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Word: Table column widths

July 2, 2008

Here are some quick and easy keyboard+mouse combinations to stop Word resizing all your table columns when you just want to change one (don’t you just hate how Word wants to think for you?):

  • Resize one column only: Hold down SHIFT as you move a column. All columns to the right will maintain their previous width.
  • Resize one column and keep all others in proportion: Hold down CTRL as you move a column. All columns to the right will maintain their proportional width to each other.

Sick of trying to get your columns to line up to an exact measurement on the ruler? Hold down ALT as you move a column—the real ruler measurements are shown. You can use SHIFT and CTRL (as above) with ALT too. Of course, if you really want exact column widths:

  • Word 2003: Set them on the Cell tab found under the Table > Table Properties menu.
  • Word 2007: Click in the table, then go to the Table Tools ribbon > Layout tab > Cell size panel where you can set both column widths and row heights.

Now here’s one that drives most of us crazy—wide tables that go off the page in Page Layout view. Yes, you can switch to Normal view and fiddle around with the columns to get them back on the page, but you’ll have a lot of fiddling to do… and will endure a smidge of frustration. Here’s a quick tip to get your table back in line with the page:

  1. Select the table that’s gone off the visible ‘page’.
  2. Select the AutoFit to Window option:
    * Word 2003: Select Table > AutoFit > AutoFit to Window from the menu.
    * Word 2007: Go to the Table Tools ribbon > Layout tab > Cell size panel, click AutoFit, then select AutoFit to Window.

Voila! Instant table resizing!

Finally, AutoFit has another handy option. If you’ve added or deleted columns, you’ll probably have uneven columns in your table. To make them all the same width:

  1. Drag the far right column to as wide as you want the table.
  2. Select the whole table.
  3. Select Distribute Columns Evenly from the Table > AutoFit menu (Word 2003) or the AutoFit button on the Cell Size panel in the Table Tools ribbon > Layout tab (Word 2007).

[This article was first published in the December 2005 CyberText Newsletter; steps updated for Word 2007, 21 August 2008]

8 comments

  1. That AutoFit to Window feature was a huge help to me just now. Never knew about it. Thanks so much!


  2. Thanks for help, years of fiddling about finished, I’m so grateful.


  3. Thanks for the tips about the ALT key. Couldn’t find that one any other places.


  4. THANKS!!!! Very helpful.


  5. It is about time the geeks at Microcrap stopped assuming they know better that the user what the user wants. We should be able to drag the margins where we want them


  6. i have more than 2 tables in one Word 2007 file, having different sizes of the columns. how can i adjust all the columns at one time?


  7. Hi Hiro

    I suspect you could do this with a macro, but I don’t think there would be any other way of doing so except manually one at a time.

    –Rhonda



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