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: Setting Consistent Column Widths in Multiple Tables.

Setting Consistent Column Widths in Multiple Tables

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 12, 2012)

Sheryl routinely creates documents that have many, many tables in them. Each of the tables is consistent in that they have the same general layout. (Each contains the same number of columns with each column containing the same type of information.) Sheryl is looking for a way to make sure that the widths of the columns in all the tables are consistent.

The solution depends on when you need to create the tables. If the document is a new one, then creating the tables in a consistent manner is rather easy. As has been described in other WordTips (and which I won't go into here), you can save your standard tables in an AutoText entry or create a table style that defines how you want your table to appear. When needed, you simply insert the AutoText entry or apply the style, and the table appears as you desire.

The solution is a bit more involved if your document is already created and you simply want to apply consistency to the tables that exist within the document. In that case, the solution is to use a macro to change the widths of columns.

It is possible to create a macro that will quickly step through each table in a document and make each column in the table the same width, in this manner:

Sub SetColumnWidths1()
    Dim t As Table
    For Each t In ActiveDocument.Tables
        t.Columns.Width = InchesToPoints(2)
    Next t
End Sub

Chances are good, however, that you don't want each column to be 2 inches wide. You probably want each column to be a specific width, different from the other columns. The following iteration of the macro handles that likelihood:

Sub SetColumnWidths2()
    Dim t As Table
    For Each t In ActiveDocument.Tables
        t.Columns(1).Width = InchesToPoints(2)
        t.Columns(2).Width = InchesToPoints(2.5)
        t.Columns(3).Width = InchesToPoints(3)
    Next t
End Sub

The drawback to such a macro is that you need to specify, in the coding, the width of each column. Also, if you have an anomalous table in your document (it doesn't have the same number of columns as all your other tables), then the macro blithely tries to set the width of the columns.

A better approach, then, may be to have a "model" table in your document and then set all your other tables so that they use the same column widths as that table. An easy approach is to manually format the column widths of the first table in the document, then have the macro examine that table and use it as the pattern for the rest of the table columns.

Sub SetColumnWidths3()
    Dim t As Table
    Dim c As Column
    Dim ccnt As Integer
    Dim w() As Single
    Dim J As Integer
    Dim K As Integer

    Set t = ActiveDocument.Tables(1)
    ccnt = t.Columns.Count
    ReDim w(ccnt)
    J = 0
    For Each c In t.Columns
        J = J + 1
        w(J) = c.Width
    Next c

    For J = 2 To ActiveDocument.Tables.Count
        Set t = ActiveDocument.Tables(J)
        If t.Columns.Count = ccnt Then
            For K = 1 to ccnt
                t.Columns(K).Width = w(K)
            Next K
        Endif
    Next J
End Sub

This macro examines the number of columns in the first table (assigning the value to the ccnt variable) and then looks at the width of each of those columns (assigning the values to the w array). It then steps through the rest of the tables in the document, and if the number of columns in the table matches the number in the ccnt variable, it sets the width of each column to the widths stored in the w array. The result is that each table in the document (well, at least those that have the same number of columns as the first table) has the same column widths.

There is one potential gotcha here: If the tables in your document use merged cells in any way, it could mess up the results you get. In that instance, you'll want to save your document before running the macro. That way you can check the results, visually, and then revert to the saved document, if 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 (11692) 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: Setting Consistent Column Widths in Multiple Tables.

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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