Office challenge: How can you create uniform table cells that don't change size?

This week's Microsoft Office Challenge: How do you keep users from adjusting a table's row heights and column widths when they change data?

You've gone to a lot of trouble to create a complex table and you don't want anyone to change the row heights or column widths. You could protect the table, but you want users to be able to modify the table's contents, just not its dimensions. Your users aren't power users, so you decide to take the easiest route—how do you keep users from adjusting the table's row heights and column widths when they change data?

Last week we asked…

Why won't my Word table's borders print? Jbenton was the first to respond with the answer I had in mind. Tables can display gridlines or borders (borders are the default). Gridlines are imaginary lines that you can see on screen, but they don't print. If the table borders aren't printing, the most likely explanation is that someone turned off the borders and your users seeing gridlines, not borders.

The document below shows the difference between borders and gridlines. The first table displays borders—the lines are solid. The second table displays gridlines, not borders.

The solution, fortunately, is easy. Instruct the user to set borders, as follows:

  1. Select the table and right-click it.
  2. Choose Table Properties from the resulting context menu.
  3. Click the Borders and Shading button on the Table tab.
  4. Click Grid and then click OK.


Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.


If you check the Preferred width checkbox (Table Tools > Layout > Properties > Column) you can set the width of cells in a column so they don't automatically expand.


It seems like you IT people are all about control. "for my own good" What happens to a table if the rows or columns are out of alignment, it may not look as good, but it is still providing the data that needs to be seen. If you can't change the size or it is not changeable automatically, you cannot see all of the data. In some cases that is not a problem, but in other cases, the lack of information could be. In the olden days of Office 95, one could not only manipulate column and row sizes but cell size, then it was taken away. I have never understood why "improvments" make you have less options than you had before. As a user, I am usually against all lockdowns in the first place, however, the idea of fields sounds about as good a solution as any. Of course we don't have tables that are setup by someone else in the first place, so this is not a worry at least in my department. If we have anything like this, i is in an HTML file in an intranet page accessible via the browser. Tables I setup are for my use only and I can do anything I want to them. I recently found out how to manipulate the data easier in a Word table using numbered rows and the use of [alt-shift-up arrow or -down arrow] via one of these columns, making it a lot easier than dragging and dropping, which sometimes makes it much harder to keep things the way you want them. Keep the articles and tips coming.


If you do Format -> Lock Cells and then Format -> Protect sheet the user can modify dat but not the format.


You could set your table dimensions, unticking the 'automatically resize to fit contents' box and then place a form field inside each cell where you want to allow data entry. If the document is then protected for filling in forms the users will be able to edit the table contents but not resize it.

Editor's Picks