By default, inserting a table into a Word document gets you a grid. Which is fine. At least Word isn't second-guessing you and applying its own format or foisting some overbearing wizard on you. And if you're after structure rather than design, that grid is all you need. But when you want to move beyond utility and create an attractive element on the page, you need to know a few formatting tricks.
Word comes well supplied with features for jazzing up tables--maybe too many, in fact, empowering users to produce some fairly hideous results. Other users steer clear of table formatting completely after a few failed attempts to put a border where they want it or change a column width without disrupting the table dimensions. Here are a few simple techniques that will enable your users to quickly improve the appearance of their tables without going overboard or wasting time with confusing options.
Add space around the table
Add space within the table
Add space between cells
Figure above has similar specifications along with shading (blue shading applied to the entire table, with light yellow shading applied to the table rows).
Turn off gridlines to see where your actual borders are
Turning off gridlines shows whether those borders are formatted properly for the job they're supposed to do.
Turn text sideways
Other times, you might have column headings that are a little too unwieldy to run horizontally, so a good solution is to turn them sideways, as above.To rotate your text, select the cell(s) that contain it and click the Change Text Direction button on the Tables And Borders toolbar twice. The first click will rotate the text to the right, which isn't so great for readability. The second click will rotate it so that it runs from bottom to top, like in the figures.
Manually apply shading and borders
If you want to add a little color or definition to a table, shading and borders are the way to go. The trick is to make sure you're applying them to the right table components. Although the Tables And Borders toolbar offers a palette of border placement options and lets you "draw" borders of various formats, the Borders And Shading dialog box is probably a little less confusing to use. For applying shading, the Tables And Borders toolbar works okay, but the Borders And Shading dialog box offers more options, so that's what we'll use here.
To demonstrate the process, let's say you want to add a border to the top and bottom of a row and apply a light yellow fill color. Start by selecting the row and going to Format | Borders And Shading. In the Borders tab, you'll see a little image of a table cell with a border on all sides. (This is assuming you haven't changed any border settings; by default, Word tables are formatted with a grid border.) Since you selected a group of cells (a row, actually), Word will set the Apply To dropdown list to Cell (meaning all the cells in the selection). This is what we want, but bear in mind that you can change this to apply to text or to the entire table.
To create the border, click on the left, middle, and right sides of the image to remove those segments, leaving just the top and bottom borders in place. Above shows how this will look. You can make selections from the Style, Color, and Width list boxes if you want. If you do, you'll need to click on the table cell image to apply those selections to the desired sides. To add color, click the Shading tab and click in the light yellow square in the palette of options under Fill.
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