MS PowerPoint

Working with Tables

PowerPoint supports two different methods for constructing tables. Using the older Insert Table approach, you specify the number of rows and columns, and then place the table in the slide. The freeform Draw Table feature lets you draw custom tables by using the mouse.


Although tables created in PowerPoint look a lot like Word tables, there are fundamental differences, both in options and in implementationthe version in PowerPoint isn't nearly as powerful. If you need advanced cell formatting (for example, rotating text within cells), use the Draw Table feature in Word and then paste the resulting table into your presentation.

Don't forget to use the Clipboard when it makes sense! Pasting a Word table into a slide brings the table in as a graphic. That gives you the opportunity to scale the table by simply clicking and dragging the sizing handles. You don't want to do this with every table, but it's a handy trick to use when necessary.

To place a simple table on your slide, choose Insert, Table, or click the Insert Table button on the Standard toolbar. Specify how many rows and columns you want in the table and click OK; the table appears in a content placeholder that automatically positions itself in the most logical place. For instance, if the insertion point is currently in an empty text placeholder, the placeholder for the new table replaces the text placeholder. If the insertion point is in a text placeholder that already contains text, PowerPoint shrinks the text placeholder and adds the new table in a placeholder that appears to the right.

You can click and drag the resizing handles on the outer edge of the table to resize it. You can also adjust each line in the table by letting the mouse pointer hover until it turns into a parallel line pointer, and then click and drag.

If you specify a slide layout that includes a content placeholder and then click the Insert Table icon, PowerPoint inserts this more rigidly formatted kind of table.

To draw your own table freehand, do the following:

Click the Tables and Borders icon on the Standard toolbar.

On the Tables and Borders toolbar, click the Draw Table button. Your mouse pointer changes into the shape of a pencil.

Immediately draw a rectangle that defines the outer boundaries of your new table. The new table appears in a text box in the drawing layer. To customize the table, do any of the following tasks:

  • Use the pencil to draw horizontal or vertical lines within the table wherever you want.

  • Enter text in a table cell by clicking inside the cell and typing.

  • To erase an unwanted line, click the Eraser button, point to an existing cell border, and click.

  • Align text, split and merge cells, set border and fill colors, insert cells, and more by using the other options on the Tables and Borders toolbar.

When you're done drawing, press the Esc key to turn the pencil back into a normal mouse pointer.

Clicking the Insert Table button, the simpler approach for most table creation tasks, changes the mouse pointer into the Draw Table tool. Press Esc to restore the normal mouse pointer.

Of course, you can import tables from Word, Excel, or other sources by using simple copy and paste, or PowerPoint's Insert, Object, or Edit, Paste Special options. Word's table functions are somewhat more powerful than those in PowerPoint: They include the capability to rotate text to any angle, sort, and sum, for example.

To maintain control over the look of the pasted results, always use Paste Special when inserting tables. As explained later, Office uses HTML as its default format when you choose a simple Paste, and the results will generally be unsatisfactory.

After using Paste Special to put an Excel table in a slide, the placeholder is big enough, but the table doesn't line up correctly. As a result, you can't see all the cells on the slide.

Double-click the table to open it in Excel 2000. Use the arrow keys to make the top-left cell in the range active. Click anywhere outside the table to return to the PowerPoint editing window. In most cases, this technique will line up your table properly.