Creating & Modifying Tables in Microsoft Word

Instructor: Sebastian Garces

Sebastian has taught programming and computational thinking for University students and has Master's degree in Computer and Information Technology

In this lesson, you'll to learn how to create tables in Microsoft Word. You'll also learn the different ways to modify a table and the contents inside of it.

Tables in Microsoft Word

Tables are a great way to display information for your audience. For example, let's say that you want to display textual data or numbers. A table will allow you to display this info in a rectangular structure that is visually appealing and easy to read and understand.

In this lesson, you'll learn how to add a table to a Microsoft Word document. We'll be using the 2016 edition of Microsoft Word for this demonstration. Keep in mind that certain steps might be different if you use a different version of the program.

Adding a Table

There are three ways to add a table to a Microsoft Word document:

  • Quick Table
  • Insert Table
  • Draw Table

The Insert tab is where you will find the different options to insert a table
Insert table menu

Quick Table

The Quick Table option is the fastest way to add a table to a document. When you use this option, you will be asked to select the number of rows and columns that you need, but you won't be asked about sizing, distribution, and other layout features.

In this example, we are selecting a Quick Table with three columns and four rows.
Quick table in Word

The table will be inserted into the document. We can modify the table later. The Quick Table option is a good way to quickly insert a table without having to worry about a lot of settings.

This is what the Quick Table will look like when it is inserted into the document.
Table in document

Insert Table

The Insert Table option allows you to make more decisions about the table layout before you insert the table into the document. This is helpful when you have a clear idea of what you want the table to look like.

Notice the different options when inserting a table
Insert table options

When you use the Insert Table option, you can select Autofit to Window or AutoFit to Content. When you select Autofit to Window, the height of the row will be automatically adjusted based on how much information is placed into the cell, but the column width won't change. If you select Autofit to Content, the width of the row will be automatically adjusted based on how much information is placed into the cell.

Notice the difference between AutoFit to Window and AutoFit to Content
Comparing table types

Draw Table

The Draw Table option is the most time consuming way to create a table, but this option works well when you want custom rows and columns.

This option lets you manually draw a table
Draw table in Word

When you draw a table, you can create each cell individually by dragging your mouse. You don't have to be super accurate with the mouse, since Microsoft Word will adapt the cells automatically.

This is how a drawn table could look, given the freedom in cell distribution
Manually drawn table

When you use the Draw Table option, each cell has its own alignment. Microsoft Word will keep the height consistent, but the width will be decided for each cell as you draw the table.

Modifying a Table

No matter which option you choose to create a table, the table can be modified after it is inserted. You can modify the design or the layout of the table.

Modify Table Design

The table design influences the way the table looks. You can change the design when you need the information to be more visually appealing or easier to read. For example, let's say you want to create a simple table that displays the names of sales reps, the number of customers each sales rep has, and the sales total for each rep:

Sales table example
Sales table example

This table is okay, but it could be easier to read. Let's customize the design to fix that. Start by clicking on any cell of the table. This will give you access to the Table Design tab in the top menu. In this menu, you can select the options that you want. Clicking on the preview will show you what the table will look like with the selected options.

You can select a design option to apply to the table in the Table Design tab
Design table options

To make the sales table easier to read, you could add a header row, which will make category names more visible. You could also create banded rows, which will differentiate each row and make content easier to read as the table starts grows larger. Making these changes makes the table more visually appealing:

Sales table example with modified design
Sales table with design

Modify Table Layout

The table layout determines the way the cells are distributed in the table. You can modify the layout by clicking on any cell of the table. This will give you access to the Layout tab in the top menu.

Layout tab in the top menu
Layout tab

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