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How to Create and Format Tables in Word

Updated on January 24, 2016
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Efficient Admin (aka Michelle) loves good hikes and good food. She currently works as a Project Coordinator for an engineering company.

Step 1.  Decide how many columns and rows will be needed. Click on Insert, Table, and choose the number of columns and rows needed.
Step 1. Decide how many columns and rows will be needed. Click on Insert, Table, and choose the number of columns and rows needed.

The Planning Stage

First you must decide what information is to be portrayed, and then how many rows and columns it will take. The number of columns is the most important to decide because it is much easier to add rows than columns. In other words it is much easier to manipulate space vertically (going down the page) versus manipulating space horizontally (going across the page between margins).

For the purpose of this article, we will create a very simple table based on the number of automobiles sold during certain months, and then we will format the table.

Keep in mind that the "Reveal Codes" feature is turned on for all of these photos. You will see spaces, paragraph marks, etc...

Changing Appearance of the Table Borders

To change the appearance of the lines/borders of the table, look for the paragraph series and click on the border icon as shown below.

Let’s pick a double border on the outside of the table, and keep the inside lines the same, then click OK:

The photo above depicts choosing a double border on the outside of the table only.  Single line is still the inside border.
The photo above depicts choosing a double border on the outside of the table only. Single line is still the inside border.

You must first click on one of the outside lines first before choosing the formatted double line. So now we have the outside lines look like this:

This is what the table looks like with outside double lines.  Keep in mind that the "Reveal Codes" feature is turned on, so you will see the formatting codes in these photos.
This is what the table looks like with outside double lines. Keep in mind that the "Reveal Codes" feature is turned on, so you will see the formatting codes in these photos.

Shading Cells Inside a Table

To shade cells in a table, select the cells in the table that you want to shade. Use F8 or your cursor to select the cells you want to shade. Go to Home, paragraph box, and choose the icon for the lines as shown in the second photo above (pick the option Borders and Shading).

There are two ways to shade inside a table. Both options are shown below. The first option is to click on the Shading tab and then click on the drop down menu for the “Fill” section and pick your color of shading. In this example the light blue shade was chosen.

In the second example there is an option to choose either solid or a pattern for the shading. Click on the Pattern and Style to find a pattern. For this example we will use light blue color with Lt Trellis pattern, as shown in the table below. You don't need to use the second feature if you want simple solid shading.

Option 1.
Option 1.
Option 2.
Option 2.
It does not show up very well, but the Title cells are shaded with a light blue and the Lt. Trellis pattern was chosen.  There are many color and pattern options to choose from.
It does not show up very well, but the Title cells are shaded with a light blue and the Lt. Trellis pattern was chosen. There are many color and pattern options to choose from.

Fonts: Changing and Centering

To center information in any of the cells, simply highlight the cell(s) and click on the center icon located within the Paragraph box on your toolbar. To change the font, click on the font icon and pick which font you want to use. The sample shown in the table below is Arial 14.

Changing the alignment of a cell.
Changing the alignment of a cell.
Changing the font and the font size.
Changing the font and the font size.

Resizing Rows and Columns

To resize a column or a row there are two ways to do this. One is manually where you move the cursor over a line in the column or row until you see a “cross” shape and then left click the mouse and drag to the size you want.

Another way is to select the whole table. To select the entire table, click anywhere in the table and you should see a blue cross at the upper left-hand side of the table as shown below. Click on that cross and the whole table will become highlighted.

Selecting the entire table.  Right-click the mouse and then click on Table Properties.
Selecting the entire table. Right-click the mouse and then click on Table Properties.

Then move the cursor anywhere over the table and right click the mouse. A window will appear. Choose Table Properties. Once this window opens click on the tabs at the top and choose the desired size of the rows or columns.

Both the columns and rows can be resized at this window.
Both the columns and rows can be resized at this window.

Aligning the Table Between Margins

This feature comes in handy if you want Word to automatically center the Table for you between the margins. Or, if you choose the Left side feature, you can manually resize the columns yourself without the table shifting all over the page. To choose the alignment of a table, select the table, right-click mouse to bring up the Table Properties. At the Table tab at the top, you will see several options.

Have you ever tried to resize columns manually and the entire table kept shifting around? More than likely the Center Alignment feature was chosen.

Text wrapping allows you to type words around the table if you wish.

You can also change the borders and shading at this point. Also by clicking the Options box, you can even format the margins of each cell! This is a great feature if you want more space between the words and the border of each cell.

Spacing of the Cell Contents

To change the alignment of cell contents, select the entire table and choose Table Properties. Click on the Cell tab and choose how you wish the contents of the cell to align.

**NOTE: If you make a choice and do not notice any difference, you may need to make your row larger or the font smaller before you see the intended results.

You can use this feature to space the contents of a cell either at the top, middle, or bottom.
You can use this feature to space the contents of a cell either at the top, middle, or bottom.

How to Total Column Numbers

For simple mathematical additions inside the table, click inside your table where you want the numbers added for you. Click on Layout at the top toolbar, and then click the Formula (fx) symbol as shown below.

The formula icon.
The formula icon.
Use this formula to add up all your column numbers.
Use this formula to add up all your column numbers.

Once the cursor is inside the table at the point where you want Word to sum all the numbers, click on the fx icon and you will see a drop down menu as shown in the photo above. If you do not already see the =SUM(ABOVE) in the formula field, type it in and click on OK. It should automatically add all of your numbers under the October 2012 column. Click on the next cell you wish to add. In this example it would be November 2012 and repeat these steps.

All of the columns are now added up!
All of the columns are now added up!

CONCLUSION

Any comments or questions are welcomed. Thank you for reading.

© 2013 Efficient Admin

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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      A very efficient tutorial. Thanks for being so thoughtful. Voted Up!

    • Efficient Admin profile image
      Author

      Efficient Admin 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Hello billybuc - that is great news and I am very glad to hear the instructions are helpful in a way that you now have some nice tables to look at. These techniques are also very similar when using Excel to format a table, except a table is not inserted -- the cells are formatted instead. Thanks for reading and your comments are appreciated.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't know how long I have used Microsoft Word, but I have never been able to do tables....until now. I read this a couple days ago and then found time yesterday to follow your instructions and what do you know? I was able to make a perfect table. Thank you so much for dumbing-down the instructions so I could follow them. :)

    • Efficient Admin profile image
      Author

      Efficient Admin 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Shawn - thanks, I'm glad they are helpful. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Shawn Scarborough profile image

      Shawn Scarborough 4 years ago from The Lone Star State

      Great hub. I like the screenshots, which really help in understanding how to format and table in MS Word.