MS Word

Choose Whether to Draw Tables or Just Insert Them

The Problem:

What's the point of the Tables and Borders toolbar? All it does is complicate the process of creating tables, which I've been doing just fine using the Insert Table dialog box for 10 years now. I started back with Word 2, whenever that was.

The Solution:

If you can create the effects you need using the Insert Table dialog box, don't bother with the Tables and Borders toolbar.

How useful the Tables and Borders toolbar is to you will probably depend on the types of tables you create. If all you need are straightforward tables with the same number of cells in each column, simply use the Insert Table dialog box (Table » Insert » Table) to create your tables. But if you need to create complex tables that use cells with different widths or heights, drawing may be a better option. Start by drawing the outline of the table so that it occupies the amount of space you want to devote to it, and then draw the internal lines to create the columns, rows, and cells.

Another approach to creating a "complex" table is to insert a standard table, click the Eraser button on the Tables and Borders toolbar, and then knock out individual borders to create differently sized cells.

Producing columns of data in Word

Word offers three ways to layout material in columns:

  • You can use tabs to create columns. This works okay for short items, particularly those that require decimal tabs.

  • You can use Word's columns (Format » Columns) to create snaking, "newspaper-style" columns..

  • You can use tables to create columns of cells. Tables work especially well for longer items that wrap from one line to the next, but they're also good for short items. You can easily create running headers for multipage tables.