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Adjusting Column Widths on Joined Tables

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: Adjusting Column Widths on Joined Tables.

You can easily join tables in Word by simply removing the paragraphs that originally separated the tables. However, this may present a problem if the tables had different numbers of columns or if the column widths in each table were different. There are many different ways you can approach this problem, most of which involve some sort of repetitious activity that can get very tiring if you have many columns in the table.

One quick solution to this problem is to allow Word to do the formatting for the columns. To do this, you follow these steps if you are using Word 97 or Word 2000:

  1. Position the insertion point anyplace in the newly joined table.
  2. Choose Select Table from the Table menu. The entire table is now selected.
  3. Choose Cell Height and Width from the Table menu. This displays the Cell Height and Width dialog box.
  4. Select the Columns tab.
  5. Click on the AutoFit button. The dialog box disappears and the table columns are now the same size.

These steps won't work in Word 2002 or Word 2003. Instead, follow these steps:

  1. Position the insertion point anyplace in the newly joined table.
  2. Choose Select from the Table menu and Table from the resulting submenu. The entire table is now selected.
  3. Choose AutoFit from the Table menu and AutoFit to Contents from the resulting submenu. Word makes the column widths narrower or wider, according to what your content needs. The important thing is that the overall width of the columns, in aggregate, is now the same, even though the individual widths of each column are not.
  4. Choose AutoFit from the Table menu and Distribute Columns Evenly from the resulting submenu. The interior columns are now the same width.

At this point you can make any additional changes you want to the widths of the columns. There is another way to accomplish this same task in Word 97 or Word 2000 (not in later versions), although the steps are a little different:

  1. Position the insertion pointer anyplace in the newly joined table.
  2. Choose Table AutoFormat from the Table menu. Word displays the Table AutoFormat dialog box.
  3. Make sure the AutoFit check box is selected. All other check boxes should be cleared.
  4. Click on OK. The dialog box disappears and the table columns are now the same size.

The problem with the methods discussed so far is that you still may not end up with the column widths you want. After all, you are leaving the widths up to Word, and that may not produce the best results for your needs. More often, you may want the joined tables to assume the column widths already set in the first table. In this case, the following method will work great. Just make sure you do these steps before you join the two tables:

  1. Select all the cells in the second table that you want to join with the first table. Do not do this by selecting the entire table. The only thing you want to select is the cells, not the end-of-row markers just to the right of the last column in the table.
  2. Press Ctrl+C. This copies the selected cells to the Clipboard.
  3. Position the insertion point at the end of the first table. The insertion point should be right after the very last cell in the table, and just before the end-of-row marker for the last row of the table.
  4. Press Enter. This inserts a new, empty row for the first table.
  5. Press Ctrl+V. This pastes the contents of the Clipboard.

If you followed these steps precisely, Word will have pasted the information at the end of the table, inserting rows as necessary. In addition, the columns are the same width as the other columns in the first table. You can then delete the second table since it is no longer needed.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1197) 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: Adjusting Column Widths on Joined Tables.

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