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Working with tables in the new Word

Today’s post comes from Caitlin Ashley-Rollman, the program manager on the Word team responsible for improving our Tables experience.

It’s all about the little things.

For this release of Word, we wanted to make your lives a little bit easier by simplifying the tasks you do every day. Since tables play an important role in many documents, they seemed like a good place to start. In our improvements to tables for the new Word, we focused on making it easier for you to create and format basic tables.

Adding rows and columns

When we started looking into the most common things people do to tables, adding new columns and rows was at the top of the list.

As a result, we added insert controls that appear right outside your table between two existing columns or rows. Just click on it when it appears, and a new column or row will be inserted at that location.

Screenshot of the UI that appears between rows or columns to quickly insert a new one

If you know you want more than one column or row, just select the number you want to insert and click the insert control on the edge of the selection—it’s that easy.

Formatting improvements

In addition to adding new content, an important part of working with tables is getting them to look the way you want.

New table styles

The formatting of the tables in your document can have a huge impact on how polished and professional it looks. To help you pick the right design, we’ve changed the organization of the table styles gallery so that you can easily pick between table styles that work well for presenting lists and those that are designed for data in a grid. In addition, we refined the table styles themselves—including adding a few basic black and white styles for those times when you want the table to sit quietly in your text.

Screenshot showing the Ribbon gallery of new Table Styles

Direct formatting

While Table Styles can be a good start to formatting your table, they aren’t specific to your content so you may find that you want to make a few tweaks. For example, sometimes you want to outline a specific cell, or create separate sections within a single table. From user feedback, we know the current methods have intricacies that make the process seem more complicated than it needs to be. With this in mind, we created three new features to make the experience quicker, easier, and more natural.

Border Painter


First, we created a new tool called the Border Painter that is designed to make it easy for you to apply formatting to specific borders in your table. Just choose your formatting, then with the Border Painter active, click on any table border to apply the formatting. You can also click and drag your mouse to apply the formatting to a whole line.

Screenshot showing new UI for the new Border Painter tool

For those of you who have used the Draw Table tool, this is essentially the same thing except it doesn’t create new cells so you can apply formatting with confidence.

Borders Gallery


Second, we now have a gallery of pre-created borders that are designed to work with the new table styles. This gallery combines border widths, colors, and sizes so you choose everything with one click. Just like table styles, they will change color if you change your theme so they always match.

Screenshot showing the gallery of border styles

Once you pick a border, we’ll automatically turn on the Border Painter tool so you can go right to applying the formatting to your table.

The handiest part of this gallery is the recently used section that displays all the borders you’ve applied in the current session of Word. It’s great when you need to reuse a few different border styles.

Border Sampler

Probably my favorite feature this release is the border sampler (located at the bottom of the Border Styles gallery). I like to think of it as an eyedropper tool for table borders – all you need to do is activate the tool then click on a table border that you want to sample. It’ll capture the border’s formatting and automatically switch you to the Border Painter tool so you can apply it somewhere else.

That’s all folks

I hope you enjoy the new features and, more importantly, find tables in Word 2013 more enjoyable to work with. Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Picture of the Tables feature crew members

The Tables feature crew is excited to share all this work with you!


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