4 simple tricks for manipulating Word tables

Word's table feature is powerful, but it seems to confuse users. Here are a few easy options for controlling Microsoft Word tables.

Word's table feature is powerful, but it seems to confuse users. Frankly, there's a lot to know, so it's easy to understand why tables sometimes frustrate us. The following tidbits are just a few table options that seem to trip up most people.

Split a table

Splitting an existing table into two tables is easier than you might think. Simply click in the row that will become the first row of the second table. Then, choose Split Table from the Table menu. In Word 2007/2010, click the Layout (context) tab. Then click Split Table in the Merge group.

Display a heading

If a table extends beyond a page, or across several pages, you might want to display the table's header row at the top of each page. To do so, select the header row(s) and then choose Heading Rows Repeat from the Table menu. In Word 2007/2010, click the Layout (context) tab. Then, click Repeat Header Rows in the Data group.

I find this particular option a bit buggy. If you're formatting a new table, it'll probably work for you. However, if you're working with an existing table, Word might ignore you. If this happens, copy the table into a blank document and then copy it back into the original document. Then set the repeating rows. Or, select the table and disable the repeating rows option before trying to set it.

Prevent orphans

By default, a single item can extend past the bottom of a page and onto the next page—technically, that's an orphan. To avoid orphans, select the table and choose Table Properties from the Table menu. In Word 2007/2010, click inside the table and click the Layout (context) tab. Then, click Properties in the Table group. On the Row tab, uncheck the Allow Row To Break Across Page option in the Options section, and click OK.

Quick numbering

To number items in a column, select the column and click Numbering on the Formatting toolbar or click Numbering on the Home tab. To number items in a cell, highlight everything in the cell and click Numbering. This works only if you separate items in a cell using a hard return (press Enter).

What's your favorite table trick?

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By Susan Harkins

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.