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Blog > Fancy Formatting - Tables in MS Word

Fancy Formatting - Tables in MS Word

affiché le 16 juin 2017

by Maria Lahiffe

Most people know that it is easy to create tables in MS Word which will contain data. But fewer people know that MS Word tables are essential tools for sophisticated formatting, and can even be used for basic data management. There is so much to say about tables that this topic will cover a few posts. To start, try these the next time you’re in Word:

First, the basics

Create a table

To create a table in Word 2013, you click the “insert” tab, followed by “tables.” From there, you can

  1. click “insert table” to enter the number of rows and columns,
  2. hover your mouse over the grid, or
  3. click “quick tables” and pick the type of table you like, including formatting.


Add columns and rows

There are three ways to do this too:

1. Hover over the line break between two cells on the left-hand side of the table (to add rows) or the top of the table (to add columns)


2. Select a cell, right-click, and choose “insert” from the context menu


3. Select a cell, then click the “Table tools – Layout” tab, then “insert”.


Table Properties Box

Click your table to select it, then right-click. Alternately, click the table and then click the “Table Tools – Layout” Tab. Either way, click “Table Properties” after that.



The Table Properties box allows you to do a lot of nifty stuff. We’ll get into more of the details in a future post. For now, we’ll just look at a few basic things.

Table alignment and text wrapping

When you select “Table Properties”, the default visible tab will be the “table” tab. Here, you can control the overall table width, the alignment, and text wrapping. For alignment and text wrapping, the selector buttons basically say it all.

If you need to your table to be a particular width, then you can control that by clicking the box next to “Preferred width”. Enter in the number and the units you want. A couple of notes here:

  1. Word will not necessarily preserve the ratio of column widths you started with; rather, it will make the columns as wide as they need to be, to accommodate the text you have.
  2. Also, Word will not necessarily make the table as narrow as you specify. It will make the table as narrow as possible, again to accommodate the text you have.

If you need the table to be narrower, you’ll need to reduce the font before you specify your preferred width.




Some things to note about the “after” table

  1. The table is more than 2” wide
  2. The first column is no longer the widest one, because the third column actually has the widest text. Word did its best to accommodate the text as best it could.

If you want more sophisticated control over your column widths, read the next section.

Formatting Row Height

You can always control row height and column width with your mouse. Word also defaults to making the row high enough to accommodate all the text you put into it. That is often all you need. However, you can get more sophisticated if you need to, for example, if you want your table to have a uniform appearance. Click “Row” and then click the box next to “Specify Height”.


  1. You can enter a number for the height. You can enter any number of decimal places, e.g. 2.0 or 1.936.
  2. Pick “At least” or “Exactly”
    1. “At least” means that the row will expand if you add more text than can be accommodated in the height you specified
    2. “Exactly” means that the row will not expand. Additional text will not appear unless you change the font size.

Formatting Column Width

You have less flexibility here, because Word will not go any narrower than the text allows.




This is just the start of what you can do with tables in MS Word. Come to our MS Word 201 workshop to learn about Tables, and a whole lot more!

Bring your laptop to this interactive session. Registration is limited – register now to avoid disappointment.

Volunteer Ottawa offers a comprehensive suite of courses related to organizational operations. Click here for more information, and to register. Subscribe to our Event RSS Feed to be among the first to know when a new workshop is added to the schedule.

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