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How to create and customize tables in Microsoft Word

Julie Sartain | Aug. 6, 2014
Creating tables in Microsoft Word used to be so annoying that most people just did it in Excel, then imported it into Word. It's worth giving Word 2013's table tools a try, though, because the process is easier, and there are some new graphical options.

3. Use the keyboard shortcuts, which become visible when you press the ALT key on your keyboard.

All of these methods are fast and easy, but using a combination of all three will always be quicker. For example, use your mouse to highlight, then right-click to copy with your right hand; then arrow down to the new location and press CTRL-V to paste with your left hand.

Layout tab

The Layout tab lets you modify the structure of the table. The menu is fairly self-explanatory, and you can roll your cursor over a feature to get further clarification.

The dialog boxes below also illustrate each feature. Click Table Tools > Layout > Insert or Delete (from Rows and Columns group) to add or remove them; Merge or Split Cells or Split a Table (from the Merge group); or Text Direction (from the alignment group) to rotate the text inside the table.

Other features include Table Properties, which provides several options for aligning the table with the text or wrapping text around your table. Select Cell Margins to change the margins inside each cell. With the table still highlighted, click Table Tools > Layout > Data > Sort to sort the table data alphabetically or numerically, just like in Excel. You can sort by column numbers or by column headers, and it provides two sort levels. For example, you can sort by Last Name, then by First Name. The table below is sorted by Last Name.

You can also convert your table back to a text block. Just choose the separator you prefer, so when the table grid disappears, the data isn't all jumbled together.

You can even insert formulas to calculate your numeric data. I added a Salary column to the table below and entered some dollars, plus a new row at the bottom for the salary totals. To calculate the total salaries, position your cursor in the last row and the last column cell, and click the Formula button under the Data group. In the Formula dialog box type the SUM() formula [or Count() or Average()] in the Formula field box. If you are unfamiliar with the formulas Word provides, click the down arrow under the Paste Function field, and choose a formula from the list.

Type Above between the parentheses, choose a format under Number Format such as dollars, percent, or general, then click OK. Word calculates the column of numbers and places the calculation in the target cell (where your cursor resides). Review the Formula Format table in the graphic below for the correct commands that tell Word which direction to calculate (these go inside the parentheses).

Design tab

 

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