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Word 2013 Table Tricks and Tips

In Word 2013, text pours into a table on a cell-by-cell basis. You can type a word, sentence, or even a paragraph. All that text stays in the cell, though the cell changes size to accommodate larger quantities of text.

You can format a table’s cell just like any paragraph in Word, even adding margins and tabs. All the standard text and paragraph formats apply to cells in a table just as they do to regular text, but your first duty is to get text into a table’s cell.

  • If you have large quantities of text in a single cell, you probably don’t need a table to present your information.

  • Even though you can format first-line indents for text in a cell, such formatting can be a pain to manipulate.

  • Show the Ruler when you work with formatting a table.

Navigate a table

Text appears in whichever cell the toothpick cursor is blinking. Though you can simply click the mouse in a cell to type text, you can use keyboard shortcuts to move around the table: Press the Tab key to move from cell to cell. To move back, press Shift+Tab.

When you press the Tab key at the last cell in a row, the toothpick cursor moves down to the first cell in the next line. Pressing the Tab key in the table's last, lower-right cell automatically adds another row to the table.

  • To produce a tab character within a cell, press Ctrl+Tab.

  • When you press the Enter key in a cell, you create a new paragraph in a cell, which probably isn’t what you want.

  • The Shift+Enter key combination can be used break up long lines of text in a cell.

Select in a table

You can select the text itself, or you can select a cell, row, or column. Here are some suggestions:

  • Triple-click the mouse in a cell to select all text in that cell.

  • Select a single cell by positioning the mouse in the cell's lower-left corner. The mouse pointer changes to a northeastward-pointing arrow, as shown in the margin. Click to select the cell, which includes the cell’s text but primarily the cell itself.

  • Move the mouse into the left margin and click to select a row of cells.

  • Move the mouse above a column, and click to select that column. When the mouse is in the "sweet spot," the pointer changes to a downward-pointing arrow.

  • Selecting stuff in a table can also be accomplished from the Table group on the Table Tools Layout tab. Use the Select menu to select the entire table, a row, a column, or a single cell.

  • Clicking the table’s “handle” selects the entire table. The handle is visible whenever the mouse points at the table or when the insertion pointer is placed inside the table.

Math in a table

The main difference between Word and Excel is that Word’s math commands aren’t as sophisticated as the ones you find in Excel. Some would consider that a blessing.

Follow these steps:

  1. Create a table that contains values you want to add.

    The values can be in a row or column. The last cell in that row or column must be empty. It’s into this cell that you paste the SUM formula.

  2. Click the mouse in the cell where you want to place the formula.

  3. Click the Table Tools Layout tab.

  4. Click the Formula button in the Data group.

    The Formula dialog box appears.

  5. Choose SUM from the Paste Function menu.

  6. Click the OK button.

    The values in the row or column are totaled and the result displayed in the table.

When you change the values in the table, you need to refresh or update the formula. To do so, right-click on the total in the table. From the pop-up menu, choose the command Update Field. If you don’t see the Update Field command, you clicked on the wrong text.

Convert text into a table

If you started working on your document before you discovered the Table command, you probably have fake tables created by using tabbed text. If so, you can easily convert that text into a bona fide table by following these simple steps:

  1. Select the text you want to convert into a table.

    It helps if the text is arranged into columns, with each column separated by a tab character. If not, things get screwy but still workable.

  2. From the Insert tab, choose Table→Convert Text to Table.

    The Convert Text to Table dialog box appears.

  3. Ensure that Tabs is selected in the Convert Text to Table dialog box.

    Confirm that your text-to-table transition is set up properly by consulting the Number of Columns item in the Convert Text to Table dialog box. If the number of columns seems correct, the conversion most likely is a good one. When the number of columns is off, you have a rogue tab somewhere in your text.

  4. Click OK.

You probably need to make adjustments, reset column widths, and so on and so forth. These tasks may be a pain, but they're better than retyping all that text.

Turn a table into plain text

To boost your text from the confines of a table’s cruel and cold cells, obey these steps:

  1. Click the mouse inside the table you want to convert.

    Don’t select anything — just click the mouse.

  2. Click the Table Tools Layout tab.

  3. From the Table group, choose Select→Select Table.

  4. From the Data group, choose Convert to Text.

    The Convert to Text dialog box appears.

  5. Click OK.

As with converting text to a table, some cleanup is involved. Mostly, it’s resetting the tabs — nothing complex or bothersome.

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