Office challenge: How can you increase the width of your Word table by increasing the width of a single column?

Learn the solution to last week's Word envelope challenge and test your Word table skills to test.

If you drag a table's inner column border to the right, Word will increase the width of the column to the left, but it will not increase the width of the table at large, even if there's plenty of room. So, although you've increased the width of one column, you've decreased the width of the column to the right of it. Now, that might be what you want—maybe not. If you want to increase the width of a column and increase the width of the entire table, at the same time, what do you do?

Last week we asked… How can you force Word to print a letter before its corresponding envelope? Genealogist, Kathryn Bassett was faced with a perplexing problem. As you might know, Word inserts an envelope at the beginning of the document. The printer Kathryn's client used refused to print the envelope first, as laid out in the document. (This is a known issue.) Since the printer wouldn't comply, Kathryn tried to move the envelope. Unfortunately, there's no setting that lets you reposition the envelope—Word inserts it at the beginning and that's that! Nor can you can't move the envelope after it's inserted.

Stumped, I turned to a few colleagues and in short order, Tina Norris, Computer Trainer, had the solution. Insert a Next Page break at the beginning of the envelope—it's a surprisingly elegant solution (and I wish I'd thought of it). Let's look at a quick example using the envelope shown below.

To insert an envelope in Word 2003, do the following:

  1. Choose Letters and Mailings from the Tools menu.
  2. Choose Envelopes and Letters.
  3. Click Add to Document (on the Envelopes tab).

In later versions, do the following:

  1. Click the Mailings tab.
  2. Click Envelopes in the Create group.
  3. Click Add to Document.

Word positions the envelope at the beginning of the document. To push the envelope down, do the following:

  1. Position the insertion point at the very beginning of the envelope by pressing [Ctrl]+[Home].
  2. From the Insert menu, choose Break. In Word 2007 and 2010, click the Breaks dropdown in the Page Setup group.
  3. Select the Next Page option in the Section Break Types section.
  4. Click OK.

At this point, you have two envelope-formatted pages. Select the first envelope and change the margins, page size and orientation to match those of a normal page. The result isn't perfect as you end up with a blank sheet at the end of the document (following the envelope) but it worked well enough to please this particular client!

Thanks Tina for a creative and simple solution.


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.

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