8 ways to make better Word Table Styles

Here’s eight better but simple table formatting options not available from Microsoft Word’s Table Style gallery.

Word’s Table Style gallery is a tempting selection of table formats but it doesn’t show you all the options to make your table look good. Some of these variations are right there on the ribbon, others are buried a bit deeper.

All the Office galleries have a problem. They are too easy and greatly overused. Tweaking a Word table style makes your document look different.

The Table Style options are just to the left of the Table Style gallery on the Table | Design ribbon.

Select the options you want and the gallery thumbnails will change to show an example.

Column banding

There are plenty of row banding (alternate shading of rows) in the gallery but default to the column banding choice so it’s not used as often.

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Table%20Style%20alternatives%202.png image from 8 ways to improve on Word

You can turn on both row and column banding though the result isn’t usually very helpful.

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Table%20Style%20alternatives%203.png image from 8 ways to improve on Word

Last row / column formatting

The other choices on the Table Style options are formatting the last row or column. This will highlight summary or totals.

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Table%20Style%20alternatives%204.png image from 8 ways to improve on Word

Vertical Centering

As well as Left, Center and Right formatting there are also vertical options to position items ‘up and down’ within a cell. Choose from Top (default), Bottom or our favorite, Middle.

Look at the data cells in this example where the numbers are at the top of each cell, out of alignment with the row headings.

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Table%20Style%20alternatives%205.png image from 8 ways to improve on Word

On the Table | Layout tab there are nine cell layout options to choose from. The middle row has the middle / vertical center options with left, center or right alignment.

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Table%20Style%20alternatives%206.png image from 8 ways to improve on Word

Which gives you a nicer look like this:

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Table%20Style%20alternatives%207.png image from 8 ways to improve on Word

The middle option is especially good when there’s an extra-large cell (e.g. comments ) which is out of proportion with the rest of the row.

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Table%20Style%20alternatives%208.png image from 8 ways to improve on Word

Cell lines

Most of the Table Styles have white lines between cells (top table) but you can change that to another color or the background color (bottom table):

To change that, select the rows or entire table then choose Inside Borders and a Pen Color.

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Table%20Style%20alternatives%2010.png image from 8 ways to improve on Word

You can also change the border style to a thicker or double line.

Table Width

A default Word table takes up 100% of the page width but that’s not always needed.

Quickly reduce the table width by dragging the table handle at bottom right.

For a more precise adjustment go to Table Properties and change the Preferred Width to either a fixed width or a percentage of the page width.

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Table%20Style%20alternatives%2011.png image from 8 ways to improve on Word

Table Position

Also on the Table Properties are options to position the table on the left, center or right of the page.

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Table%20Style%20alternatives%2012.png image from 8 ways to improve on Word


Most likely the column widths won’t match the contents since the defaults are equal widths for each column.

Right-click on the table and choose Autofit to see some options.

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Table%20Style%20alternatives%2013.png image from 8 ways to improve on Word

The problem with autofit contents is that you’ll end up with varying widths for common columns. In this example each autofitted column is a different width due to large variations in the cell values.

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Table%20Style%20alternatives%2014.png image from 8 ways to improve on Word

More likely you’ll want all the data columns (not label or comments) to have the same width. Do that by selecting the columns then setting a fixed width from the Table Layout Tab or click on the icon to the right of the width field which will autofit by making all the columns the same width within the entire width selected (called ‘Distribute Columns’).

http://img.office-watch.com/ow/Table%20Style%20alternatives%2015.png image from 8 ways to improve on Word


The Table Style gallery doesn’t change the font of any cell content.

Consider changing the row/column headings to match the font of document headings. The data cells can use the Normal or regular text font.

Join Office for Mere Mortals today

Office for Mere Mortals is where thousands pick up useful tips and tricks for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.  We've never spammed or sold addresses since we started over twenty years ago.
Invalid email address