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 Width from the Keyboard.

Adjusting Column Width from the Keyboard

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 6, 2014)

Many people who are familiar with WordPerfect later find the need to learn how to use Word. Sometimes the transition is not entirely smooth, in large part because tasks aren't accomplished the same way in Word as they are in WordPerfect.

A case in point is adjusting the width of table columns by using the keyboard. WordPerfect, which has always been a "keyboard oriented" program, makes the adjustments easy: just press > or < to widen or narrow the column. Word, on the other hand, has always been more mouse oriented and has no equivalent keyboard command for this task.

There are workarounds; for instance, you can use the keyboard to type Alt+A, R, U, and then press Tab a couple of times to get to the column width field. The problem with this, of course, is that it is not anywhere near easy (or intuitive).

If you don't mind using the mouse, you can hold down the Alt key as you drag a column border. The Ruler changes to show the precise width of your columns as you move the border. Very cool, but still a pain for those who would rather just use the keyboard. (It is also not terribly helpful for those who may not have very good mouse resolution, or who cannot move the mouse very small distances.)

Perhaps the best solution is to make your own emulation of the WordPerfect capability. The following macro can do just that:

Sub StretchColumn()
    Dim CurrentSize As Integer
    Dim NextSize As Integer
    Dim CurCol As Integer

'Get the current width (in points)
    CurCol = Selection.Cells(1).ColumnIndex
    CurrentSize = Selection.Tables(1).Columns(CurCol).Width

'Increase the current width by one point
    NextSize = CurrentSize + 1
    Selection.Columns(1).SetWidth _
      ColumnWidth:=NextSize, _
      Rulerstyle:=wdAdjustNone
End Sub

If you assign this macro to a shortcut key (as described in other issues of WordTips), then you can increase the width of the current table column by one point (1/72 of an inch) each time you press the shortcut key. You can make a simple change to the macro to create a version that decreases the column width, as well:

Sub ShrinkColumn()
    Dim CurrentSize As Integer
    Dim NextSize As Integer
    Dim CurCol As Integer

'Get the current width (in points)
    CurCol = Selection.Cells(1).ColumnIndex
    CurrentSize = Selection.Tables(1).Columns(CurCol).Width

'Decrease the current width by one point
    NextSize = CurrentSize - 1
    Selection.Columns(1).SetWidth _
      ColumnWidth:=NextSize, _
      Rulerstyle:=wdAdjustNone
End Sub

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (3912) 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 Width from the Keyboard.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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