3 must-know table tips for Word users

In this edition of Jeff’s Quick Tips, I’ll share three tips for using tables in Microsoft Word that every Word user in your organization must know.  Feel free to pass these productivity and formatting tips around to your users, your help desk staff, and technical trainers. These tips work the same way in every version of Word.

Tip #1: Repeat header rows on every page, please

If you have a table that spans more than one page, guess what? Your document looks pretty ragged if you don’t repeat the header rows on every page. The steps are simple:  Right-click on the top row (the row that contains the headings you want to repeat on every page), choose Table Properties, click the Row tab, and check the box for the option labeled “Repeat row on every page” and click OK.

Reminder: Click on the screen shots to enlarge them and fully enjoy their lustrous beauty!

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Figure 1: This is what your Word doc looks like if you don’t repeat the header row in your table on all pages. Yucky!

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Figure 2: Right-click on the first table row and choose Table Properties, then click the Row tab to turn on “Repeat as header row at the top of each page,” then click OK.

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Figure 3: This is what your Word doc looks like with the header row repeated on every page. Very professional!

#2 Doctors without Borders are great, Tables without Borders are not

If you have a lot of data in your table, and if you want people to be able to make sense of the information in your table without having to lay a ruler on top of the printed page (or worse, up against the screen!), all you have to do is select the entire table, then click on the Borders tool in the Formatting toolbar and select the All Borders option, and voilà! It’s obvious to the most casual observer where each row begins and ends.

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Figure 4: To select the entire table, click the “Select all” icon that appears above the top-left corner of the table when you mouse over it.

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Figure 5: On the Formatting toolbar, click the Borders icon and choose All Borders.

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Figure 6: Borders make the document easier to read.

#3 When you paste from Excel into Word and the columns go off the page, use “Auto fit to Window”

How many times has this happened to you? You’ve got a bunch of data in Excel. You copy and paste that data into Word as a table, and ka-blam! It doesn’t fit. It runs off the right margin and into oblivion. What do you do, hot shot? Well, if you’re smart, you don’t try to change the width of the table columns manually.  If you’re smart, you right-click on the table, choose Auto Fit and Auto Fit to Window, and bada-boom, it fits! You may have to fine-tune the width of some of the columns, but it’s much, much easier to clean up those column widths after Word has auto-fit the table to the existing margins.

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Figure 7: Here’s what my sample Word document looked like when I pasted in four wide columns from an Excel worksheet.

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Figure 8: Right-click anywhere in the table and choose AutoFit | AutoFit to Window.

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Figure 9: Here’s how my document looks after using AutoFit. It’s MUCH easier than trying to tweak the column widths manually.

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