When organizing information into rows and columns, two tools can be used: Tabs or Tables. Tables are a better choice as they are actually made up of rows and columns of cells that alignment content naturally. Content can be aligned both vertically and horizontally in cells. Cells can be filled with a background colour and can have borders applied to them. In situations where lots of information is being organized Tables out perform Tabs in many ways.
Tables are often used to create regimented row and column structures often with a Column and/or row header. An example of a regimented structure with a column header would be a calendar. Tabs can also be used to create a calendar, which on the surface, has the "appearance" of being made up of rows and columns. To illustrate some important differences on how Tabs and Tables differ when organizing information into rows and columns, a generic one month calendar, shown below, demonstrates both methods:
On the surface, both calendars look good and if the intention was just to print them out and write important calendar information on the printed copies then both calendars would work fine. However the most obvious difference between the two calendars is when calendar information is actually typed directly into the calendars. This is how both methods handle the text:
Whenever information needs to be organized in rows and columns, particularly with a column and/or header row, Tables will always win out over tabs in both ease of use and functionality.
Topics covered in this tutorial
Tables can be inserted into a document either through the Table Menu command or the Table button located on the Standard toolbar:
The INSERT TABLE command open the Insert Table dialogue box as shown here. The options are:
The easiest way to delete a whole table is to place the cursor in one of the cells and delete it from the TABLE MENU -> DELETE -> TABLE. Just selecting the table and clicking the Delete or Backspace key will not delete the table, it will only delete the contents in the table. To delete a table with the Delete or Backspace key you need to select the table and the space above the table as shown here.
When a table is created its properties can be modified either through the Table Format dialogue box (TABLE -> TABLE PROPERTIES) or the Table toolbar or the right click Context menu ->TABLE.
The Table Format dialogue box contains 5 tabs of options, a quick summary of the tabs are as follows:
The Table toolbar only appears when the the cursor is in a table cell. It contains most of the common options that can be used in a table such as Borders, Background colour, Merging/Splitting cells, inserting/deleting rows/columns, vertical cell alignments, row/columns distribution and Autoformat. It is generally quicker and easier to use the this toolbar or the Context menu for basic table options than choosing the options from the TABLE MENU.
Table properties can also be accessed through the right click mouse button Context menu. The Context menu contains options found in both in the Table toolbar and the TABLE MENU. Inserting a row or column through the Context menu or Table toolbar will open the same Insert Row or Column dialogue box.
To move from cell to cell in a row:
To move from cell to cell in a column:
Content can be aligned both horizontally and vertically in a cell. Vertical alignment includes: Top, Center and Bottom of the cell. Horizontal alignments of Left, Centre and Right are controlled by the Formatting toolbar.
The Vertical alignments can be accessed through the Table Format box via the TABLE MENU (TABLE -> TABLE PROPERTIES -> TEXT FLOW -> ALIGNMENT -> VERTICAL ALIGNMENT) or the Context menu (Cell -> Top, Centre, Bottom). They can also be selected as buttons on the Table toolbar.
Vertical cell alignments will only be noticed if the row height is large enough to show the positioning of the content in the cell. In this illustration of a four row/four column table, the second row's height is enlarged to clearly show the vertical alignment of the content:
In order to change borders, background colours, cell alignments, cell formatting etc., the cells need to be selected. To select complete rows or columns use the Row/Column Selector to highlight the number of rows/columns to be selected. The Row/Column Selector appears as a black arrow; it appears to left of the table for selecting rows and it appears above the table for selecting columns as shown below. Dragging the Row Selector will highlight (select) more rows and dragging the Column Selector will highlight (select) more columns. Highlighting all cells selects the whole table.
Cells can also be selected through the TABLE MENU command: TABLE -> SELECT -> TABLE, ROWS, COLUMNS, or CELLS. You can also select a range of cells by clicking and dragging to highlight the number of cells to be selected.
Text is selected in a cell the same way it is on a page:
Highlighting (selecting) the cell content does not select the cell. Applying a background colour when text is selected will only apply a background colour to the paragraph not the complete cell. To apply a background colour to the cell the cell must be selected. About the only way to select a single cell is through the TABLE MENU: TABLE -> SELECT -> CELL.
If a large picture is inserted into a cell it will be scaled to the width of the cell. Generally this will increase the row height as shown on the right. If the picture is smaller than the cell it will be inserted Vertically to the Top and Horizontally Centred in the cell. By default the text will flow below the picture. If the cell is large enough and the image small, the text wrapping can be changed so that the text flows around the image in the cell in the same way it does on a page.
Generally, when images are use in a table, they tend to be in inserted into their own cell and text is typed into another cell. This makes it easier to control both the image and the text. Because each cell has its own horizontal and vertical alignments there is better control of the elements if they are placed in separate cells.
Images can also be placed as a background in a cell, row or table. Text flows on top of the image as the image is considered part of the cell. This is discussed in detail in the creating a Calendar section below.
Adjusting Row Heights can be done numerically through the Row Height box accessed through the Context menu or by dynamically dragging the cell borders.
Adjusting the Row Height can be done numerically through the Row Height box availably through the Context menu (ROW -> HEIGHT). In the Row height box the Fit To Size options is automatically checked. This ensure that regardless how small the row height is it will expand to display all the content. If this option is unchecked a row can be made smaller that the contents it holds. When this happens not all the text will be visible and the Text Overflow indicated will appear to indicate this fact as shown above.
Multiple rows can be adjusted at the same time by selecting them first and then opening the Row Height box and entering the values.
To dynamically adjust the row height place the cursor on the top/bottom of a row border line. When the cursor is directly over the border line it will change to the Double Arrow expand icon. Generally a tool tip is also shown to indicate that the row can be adjusted. Drag the border line downward to increase the size of the row or drag it upward to decrease the size of the row. Note that this only effects the one row. The other rows stay the same height.
To dynamicaly increase the height of multiple rows at the same time hold down the CTRL key first then select a row's bottom border and drag downward. That row and all rows above it will increase their height together. If you drag upward with the CTRL key, that row and all the rows above it will decrease in height.
A header row is the first row of a table, that generally represents the heading names for each column. For example a table could be used to create an address list with the first row listing the category names for each column. Generally that first row would be formatted differently to make it stand out from the rest of the rows as shown here. However if there are hundreds of names then the table will split over many pages. It can be convenient to have a that header row repeated as the first row for each page of the table.
To designate the first Row to repeat: TABLE -> TABLE PROPERTIES -> TEXT FLOW -> REPEAT HEADING or Content menu -> TABLE or select the Table Property button on the Table toolbar. You can also designate more than the first row to repeat. As shown here the Header row is repeated on all pages.
By default rows will break over pages meaning that the row will split over to the next page so that its content can continue on the next page. You can prevent the table from breaking all rows across pages or apply that option to an individual row. To prevent all rows from breaking over Uncheck the option Allow row to break across pages and columns in the TEXT FLOW tab of the TABLE PROPERTIES box.
To apply this option to an individual row:
A table row can be inserted either through the TABLE MENU (TABLE -> INSERT -> ROWS), Table toolbar or the Context menu. In either case the Insert Row box appears as shown. The option include:
The rows will be automatically added to the table as per the options chosen in the Insert Row box. The inserted row's height will be the same height as the current row (the row whose cell contains the cursor). If the current row's height is much wider than the other rows, the new rows will be the same height as the current row.
To delete a row or a number of rows:
Adjusting the Column Widths can be done numerically through the Context menu, the TABLE MENU or by dynamically dragging the cell borders.
Adjusting the Column Width can be done numerically through the Column Width box available through the Context menu (COLUMN -> WIDTH). However you can only adjust one column at a time and it doesn't matter which column the cursor is in as you need to select the column number in the Column Field. A column can be made as narrow as one character wide and the text will wrap downward that way. Unlike adjusting row heights, highlighting a number of columns first and then using the Column Width box doesn't effect multiple columns as only one column is effected at time with this box. Adjusting multiple columns at once is accomplished through the TABLE MENU.
Columns widths can also be adjusted through the TABLE MENU: TABLE -> COLUMNS -> COLUMN WIDTHS. This menu allows for all columns to be adjusted at the same time. Adjusting one column wider or narrower will effect another column, generally the one to the right, to compensate. The smallest a column width can be is .02". If spinning up a column higher and the column to the right spins down to .02" then the next column to the right will start spinning down to compensate.
To dynamically adjust a Column's Width place the cursor on the left/right cell border line. When the cursor is directly over the border line it will change to the Double Arrow expand icon. Generally a tool tip is also shown to indicate that the column can be adjusted. To increase the column's width place the arrow icon on the left cell border and drag to the left. To decrease the cell width drag to the right. The column to the left will compensate for the increase or decrease in the column's width. By default only two columns are effected; the column being expanded/reduced and the next column that compensates.
To dynamically adjust multiple columns hold down the CTRL key while dragging the left border line. The columns to the right of the selected column will expand or reduce to the same width depending on whether the selected column is expanded or reduced.
In the above illustration the third column is being adjusted:
A table column can be inserted either through the TABLE MENU (TABLE -> INSERT -> COLUMNS), Table toolbar or the Context menu. In either case the Insert Column box appears as shown. The option include:
The columns will be automatically added to the table as per the options chosen in Insert Column box.
Keep in mind that once a table is created, inserting columns will force the existing columns to be reduced in width to accommodate the new columns. As shown here this changes the flow of the text to a more vertical flow as the cells are reduced in width. Inserting columns can be problematic after a table has been created and content entered. This is why it is usually a good idea to properly plan out the table, particularly with respect to the number of columns needed.
If the current column (column whose cell contains the cursor) is wider than the other columns then the inserted column's width will be the same width as the current column, which in turn will reduce the width of the other columns.
To delete a column or a number of columns:
Merging cells always creates a larger cell without effecting the rest of the table. Cells can be merged horizontally, vertically or both as shown here in a 5 row/5 column table.
Sometimes when merging cells the table will be reduced in size by rows as shown below. This can happen when merged cells cell create uneven rows across the table:
In the left table two cells in the last column are selected and about to be merged. Once those cells are merged the 4th and 5th column will contain 4 rows (with cells merged at the same horizontal level), while the 1st to 3rd columns contain only 3 rows. The table then balances itself out by removing one row.
The same can happen with columns. In the following illustration a five row/two column table is shown below:
Therefore when merging cells sometimes the results can be unpredictable when it comes to balancing the rows across the table. When merging cells doesn't yield the desired result then Splitting merged cells usually produces the desired effect.
Sometimes when cells are merged you may find they need to be split up again. A cell or cells can be split Horizontally (rows) or Vertically (columns). What is unique about splitting cells is that the operation is only applied to those cells and not the rest of the table. Any cell can be Split not just merged cells.
When splitting cells horizontally (rows) the cells are matched to the adjacent rows so that rows continues across. However a cell can be split evenly in half without regard to matching the adjacent rows. This is accomplished when the the Into Equal Proportions checkbox is checked. If this box is not checked then the cells are split to match the adjacent rows.
In the illustration below the second column is split horizontally into a different number of cells. The Into Equal Proportions checkbox is not checked. Note how the cells are matched across to the adjacent rows.
Cells can also be split Vertically into columns as in this illustration using the same five row/two column table. In this example the second column is split horizontally into two cells with the Into Equal Proportions checked. The top row is then split vertically in two cells and the bottom row is split vertically into 3 cells. This process can continue as each cell in the second column could be split horizontally (rows) independent of the other cells.
When merging cells doesn't create the desired table result, a combination of merging and splitting cells usually yields the customized row/column combination.
Cell borders are totally customizable and can be applied to:
By default the Table Boundaries are turned on. These are non-printing light gray lines that border all cells and are visible when the border lines are turned off. They are used to indicate where the cells are in the table. These boundary lines can be turned off, if necessary, through the TABLE MENU, but should be left on as they are very helpful when border lines are not used. Since they are non-printing lines when viewing the table in the Page Preview window they will not be displayed.
The following illustration demonstrates the different ways the borders can be applied. The tables are shown in both normal Page View and Page Preview View. As mentioned above the non-printing Table Boundary lines do not show up in the Page Preview.
Borders can be applied either through the Table toolbar or the TABLE MENU: TABLE -> TABLE PROPERTIES -> BORDERS. The Table Format menu allows for better control over border formatting but can be confusing. It consist of three border properties:
The Line Arrangement option can get confusing particularly if a border is already applied and you want to manually change the border. To modify borders you need to select the borders to be modified. The following illustration demonstrates selecting borders:
It can get tricky selecting the proper border lines. If you click too close to where two border lines intersect both those borders will be selected as shown in this illustration in step 2 and 3. To select a single border you need to click in the middle part of that line that is between two intersecting borders as shown in step 1.
Only a solid colour or a image can be used as a background. Gradients fills aren't supported. The Background colour is found in the Table Format box which can be accessed through the TABLE MENU or the Context menu. The Table Format menu provides three background options: a cell, row or the whole table. However if a range of cells are selected choose the Cell option to apply the background colour to the range of cells.
The Table toolbar and the Formatting toolbar both have a Background colour button but the colour will be applied to a paragraph if the cursor is in a single cell. If multiple cells are selected than the background colour will be applied to the cells. As shown below selecting a range of cells will apply the background colour to those cells.
Anyone not interested in manual formatting the table can apply automatic formatting through the AutoFormat command. The AutoFormat box can be accessed either through the Table menu, TABLE -> AUTOFORMAT or the AutoFormat button on the Table toolbar. The AutoFormat box displays a list of preformatted style on the left and when a style is selected a preview is shown in the Preview window. The MORE button extends the box with formatting options that can be Unchecked if you do not wish to apply a particular formatting. Formatting options you can control include; Number Formats, Borders, Font, Pattern and Alignment.
An easy project to create that demonstrates many of the table properties is a calendar. This project will cover these table topics:
Its always best to determine the number of columns needed before starting a table. Inserting columns after a table has been created and content entered creates a lot of column readjustment. However with a calendar its easy to determine the number of columns need.
Since there are 7 days in a week, then 7 columns are needed. For the rows:
Therefore a 7 row/7 column table is needed. The table can be created with the Table button on the Standard toolbar or through the TABLE MENU -> TABLE -> INSERT -> TABLE. If you wish to add extra items like a row for notes then factor that row in.
Keep in mind that the table will not be wider that 7 columns, but it can be as tall as the page. The calendar can be created in Portrait or Landscape mode but it is easier to visualize it in the typical landscape mode. Therefore on an 81/2 X 11" page in Landscape mode with 1" margins this allows us lots of room for increasing the row heights so that information like Calendar Holidays and notes can be typed into the individual cells. Therefore this sample table will be 91/2" wide and as tall as 61/2". The row heights will be:
Because we want the rows that represent the weeks to be set at the same height and not adjustable so that they always remain at the same height, the option Fit to Size will be Unchecked. As a result if more content is typed into the cell than it can display at its fixed height, the Overflow icon will appear. There is some space still available at the bottom of the table to allow the first two row to have flexible heights if they need to be larger.
The first row will only contain the Month and the Year therefore only two cells are needed; one for the Month and one for the Year. Since the Month needs to be more prominent, the first five cells will be merged together and the last two cells will be merged together for the Year. If you wish to include an image in this top row, ensure the image is in its own cell.
For the first and second row:
For the rows representing the weeks:
At this point a basic template has been created. The next steps will be mostly concerned with formatting the cells and formatting the content in the cells.
This option will be used only on the rows representing the weeks. Ideally the Date numbers should be pushed away from the edges of the borders to make them more readable. Not much spacing is needed approximately .1''. Keep in mind that spacing is an internal margin within each cell. The greater the spacing the less room there will be to type into the cell.
If Synchronize is Unchecked the spacing for each side can be individually controlled. The Spacing to Content is available regardless if the Borders are turned on or off. Keep in mind that background colour can be applied to a cell or text. If the colour is applied to the paragraph the internal margins of the cell will be noticeable.
Formatting is a personal choice, background colours can be based on a theme, i.e., Spring colours for the months of Spring, or made with one colour. Therefore the calendar can be as colourful or plain as desired. A background colour is a good way to highlight a specific date or the Holiday dates.
Backgrounds colours and images are applied through the Table Format box: Table Format -> Background. Ensure that the "Cell" options is selected or it could be applied to the Row or the whole Table.
A background colour can also be applied to selected cells through the Table toolbar and the Background Color button on the Standard toolbar. If the cell is not selected then the background colour will be applied to the background of the paragraph.
Background colours can be applied to different rows of the table. For example the 1st and 2nd rows can have prominent colours while the rows representing the weeks can have a less prominent colour. A common colour effect used for adding interest is to alternate bands of colour for the row or columns. Each band of colour provides its own focus and adds variety and interest to the calendar.
Don't forget that a cell background can contain a picture and the text can still be written on top of it. However a background picture can make the text harder to read. The text may need to be formatted differently from the other cells to make it more readable. For best results the image shouldn't be too much bigger than the cell.
There are three options for background images:
If the text is hard to read over the background image, add a background colour to the paragraph text. Remember that there are two possible background colours; one for the paragraph background and one for the cell background.
By default all tables have borders already applied. The default border is .25pt in width and black in colour. This of course is just the starting point. Border lines can be thin, thick, single or double lines, solid or dashed lines. Borders can be coloured to match the table or removed completely for no visual segmentation. Making the outside border are bit wider than the inside borders encapsulates the table nicely.
Formatting the text will generally be the last component. By leaving it till after the table is formatted there is some flexibility left for sizing the text. For example, if typing 3 or 4 words into the date cells the font may need to be smaller to fit into the cell without the Text Overflow icon appearing. The colour of the text may need to be changed to make it more readable if there is a cell background colour.
Some tips for text formatting:
Tables are an excellent way to organize information in a document. There is a lot of control in formatting the table and the text.
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