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: Resizing Table Columns with the Mouse.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 18, 2014)
Word provides a variety of ways you can change the width of table columns using the mouse. The exact effect of each method depends on the version of Word you are using.
The simplest resizing you can do is to simply point to a column border with the mouse pointer and drag the border to a new location. In Word 97, this adjusts the width of the column to the left of the border, as well as the widths of all columns to the right of the border. The overall width of the table remains the same, however. In later versions of Word, only the widths of the columns separated by the border are affected, and the overall width of the table remains the same.
If you hold down the Shift key as you drag a column border, the width of the column to the left of the border is changed, and the overall table width is adjusted accordingly. No other column widths are affected.
If you hold down the Ctrl key as you drag a column border, the width of the column to the left of the column border is adjusted, and the overall table width remains the same. All columns to the right of the table border are adjusted so they are wider or narrower in a proportional value.
If you hold down both Shift+Ctrl as you drag a column border, the width of the column to the left is changed, the overall table width remains the same, and all column widths to the right are adjusted so they share equally in the remaining table width.
Holding down the Alt key as you drag a border adjusts columns the same as if you simply clicked and dragged a border. The only difference is that Word adds precise width notations in the Ruler area for each column. If you hold down Alt+Shift, you cannot drag any of the column borders. If you hold down Alt+Ctrl or Alt+Shift+Ctrl, the effect is the same as just holding down Ctrl (or Shift+Ctrl), with the addition of the precise measurements.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1408) 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: Resizing Table Columns with the Mouse.
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