Microsoft Word makes it easy to create, format, and customize tables for organizing and presenting data in your documents. This comprehensive tutorial will teach you everything you need to know about table creation, modification, styling, and accessibility best practices when working in Word.
Inserting Tables into Word Documents
There are a few different ways to insert a table into a Word document. The fastest option is to use the pre-built grid in the Insert tab:
- Navigate to the Insert tab on the Word ribbon
- Click the Table dropdown menu
- Select the number of columns and rows you need for your table
- Word will automatically draw a table with the specified rows and columns
Tip: Check the box to create a header row if you want the first row formatted differently.
Alternatively, you can click Draw Table in the Tables group of the Insert tab to draw a custom table with your mouse or trackpad. This allows you to draw tables of non-standard sizes.
Finally, if you already have text formatted into columns as if it were a table, you can convert it with a single click. Simply select the text and go to Insert > Table > Convert Text to Table.
Formatting Tables in Word
Once your table is inserted, the Table Design and Layout tabs will appear on the ribbon. These tabs allow you to customize the table’s style, structure, and formatting.
Applying Built-In Table Styles
The quickest way to format an entire table is to apply one of Word’s pre-made Table Styles. The Table Design tab provides a gallery of professional designs:
- Select your entire table
- Navigate to the Table Design tab
- Browse the Table Styles gallery
- Click a style to apply it instantly
Table Styles allow you to format the table, header row, total row, banded rows, and more in just a few clicks.
Manually Formatting Table Elements
For more advanced formatting, the rest of the Table Design tab gives you granular control:
- Shading – Shade every other row to improve readability
- Borders – Change border properties like color, width, and line style
- Header Row – Repeat the header row at the top of each page the table spans
- Total Row – Display an extra row at the bottom for totals
- Banded Rows – Shade alternate rows for better differentiation
- First Column and Last Column – Apply special formatting to the first and last columns
- Table Style Options – Fine-tune exactly which elements of the applied Table Style should display
The Table Properties box also exposes additional options like text wrapping, indentation, alignment, and more.
Adjusting Table Layout
To modify the structure of an existing table, use the Layout tab:
- Insert or Delete rows and columns
- Merge Cells to join them horizontally
- Split Cells to divide them vertically
- Distribute Rows and Columns to standardize width and spacing
- Align text within cells
You can also click within a cell and adjust its Height and Width manually or set Word to automatically AutoFit content.
Organizing Data in Tables
Tables are extremely useful for organizing and working with data in Word:
Sorting Table Data
To sort your information alphabetically or numerically in ascending or descending order:
- Select the entire table
- Navigate to the Layout tab
- Click Sort and choose your desired sort order
To perform calculations like SUM, MIN, MAX, etc. on numeric data:
- Right-click on a cell and select Table Properties
- Enable the Total Row checkbox
- Click in the total row and select the calculation type from the dropdown menu
Filtering Table Contents
To filter your table data and only display matching rows:
- Ensure your table has header rows
- Navigate to the Table Design tab
- Click the Filter button to add filter drop-downs to each header
- Click the filter arrows and check/uncheck values to show/hide rows
Table Accessibility Best Practices
Making your Word tables accessible is important for meeting compliance standards and serving users of all abilities:
Add a Table Caption
Give your table an informative caption so users relying on assistive technologies like screen readers understand the table’s purpose and contents.
Provide Alt Text Description
The alt text field in the Table Properties box allows you to add a detailed text description explaining the table’s layout, organization, patterns, trends, etc.
With these simple steps, you can create stunning tables to effectively communicate data-driven stories to broad audiences in Word. Let me know if you have any other questions!