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Pulling Tables Back Into View

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Pulling Tables Back Into View.

When you first add a table to your document, Word determines column width by dividing the space available between margins by the number of columns in the table. If you later add a column to the table, the inserted column will push the right edge of the table past the right margin. This may make it difficult to "grab" and resize the right-most column.

There are several ways to deal with this type of situation. For instance, you could change to landscape orientation, adjust the column widths, and then switch back to portrait orientation. Another thing to try is to switch to Normal (or Draft) view, as opposed to Page Layout (or Print Layout) view. This allows you to see the columns that extend past the right margin and make any adjustments.

If you want to adjust all the columns so everything fits as well as possible, follow these steps if you are using Word 2000 through Word 2003:

  1. Right-click anywhere within the table. Word displays a Context menu.
  2. Click on AutoFit. Word displays a submenu.
  3. Within the submenu, choose AutoFit to Contents.

The result is that Word adjusts your table so as much of each column is as visible as possible, within the limits of the page margins and according to how much information is in each column. This can sound confusing, and the effects are best understood by trying out the feature with different types of information in your table. If the table is empty, each column is made as narrow as possible, and you end up with a "scrunched" table. If there is information in the table, then each column is made as wide as possible to display all the information in that column. If the table is still too wide, Word narrows the widest columns, thereby wrapping the contents of those columns, until it can fit everything.

If you are using Word 97, a totally different method of fitting your columns has to be used. Follow these steps, instead:

  1. Select the entire table.
  2. Choose Cell Height and Width from the Table menu. Word displays the Cell Height and Width dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Column tab is selected.
  4. Click on AutoFit.

The effect on your table depends on whether your table contains information, or not. If the table is empty, the columns are evenly resized so they fit within the page margins. If there is information in any of the columns, the column width is set so that information fits on a line (if possible). Once your column widths are set in this way, you can do any final column adjustment, as necessary.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (80) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Pulling Tables Back Into View.

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