How to Format a Table in Word 2010 - dummies

How to Format a Table in Word 2010

By Dan Gookin

To format a table in Word 2010 — maybe adding a row, adjusting the width of a table element — you can use Word’s Table Tools tabs after the table has been created. The Table Tools tabs show up only when a table is being edited or selected. And the best time to format and mess with a table is after you finish putting text into the table.

Manipulating a Word table with the mouse

For quick-and-dirty table manipulation, you can use the mouse. Here are some tips:

  • Clicking-and-dragging the mouse on a vertical line in the table’s grid allows you to adjust the line left or right, and resize the surrounding cells.

  • You can also adjust cell width by using the Ruler, by pointing the mouse at the Move Table Column button that appears above each table cell gridline.

  • Clicking-and-dragging the mouse at a horizontal line allows you to adjust the line up or down, and change the row height of surrounding cells.

Adjusting the Word table

It’s the Table Tools Layout tab that harbors many of the command buttons and items that let you manipulate and adjust a table. Start your table design journey by placing the insertion pointer somewhere within the table itself, which makes the Table Tools Layout tab (among others) appear:


  • Deleting cells, columns, or rows: Position the insertion pointer in the part of the table you want to remove, then choose the table element to remove from the Delete button’s menu.

    When you choose the Delete Cells command, you see a dialog box asking what to do with the other cells in the row or column: move them up or to the left. Yes, deleting a cell may make your table asymmetrical.

  • Inserting columns or rows: Four commands in the Rows & Columns group make this task possible: Insert Above, Insert Below, Insert Left, and Insert Right. The row or column that’s added is relative to where the insertion pointer is within the table.

  • Adjusting row and column size: Gizmos in the Cell Size group let you fine-tune the table’s row height or column width. The Distribute Rows and Distribute Columns command buttons, found in the Cell Size group, help clean up uneven column or row spacing in a table.

  • Aligning text: Text within a cell can be aligned just like a paragraph: left, center, or right. Additionally, the text can be aligned vertically: top, middle, or bottom.

  • Reorienting text: The Text Direction button in the Alignment group changes the way text reads in a cell or group of selected cells. Normally, text is oriented from left to right. By clicking the Text Direction button once, you change the text direction to top-to-bottom. Click the button again and direction is changed to bottom-to-top. Clicking a third time restores the text to its normal direction.

Designing a Word table

The Table Tools Design tab is used to help you quickly (or slowly) format your table. The tab shows up whenever the insertion pointer lies somewhere in a table’s realm:


  • Using Quick Styles: The Table Styles group can quickly apply formatting to any table. Choose a style or click the menu button to see a whole smattering of styles.

    The Quick Styles don’t work when you have a table in a document created by or saved in an older version of Word.

  • Setting table line styles: The lines you see in a table’s grid are the same borders you can apply to text with the Border command button, which determines where the lines go; items on the left side of the Draw Borders group set the border line style, width, and color.

  • Removing a table’s lines: Occasionally, you may want a table without any lines. Select the table and choose No Border from the Borders menu.

    Having no lines (borders) in a table makes working with the table more difficult. The solution is to show the table gridlines, which aren’t printed. To do that, select the table and choose the Show Gridlines command from the Border menu.

  • Merging cells: You can combine two or more cells in a table by simply erasing the line that separates them. To do so, click the Eraser command button found in the Draw Borders group. The mouse pointer changes to a bar of soap, but it’s supposed to be an eraser. Click a line and it’s gone. Click the Eraser button again when you’re done merging.

  • Splitting cells: To turn one cell into two, you simply draw a line, horizontally or vertically, through the cell. Click the Draw Table command button in the Draw Borders group, and then draw new lines in the table. Click the Draw Table button again to turn off this feature.

Deleting a Word table

To utterly remove the table from your document, click the mouse inside the table and then choose Delete→Table from the Rows & Columns group on the Layout tab. The table is blown to smithereens.

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