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How to create and customize tables in Microsoft Word

Julie Sartain | Aug. 6, 2014
Creating tables in Microsoft Word used to be so annoying that most people just did it in Excel, then imported it into Word. It's worth giving Word 2013's table tools a try, though, because the process is easier, and there are some new graphical options.

Excel Spreadsheet (create In Word)

Click Insert > Tables > Excel Spreadsheet. An Excel spreadsheet inserts at your cursor location. You can continue using Excel and its menus and commands, but after you enter your data it converts to a non-editable graphic.

If you want to add, delete, or modify the spreadsheet, right-click anywhere inside the worksheet graphic, select Worksheet Object from the dropdown menu, then click Edit. The original spreadsheet reappears for editing. Notice the top menu has changed to an Excel menu for edits.

Also from the Worksheet Object dropdown menu, you can click Open to open the spreadsheet in Excel, so you can manipulate it in that program. Or click Convert to view a Windows dialog box that lists file-conversion options.

Excel Spreadsheet (copy and paste existing worksheet)

In the old days, Excel spreadsheets had to be imported into Word. Now you can just copy and paste. Open Excel, highlight the spreadsheet, and copy it. Then open Word, position your cursor at the desired location, and select Paste > Keep Source Formatting.

The other options on the Paste dialog menu are Merge Formatting, which changes the text format to match the file into which you pasted the spreadsheet, and Keep Text Only, which pastes the text without the Excel grid, meaning you will likely have to realign your columns with tabs.

Quick Tables

Quick Tables are Word's table templates. In addition to the nine templates provided, you can create your own designs and save them to the Quick Tables Gallery to use later. Click Insert > Tables > Quick Tables. Select a table template from the Quick Tables menu, then modify it to fit your project. 

Convert Text to Table

The table tools can also make lists a lot easier to customize and even reorganize later. For our example, we'll turn a classic contact list into a table, using a list of names — first, middle, last — plus the city, state, region, and profession of each person on the list.

For eons, people have used tabs to separate the fields, adding a tab or two to accommodate longer strings of data. But if you do this, when you convert the table to text, it misplaces all the data.

With the Convert Text to Table feature, you can separate the fields (Name, City, State, etc.) with paragraphs, tabs, commas, or other separator character, but use only one separator between each field.

Layout and Design

There are three options to modify and/or decorate tables:

1. Use the Table Tools > Design — or — Table Tools > Layout commands on the Ribbon menu.

2. Right-click and use the Shortcut popup menus.


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