Format tables in Word

Word 365
You can quickly insert a blank table or convert an existing text to the table in Microsoft Word. Later you can add rows or columns and change the table style. After initial changes, you need to make the table visually appealing using different styles and layouts.

Select the table

  • Using the mouse: Move the mouse over the table until you see the table selection icons in the upper-left corner of the table and click it:
    Table selection icon in Word 365

    Note: You can also click on the table selection icon in the bottom-right corner (resizing handle) for the same effect.

  • Using the keyboard: To select table elements, on the Table Layout tab, on the Table group, click the Select button, then select the option you prefer:
    Select button in Word 365
    • Select Cell
    • Select Column
    • Select Row
    • Select Table

Format the table

After positioning the cursor anywhere in a table or selecting a table element, Word shows two tabs: Table Design and Layout. E.g.:

Table Design tab in Word 365

See also Select and format table elements in Word.


Apply a predefined Table style

There are several predefined styles you can use for the table. Styles include a variety of borders, colors, and other attributes that give a table a very professional appearance.

To choose any of the predefined styles, do the following:

   1.   Select the table.

   2.   On the Table Design tab, in the Table Styles group, in the Styles Gallery, click the More arrow to see the complete list of styles:

More arrow in Table Styles Gallery in Word 365

   3.   Select the table style you want:

Table Styles in Word 365

The Table Styles gallery includes three categories of styles:

  • Plain Tables have minimal formatting.
  • Grid Tables include vertical separators between columns.
  • List Tables do not include vertical column separators:
List Tables Styles in Word 365

Note: The selected style overrides any previously added style changes for the table.

Modify the table style options

To change the table or selected style, on the Table Design tab, in the Table Style group, click Modify Table Style...:

Modify Table Style in Word 365

In the Modify Style dialog box, make changes you want:

Modify Style dialog box in Word 365

Note: Click the Format button at the bottom of the dialog box to change other options such as Font or Paragraph. See also how to clear formatting.


Customize the table formatting

After applying a table style, you can turn various options on or off to change their appearance. On the Table Design tab, in the Table Style Options group, there are six options:

Table Style Options in Word 365
  • Header Row is the first row of the table that contains Headers that helps identify the contents of a particular column. Usually, the Header Row is formatted differently and should be repeated at the beginning of each new page for tables that extend beyond one page.

    Note: According to most requirements, data tables should have a header row to provide a contextual structure that aids navigation.

  • Total Row is the last row of the table. If this option is selected, the last row will be formatted differently from the body rows, designed to summarize the rows above it (see how to insert formulas).
  • First Column used special formatting to the column. Usually, the First Column contains the row headings.
  • Last Column applies special formatting to the column to summarize the earlier columns (see how to insert formulas).
  • Banded Rows and Banded Columns alternate the background color of rows and columns (see how to change the background color for the selected cells below).

Note: Certain Table Style Options may have a different effect depending on the Table Style you’ve chosen. You might need to experiment to get the look you want.


Apply the border styles

To apply and remove cell borders, do the following:

   1.   Select the cells or entire table to which you want to add a border.

   2.   On the Table Design tab, in the Borders group, choose the desired Border Styles, Line Style, Line Weight, and Pen Color:

Table Borders in Word 365
  • Select the predefined Line Style, Line Weight, and Line Color from the Border Styles dropdown list:
    Table - Border Styles in Word 365
  • Select the Line Style:
    Table - Line Style in Word 365
  • Select a border thickness from the Line Weight dropdown list:
    Table - Line Weight in Word 365
  • Select the border color from the Pen Color dropdown list:
    Table - Pen Color in Word 365
  • Select the borders from the Borders dropdown list:
    Table - Borders in Word 365

    Note: Select No Borders from the Borders dropdown list to remove borders from the selected cells.

  • Draw the border where you want:
    • After selecting border style or color, the Border Painter button is automatically checked, or
    • If all that you want is selected already, just click the Border Painter button by yourself:
    Table - Border Painter in Word 365

    After any of these actions, your cursor changes to the brush. Now, draw the border where you need it:

    Draw the border in Word 365

    Note: Use the Eraser button in the Draw group on the Table Layout tab to remove the unnecessary border:

    Eraser button in Word 365

Apply background colors and shading

To change the background color for some table elements, select them, then on the Table Design tab, in the Table Styles group, click the Shading button, then select the background color you prefer:

Table - Shading button in Word 365

Note: To use a pattern instead of a solid color, on the Table Design tab, in the Borders group, click the dialog box launcher:

Borders dialog box launcher in Word 365

In the Borders and Shading dialog box, on the Shading tab, select a pattern in the Style list:

Shading tab in Borders and Shading dialog box Word 365

Layout of the table

The Table Layout tab includes commands for changing the entire table format, as well as commands for changing the appearance of individual table components such as cells, columns, rows:

Table Layout tab in Word 365

See Select and format table elements in Word for more details.


Resize a table

  • Using the mouse: To resize a table in a Word document, move the mouse over the table until you see the table resizing icons (handle) in the bottom-right corner of the table and click it:
    Table handles in Word 365

    Drag the table to the size you need, and then release the handle.

  • Using the keyboard: Select a table (see also how to resize individual cells, specific rows, or columns); the do one of the following:
    • On the Layout tab, in the Cell Size group, change the values in the Height and Width fields:
      Cell Size group in Word 365
    • Open the Table Properties dialog box by doing one of the following:
      • On the Table Layout tab, in the Table group, click the Properties button:
        Table Properties button in Word 365
      • Right-click the table and select Table Properties... in the popup menu:
        Table Properties in popup menu Word 365

      In the Table Properties dialog box, on the Table tab, in the Size section, select the Preferred width check box, then:

      • In the Preferred width field, type or select the value you need,
      • In the Measure in dropdown list, select one of the items:
        • Percent to specify the percentage of the table width,
        • Inches to fix the column width:
      Table Properties dialog box in Word 365

See how to resize table elements for more details.


Freeze the table

Some Word tables change the width of their columns according to the data. To stop changing the table size when new data is inserted, do the following:

   1.   Select the table.

   2.   Open the Table Properties dialog box.

   3.   In the Table Properties dialog box, on the Table tab, click the Options... button:

Options in Table Properties dialog box Word 365

   4.   In the Table Options dialog box, deselect the Automatically resize to fit contents check box:

Table Options dialog box in Word 365

See also how to fix the height of table rows.


Move a table

To move a table to a new page or a new document, select it, then use the Cut and Paste commands. You can also use the Copy command to leave a copy of the table in the original location.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to ask OfficeToolTips team.

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