Friday, February 10, 2012

Table It!...Part 3...Resizing Columns

I'm assuming in this post that you've added a table to a Word document (accepting the default settings) and that you have the ruler displaying at the top of the page.

One of the tasks necessary when working with tables in a Word document is resizing columns and rows. For the most part, you should leave rows alone. Adjusting the row height can cause hidden text in cells...not a good thing and you'll go crazy looking for text you know you added. 

In the case of columns, you'll want to make adjustments. As is the usual case with MS Word, you can make adjustments in a number of ways. It's important to understand which adjustment method to use to get the desired results.

The most common method is simply to point your cursor at a column line to display the double arrows with the column marks. Click your mouse to grab the line and then move it right or left. For simple tables, this method is fine. However, as your tables become more complicated, you need to know about another method for moving columns.That method involves using the ruler to resize columns. I've posted limited information on the ruler. See Using the Ruler if you want to refresh your memory.

Displaying the Ruler and Moving a Column
  • In Word 2003, click Insert, and then Ruler.
  • In Word 2007 or 2010, click the View tab, and then click Ruler on the Show pane.
A ruler appears above the document with another ruler running down the left side of the document. The ruler above the document is the one of interest. The white area of the ruler is the typing area on your page.

Click in any cell in the table and the Move Table Column buttons appear in the ruler. Point your cursor at a Move Table Column button and double arrows with a tip popup appear.

To grab a button and move a column, point at the button in the ruler and click your mouse. Move your mouse right or left to move the column.

Why is this method important?
As your tables become more complicated (for example, when you merge cells in the middle of a table), the Move Table Column buttons serve as the master control for resizing columns. The more complicated your table becomes the more important it becomes to know when to use the buttons on the ruler to adjust columns.

You can see this in action by completing these steps.

  1. Click your cursor in the third row of column one.
  2. Hold down your mouse and move it to the right to select the third row of columns one and two. 
  3. Let go of your mouse. Two cells are selected (highlighted).
  4. Right-click in the selected cells to display a popup menu.
  5. Click Merge Cells. The two cells becomes one cell that is two columns wide.
  6. Point your cursor at the row four column line between columns one and two. A double headed arrow with column marks appears.
  7. Click your mouse to select the column line and move it right or left. Let go of your mouse.
  8. Notice that the column lines in rows one and two above the merged cells did not move. 
  9. Click Ctrl + Z to undo the change. 
  10. Use the Move Table Column button to move the column line and all lines in the table move...regardless of the merged cells or anything else you've done to the table.
The Move Table Column buttons can also be used to align cells correctly when they just get out of whack...and that can happen to the most experienced of Word users regardless of how easy or complicated the table might be. 

I know this is tedious but if you're going to work with tables you need to know about the less obvious controls that can save your sanity on occasion. 

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