in the second (non-header) row.

Note that any manipulation of the textbox is likely to move the anchor into the first row.

You need to have the anchors displayed and correct for this by moving the anchor.

Here is what the continuation page that does not have the occluding textbox/shape looks like:

A variation of putting an occluding shape (or frame) in the page Header is used when a page number is needed in the table itself. This takes more fiddling than having the occluding box on the first page because alignment is tricky.

A page number in a Header Row will repeat the number from the first page. A page number field in a shape or TextBox in a Header/Footer will reflect the pagination used by Word in headers and footers.

Here is what the continuation header (Section set to have a different-first-page header) looks like from the edit Header screen.

The screenshot below is from the Print Preview screen. (In print view, the Page 2 would appear faded because it is part of the page header; in draft or normal view, it would not appear at all.

When I have a lengthy entry in one of my cells, the text can break over a page. Is there a way to turn on the equivalent of "Block Protect" or "Keep Lines Together" in Word?

It's possible to have it either way in Word—you can have your cells break over a page or not, depending on your preferences for the job at hand. By default, the text in a table breaks across a soft page break in both Word 97 and Word 2000. Let's explore the options in the following exercise.

Practice: Prevent Cells from Breaking Over a Soft Page Break
  1. In a blank document, from the Table menu, choose Insert Table (Insert, then Table in Word 2000).
  2. Create a table with 2 columns and 250 rows.
  3. Make sure you're in Page Layout view (Print Layout view in Word 2000).
  4. Go to the bottom of the first page and type in one of the cells until you see text both above and below the Soft Page Break.
  5. Make sure your cursor is anywhere in the table, and then from the Table menu, choose Cell Height and Width (Table Properties in Word 2000).
  6. In the Cell Height and Width dialog box, find the check box Allow row to break across pages.
  7. If the option is checked, the text can break over a page. If not, the row that contains the cell that broke over a page is moved to the next page in its entirety.

This does not prevent cells from breaking over hard page breaks. Also, if you have more than a page of text in a cell, a soft page break must exist somewhere in that text, and the text breaks over a page even though you've cleared the checkbox in step 6.

Is there an easy way to make a file index in Word? I had a macro in WordPerfect and now I've got to make them from scratch.

The bad news is that you do have to make it all over again; the good news is that you'll only have to create it once. Using the power of tables together with AutoText, you'll be able to make a killer file index that you can use repeatedly.

Practice: Create a File Index Using Tables
  1. Open a blank document, and from the Table menu, choose Insert Table (Insert, then Table in Word 2000).
  2. Create a table with as many columns as you need (we'll use 4 in this example) and 2 rows.
  3. In the first cell of the first column, type "Number".
  4. In the first cell of the second column, type "Document Name".
  5. In the first cell of the third column, type "Date Filed".
  6. In the first cell of the fourth column type "Description".
  7. Click in the second cell of the first column, and then turn on numbering (On the Formatting toolbar, click the Numbering button).

This will give you a numbered column down the left side.

As you add rows to your table, the numbered list on the left side increments. Try it! If you save your finished product from the exercise above as an AutoText entry, you can retrieve it as many times as you like in the future.

My table column resizes as I type…

Table columns in Microsoft Word 2000 automatically resize to fit text or graphics. If you type a word that is longer than the width of the column, the column adjusts to accommodate the text. If you don't want your columns to resize when you type, click in the table, click Table Properties on the Table menu, and then click the Table tab. Click Options, and then clear the Automatically resize to fit contents check box.

I am doing very simple math in my Word table. Is it possible to create subtotals?

It's possible to take any value in just about any part of a Word document (it doesn't have to be in a table) and run it through any number of math functions against other values in other parts of a Word document. The way to do it is to use bookmarks. An example of how this works is shown in the next Practice exercise.

Practice: Work with Subtotals in a Word Document
  1. In a blank document, create three separate tables with values in the first two cells of the first two tables.

Example of cells to enter for practice exercise

  1. We're going to derive subtotals for the two tables and then a grand total of the two subtotals in the single-cell table at the bottom. Click in the third cell of each of the first two tables and click the AutoSum button at the far right side of the Tables and Borders toolbar.
  2. Select the first sum field (it should say "1500" if you've used the example above), making sure not to select the end-of-cell marker after it (it kind of looks like a spider).
  3. After selecting the first sum field in step 3, go to the Insert menu and choose Bookmark. For keyboard users, CTRL+SHIFT+F5 gets you to the Bookmark dialog box.
  4. Give the selection a bookmark name like "Table1Total".
  5. Repeat steps 3-5 for the second total ("450" if you're following the example above), calling it "Table2Total".

Note Note  Names of bookmarks in Word cannot begin with a digit, nor can they have a space in their name.

  1. Having bookmarked your totals, click in the single-cell table at the bottom. From the Table menu, choose Formula.
  2. In the top box labeled "Formula" you'll see an equal sign. Type the word "SUM", then an open parenthesis "(" and choose "Table1Total" from the Paste Bookmark drop-down list.
  3. Type a comma after "Table1Total" then go to the Paste Bookmark drop-down list and choose "Table2Total".
  4. Type a close parenthesis after "Table2Total" in the Formula box. Your formula should look like this:
  5. =SUM(Table1Total,Table2Total)
  6. Click OK. Confirm your total is the same as what you expect it to be (in this example, "1950").

If you get a result which says "!Syntax Error,", try the exercise again, making sure that you don't select the end-of-cell marker after the number when bookmarking.

I never could understand sorting in Word tables. Is it possible to sort dates and numbers as well as text?

It's easy to sort dates, numbers and text in a Word table. If a simple, one-level sort is all you're after, you'll be surprised at how easy it is. All you have to do is click in a column that has a list of things you'd like to sort (like filing dates, for example) and click one of the two sort buttons near the right side of the Tables and Borders toolbar. The practice exercise below should give you an idea.

Practice: Sorting Dates in Tables
  1. In a table, enter an array of dates that are near each other but have varying formats, like the following:

Column of differently formatted dates

  1. Click anywhere in the column and click either one of the sort buttons at the right side of the Tables and Borders toolbar. One button sorts in Ascending order, the other in Descending order. Word automatically converts dates in many different formats behind the scenes so it can sort them correctly.

Note Note  When you use either of the Sorting buttons on the Tables and Borders toolbar, Word assumes you have a header row. If you don't, you have to sort by going to the Table menu and choosing Sort.

Part of the text is hidden inside a table cell…

You've probably set an exact row height that's smaller than the text you are trying to display. Click in the cell. On the Table menu, click Table Properties, and then click the Row tab. In the Row height is box, click At least.

Can I insert an Excel worksheet into Word?

One of the reasons Microsoft Office is so popular is how all of the programs work together. Excel is a spreadsheet program that makes number crunching, organizing and presenting data very easy — even for the mathematically challenged.

Menu Versions Word 2000-2004

To insert an Excel worksheet into a Word document, click the Insert Microsoft Excel Worksheet toolbar button on the Standard toolbar. Double-click to activate the Excel worksheet. Now you have the full functionality of Excel without leaving the Word window.

Ribbon Versions - Office 2007 and later

In Ribbon versions, under Insert > Table, you can choose to insert an Excel spreadsheet.

Note Note  If the data already exists in an Excel spreadsheet, open the spreadsheet, select and copy the text, switch to Word, and choose paste the copied text. Word converts the data into a table format.

Labels in Microsoft Word

Labels in Microsoft Word are Tables, usually set up using the Labels button on the Mailings Tab (Word 2007 and later) or the Envelope and Labels wizard or the Mailmerge wizard (Word 2004 and earlier). Once the labels are set up, you can manipulate the them using any of the techniques given here for tables.

In the screenshot above, you can see the table layout with blank spacing cells that will not print on the labels. Display of gridlines is especially helpful with labels. You can also use the Table Layout tab's tools to align text in your labels.

See Graham Mayor's Insert logos /graphics on business cards and mailing labels for step-by-step instructions on inserting graphics on tables for labels and business cards.

See Create and Print Labels on Microsoft Support.

The Label tools create a slightly different document than you would get just adding an equivalent table to a Word document according to MVP Jay Freedman.
"For one thing, it overrides the minimum margin settings that come from the printer driver and it ignores the usual header and footer heights."

Any text in the normal.dotm template including headers or footers will interfere with proper creation of labels.

Links to Troubleshooting Resources (CK Note)

See also: Troubleshooting

See also: Table Causes Document File Size to Increase (Word 2000 +)

Corrupted Tables

Tables can become corrupted.

Ideas (from Paul Edstein) to fix a corrupted table:

bulletConvert the table to text and back again.
bulletCutting the table and pasting in a new document. Save that document to RTF, close it, reopen it and save in .docx format, then copy table back to original document.
bulletSave the original document as RTF, close, reopen and save as .docx.

Paul notes that some tables can only be recovered using the first method.

Resize all cells in a table to be the same.

Here is a short macro I developed in response to a request. (The macro recorder does not record much of table manipulation.) The measurements are in inches.

Sub ChangeCells()
' Resizes all cells in active document to one size (in inches)
Dim oTable As Table, oCell As Cell
For Each oTable In ActiveDocument.Tables
    For Each oCell In oTable.Range.Cells
      oCell.Width = InchesToPoints(2.3)
      oCell.Height = InchesToPoints(1.5)
    Next oCell
Next oTable
End Sub


Here is a link to a different version (Jay Freedman's) that changes the entire table rather than going cell-by-cell. If you haven't worked with vba directly before, you may want to read:

Installing Macros by Graham Mayor.

Gridlines in Tables

It is far easier to manipulate tables if you are viewing the table gridlines. It is important to realize that Word uses the term "gridlines" for two very distinct features. The first is a graphics layout gridline applied to an entire page. You do not want to be using that feature for tables!

To view gridlines for tables in Word 97-2003 you would select "Show Gridlines" under the Table menu. (The toggle command is "Hide Gridlines.")

In Word 2007 - 2021 you would click on the View Gridlines button on Layout tab of the Table Tools. (You can also get to this on the Design tab under the Borders menu.)


To distinguish this, to see the drawing gridlines in Word 97-2003 you would click on that button on the Drawing toolbar. In Word 2007-2021, you would click on the Gridlines button on the View menu.

All of these view gridlines options are toggles - you click them once to turn the view on and again to turn it off.

Notice that what appear to be single, wrapped sentences in the view without the gridlines showing are really in separate cells. These would be treated by Word as being separate paragraphs as well.

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