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Word 2007, part of the Microsoft Office 2007 suite, has many built-in features that can enhance your documents and the manner in which you communicate information to your audience. One of the most common and yet still useful features in this category is the table format. Creating and formatting tables in Word 2007 is different from how you did it Word 2003, but you may actually find it easier.

Create a table

To create a table in Word 2007, navigate to the Insert Ribbon by clicking on the Insert tab, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A
Insert tab

Click on the Table button on the Insert Ribbon (Figure B) and mouse over the table configuration of rows and columns that you wish to insert (Figure C). This is by far the easiest way to create a table when you know exactly how many rows and columns you will need.

Figure B
Insert Table
Figure C
Set rows and columns

You can also choose one of the first two items from the list shown in Figure B and insert a table by way of the Insert Table dialog box (Figure D) or by drawing a table.

Figure D
Insert Table dialog box

You can insert tables from Microsoft Excel as well. Choosing Excel Spreadsheet from the options in Figure B will insert a functional spreadsheet object into your document similar to the one shown in Figure E.

Figure E
Excel table

Several pre-made table templates are available on the Insert tab listed under the Quick Tables item (Figure F). You can insert calendars, double tables, and tabular lists, to name just a few.

Figure F
Quick Tables

Format a table

Once you create a table and populate it with data, the next step is to format the table. Proper formatting will help your table convey just the information you want it to.

Design Ribbon under Table Tools

As part of the Office 2007 interface, additional tabs and menu items are revealed to the user when they are needed. In this case, a new high-level tab, Table Tools, is added to the interface whenever you are interacting with a table element inside a Word document. The two tabs under Table Tools contain all of the various formatting tools you need to customize your table.

In Word 2007, whenever you are inside a table within your document, the Ribbon interface changes to the Design Ribbon under Table Tools (Figure G).

Figure G
Design Ribbon

From the Design Ribbon, you can set format characteristics like header row, first column, shading, borders, and color. You can use one of the predefined styles listed on the Ribbon or you can create something on your own. These format settings can be applied to a specific cell, row, column, or to the entire table.

The Design Ribbon also includes a section where you can set the type of line you would like to use, the point size of that line, and the color of that line (Figure H).

Figure H
Line styles

In another area on the Design Ribbon under Table Tools, you can set shading and place or remove border lines. The number of choices offers you a tremendous amount of formatting flexibility (Figure I).

Figure I
Border options

Layout Ribbon under Table Tools

Additional formatting options are available on the Layout Ribbon under Table Tools, shown in Figure J.

Figure J
Layout Ribbon

Among the more important formatting decisions you will have to make about your table is how to align it on the page and how to space the cells within the table itself.

Because the table is an object with a border and a margin, you can wrap your document text around it if you wish. To do so, you will have to specify which side of the table will have text and which will not. These formatting decisions are accomplished with the buttons located in the Table section on the Layout Ribbon (Figure J) under Table Tools. Clicking Properties will give you the familiar 2003 Properties dialog box, where you can specify wrapping and alignment on the page (Figure K).

Figure K
Table Properties

Aligning individual cells, rows, columns, and the entire table can all be accomplished with the buttons located in the Alignment section of the Layout Ribbon (Figure J) under Table Tools. You can also change text direction and cell margins in this area of the Ribbon (Figure L).

Figure L

The Layout Ribbon (Figure J) under Table Tools is also where you can insert rows and columns into your table, either at the ends or in between existing rows and columns.

Other formatting features, like bold and italic text formats, are controlled by the pop-up toolbar you can reach by right-clicking the text you want to interact with, as shown in Figure M.

Figure M
Pop-up format bar

Table styles

Microsoft Office 2007 includes numerous themes and templates for each of the applications in the suite, including Word 2007 tables. One of the features that differentiates Office 2007 from Office 2003 is the ability to preview these templates and themes before you commit to them. Figure N shows a simple table with basic formatting. Holding the mouse over the Table Styles shown on the Design Ribbon (Figure G) under Table Tools will preview what the table would like if that pre-made style were applied (Figure O).

Figure N
Basic table
Figure O
Previewed styling

Wrap up

As you can see, the way you create and format tables in Word 2007 is different from the way you performed the same task in Office 2003 and earlier. However, the Ribbon interface actually makes sense when you are working on tables in Word. It may take some getting used to, but I think in the long run, the Ribbon will be seen as a beneficial feature and not a drawback.