Software

Tip: Avoid trouble with Word tables

Word's table feature is easy to use and intuitive enough that most of us can insert a table without too much going wrong. The quickest way to create a table in Word is to enter the table's headings or the first row of items, tabbing just once between each item. For instance, the following headings might appear in a table of flower information:

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Notice that there's a tab character between each item. After entering a complete row, select the text and choose Convert from the Table menu. Then, choose Text To Table. When Word displays the Convert Text To Table dialog box, click OK. Word turns your row of tab-delimited text into the first row of a table. You can easily adjust the column widths if you don't like Word's distribution. (You can also choose Create from the Table menu and then choose Insert, but it's less predictable.)

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When using this feature, you must enter just one tab character between items. If there are more, Word does the best it can, but often, the table won't be right. Word converts each tab into a column. Look what happens where there are two tabs between the Name and Latin headings.

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This behavior can be useful if you have blanks you want to fill later. However, most of the time, it's a mistake you just have to correct. You can fix the text before creating the table using Find And Replace. Highlight the text, choose Replace from the Edit menu, and enter ^t^t in the Find What field and ^t in the Replace With field. Then, run the search. Each ^t set represents one tab character.

Remember, you have to replace the multiple tabs with a single tab before using the Convert Text To Table feature. If the number of tab characters is inconsistent, you must run a search for each.

About

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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