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: Finding an Optimal Table Height.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 10, 2016)
When you create a table in Word, you can adjust the settings on the table so that the height of your rows will adjust according to what you place in each row. Place a lot of information in a cell in the row, and the row height will adjust to display all the information. Place a little bit of information in a cell in the row, and the row height is adjusted to be "shorter."
What Word doesn't do in all this adjustment is to automatically adjust the column widths to allow for the information in the cells. When you first insert a table, the columns are each the same width, based on the available horizontal space between the left and right margin. If, for example, you put in a five-column table and the space between margins is 6.5 inches, then each column will end up being 1.3 inches wide. As you put information into the cells, Word may adjust the row height to accommodate what you enter, but it won't adjust the column width to accommodate that information.
What this means is that you may end up with an overall table height that is not "optimal," and could well be more than what you really need. For instance, if your columns are 1.3 inches wide each and one column consists of just the words "Yes" or "No," then the column width is more than what is needed. If a neighboring column has lots of text in it, you might be able to reduce the overall height of your table if Word were to reduce the width of the one column and give that saved width to the neighboring column that needs it.
As already mentioned, Word doesn't include the ability for the program to automatically adjust column widths based upon what you enter, as it does for row heights. One thing you might try, though, is to use Word's AutoFit option. All you need to do is right-click the table and then choose AutoFit | AutoFit to Contents from the resulting Context menu. Word does its best to adjust the column widths to reflect the information that is in the table. You may still need to make some manual adjustments to column width to get exactly the table format you want.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9766) 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: Finding an Optimal Table Height.
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