After Hours

10+ tips for working faster with Word tables


Word tables have a million handy uses, from organizing tabular data to building an attractive page layout. Unfortunately, they don't always act in predictable ways, and users have to waste time puzzling over dialog box options and toolbar choices.

The following list of pointers isn't intended to provide any sort of in-depth look at how Word tables function or to serve as one of those overpowering collections of shortcuts that are too exhaustive to be useful. It's just a set of reliable timesavers for users who need to perform some basic table tasks without getting bogged down in feature subtleties.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

The tips

Selecting and rearranging

Action Function
#1: Select an entire table Press Alt and double-click in table (pre-Word 2003) or click the table move handle, visible when the mouse pointer is over the table in Print Layout View.
#2: Select a column Press Alt and click in the column (pre-Word 2003) or position the mouse pointer above the top of the column so it turns into downward-pointing arrow and click.
#3: Select from the current cell to the top or bottom of the column Press Alt+Shift+Page Up or Alt+Shift+Page Down.
#4: Select from the current cell to the beginning or end of the row Press Alt+Shift+Home or Alt+Shift+End.

Deleting

#5: Delete a selected table Press Backspace.
#6: Delete the contents of a selected table Press Delete. (You can also delete the contents of specific cells by selecting them and pressing Delete.)

Navigating

#7: Jump from one cell to another Press Tab (to move forward); press Shift+Tab (to move backward).
#8: Jump to the first or last cell in a row Press Alt+Home (to move to the first cell); press Alt+End (to move to the last cell).
#9: Jump to the first or last cell in a column Press Alt+Page Up (to move to the first cell; press Alt+Page Down (to move to the last cell).

Formatting

#10: Split a table Click in the row above which you want the split to occur and press Ctrl+Shift+Enter. (If you're at the beginning of the first table cell, this will insert a blank paragraph above the table.)
#11: Add a row to the bottom of a table Click at the end of the last table cell and press Tab.
#12: Insert multiple rows in a table Select as many rows as you want to add, right-click, and choose Insert Rows. Word will add the new rows above your selection. (The new rows will all be formatted the same as the first row in your selection.)
#13: Move a row (or rows) up or down Select the row(s), hold down Alt+Shift, and press the up or down arrow key as many times as needed to move the selected row(s) to the spot you want.
#14: Automatically resize a column to fit its contents Double-click on the boundary to the right of the column you're resizing.
#15: Resize a column without affecting the table width Drag the right boundary of the column you want to resize. Word will adjust that column and the one on its right but keep the table the same width.

Or hold down Ctrl+Shift as you drag the boundary. Word will change the width of the column to the left and resize the columns to the right proportionally, leaving the table width unchanged.

#16: Resize a column with more precision Hold down Alt as you drag a column boundary. Word will display the margins and column widths on the horizontal ruler. It will also give you finer control over the dragging process (similar to overriding the Snap to Grid feature for drawing objects).
#17: Insert a tab in a table cell Press Ctrl+Tab.

About

Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior editor for Tech Pro Research.

1 comments
ktxn
ktxn

I am working on a table that I inherited from a co-worker. When I grab the little cross up at the top left of the table and drag the table down, it does indeed move down. However the top line of the table (which happens to be just above the little cross) does not move down with the rest of the table leaving a large space between the table name and that top line. How can I get that line to move with the rest? I have tried just going to the page before and hitting return but it makes the entire table disappear. On a mac using Word 2011. Thank you.

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