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How to Quickly Make & Customize Tables in Microsoft Word

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This post is part of a series called Learn How to Use Microsoft Word (Beginner Tutorial Guide).
How to Make (Time-Saving) Microsoft Word Macros Quickly

When your Microsoft Word project contains information, consider presenting it in the form of a Microsoft Word table.

Word templates - Envato Elements

Premium Word templates like this one help you create effective documents with professional design and layout.

A table is a kind of chart that organizes and presents data in rows and columns. It makes information easier to grasp, understand, and analyze at a glance, compared to explaining the same data through plain text.

Table charts are useful in different types of Word projects, whether for personal, educational, or business use. 

This article will show you how to make a table in Word and then edit and format it to change its appearance.

(Note: The screenshots and instructions that follow are made using Microsoft Word for Mac version 16.4. If you’re using a different version of Word, then the interface and steps may be different.)

How to Make Basic Tables in Word 

Let's start by learning how to make a basic table in Microsoft Word:

1. Insert a Table

You can create a basic Microsoft Word table in one of two ways:

Method 1. The Insert Tab

Click on the Insert tab, then click the Table button on the ribbon.

How to make a table in Word - Insert Table

The Insert Table panel appears. Drag the cursor over the squares to specify the number of columns and rows you want to create. Click to apply.

How to make a table in Word - Insert Table panel

Method 2. The Insert Menu

Go to Insert > Table….

How to make a table in Word - Insert Table from menu

The Insert Table panel opens. Specify the number of columns and rows you need. (You can always add or remove columns and rows later.)

How to make a table in Word - Insert Table panel from menu

Also select the Autofit Behavior you want the table to have. You've got several options:

  • Initial column width. The default setting is Auto, which divides the entire width of your page window across the number of columns in the table. Or, you can specify a different column width.
  • AutoFit to contents. Resizes the column width based on the width of the content inside the column. 
  • AutoFit to window. Distributes the columns equally across the entire width of the page window.
  • Set as default for new tables. Check this option if you want the settings to be applied globally to all new tables you create.

When you’re happy with the options you’ve selected, click OK.

How to make a table in Word - Inserting a table

2. Draw a Table

Or, you can draw a table in MS Word. This is a useful feature if you want to create an irregular or more complicated table with columns and/or rows of varying widths.

To draw a table, click Insert > TableDraw Table.

How to make a table in Word - Draw Table

With your mouse or trackpad, click and drag the cursor to start drawing your table. You can begin by drawing the outermost boundary of the table first.

Microsoft Word table - Draw Table

Then, click and drag the cursor to create columns and rows inside the table. When you’re done, click anywhere outside the table.

Microsoft Word table - Draw Table columns and rows

Here’s an example of an “irregular” table you can draw using this feature.

Microsoft Word table - Drawing a Table

If you make a mistake, click LayoutEraser to erase a line from the table.

Microsoft Word table - Table Eraser

Click and drag the eraser along the line you wish to erase. The line that'll be erased appears as a thick, red line. Release the mouse or trackpad to erase.

Microsoft Word table - Layout Eraser

Click outside the table when you’re done.

3. Convert Text to Tables and Vice Versa

Another way to create a table is by converting text into a table. This means you can take non-tabular data from a CSV or plain TXT file and convert them into a table.

First, copy and paste the non-tabular data into your Word document.

How to insert table in Word - Converting Text to Tables

With the text selected, go to Insert > Table > Convert Text to Table….

How to insert table in Word by converting Text to Tables

The Convert Text to Table panel opens. Specify the settings you wish to use. Click OK.

How to insert table in Word - Convert Text to Tables Panel

The text is then converted into a table.

How to insert table in Word - Text Converted to Tables

You can also do the opposite, which is to convert a table into text.

Select the cells or entire table you want to convert. Next, click on the Layout tab then click the Convert Table to Text icon.

How to insert table in Word - Convert Table to Text icon

The Convert Table to Text panel opens. This is where you'll decide how you want to separate text that's currently in different columns. When you've made a selection, click OK.

How to insert table in Word - Convert Table to Text

For this example, I chose to separate text with commas. This is what the converted table looks like.

How to insert table in Word - Table converted to text

4. Advanced: How to Insert a Table from Excel

If you’ve already created a table in Excel, you can embed it into your Word document.

Open the Excel file. Click and drag the mouse to select the table.

How to insert table in Word - Insert a Table from Excel

Go back to your Word document. Go to Edit > Paste Special ….

How to insert table in Word - Insert a Table from Excel Paste Special

In the Paste Special panel, select Microsoft Excel Binary Worksheet Object, then click OK.

How to insert table in Word - Paste Microsoft Excel Binary Worksheet Object

This embeds the Excel table into Word. It’s still an Excel table, which means you can't edit or format the table in MS Word. You've got to do so in Excel.

Embed Microsoft Excel Table into Word

Double-click anywhere in the table to launch the source file in Excel. When you make any changes to the table in Excel, the table embedded in your Word project automatically updates to reflect those changes.

Now you know how to make a table in MS Word using various options.

How to Edit Tables

At any time after creating your table, you can edit and customize it to look the way you want it to. Here are some steps for editing tables in Microsoft Word:

1. Add a Column or Row

To add a row or column, click inside a table cell. Right-click on the mouse, then click Insert.

Edit a table in MS Word - Add a column or row

Select one of the following: 

  • Columns to the Left. Adds a column to the left of the current column
  • Columns to the Right. Adds a column to the right of the current column
  • Rows Above. Adds a row above the current row
  • Rows Below. Adds a row below the current row
  • Cells … Inserts a cell and shifts the rest of the cells either to the right or down from where the cursor is
  • Table … Inserts a table inside the current cell

Or, with the cursor in one of the cells, you can click on the Layout tab.

Edit a table in MS Word - Layout

Then choose of the following buttons on the ribbon:

  • Insert Above. Inserts a row above the current cell
  • Insert Below. Inserts a row below the current cell
  • Insert Columns to the Left. Inserts a column to the left of the current cell
  • Insert Columns to the Right. Inserts a column to the right of the current cell

Finally, you can add a new row when you’ve reached the last cell in the last row of your table. Simply press tab and a new row appears.

2. Delete a Column or Row

To delete a cell, column, row, or table, click on the Layout tab > Delete.

Edit a table in MS Word - Delete column or row

Select one of the options that appear:

  • Delete Cells …
  • Delete Columns
  • Delete Rows
  • Delete Table

You can use the same steps to edit a table you've drawn. Or, you can use the Layout tab to add or delete rows and columns.

Edit a table in MS Word - Layout Draw Table and Eraser

Merge Cells

Sometimes you may want to merge cells to present information more clearly. To merge cells, click and drag the cursor to select the cells you wish to merge.

Edit a table in MS Word - Merge Cells

On the Layout tab, click on the Merge Cells button.

Edit a table in MS Word - Merge cells through Layout tab

Or, after selecting the cells to be merged, right-click on your mouse, then click Merge Cells.

Edit a table in MS Word - Merge cells through right-click

Now the cells have been merged into one.

Edit a table in MS Word - Cells merged

Split Cells

After merging cells, you can always split them again into separate cells. 

Place the cursor in the merged cell, then click Layout > Split Cells.

Edit a table in MS Word - Split cells

Or, right-click on your mouse, then click Split Cells…

Edit a table in MS Word - Right-click to Split Cells

Either way, the Split Cells panel pops up. Specify the number of columns and rows you want to split the cell into. Click OK.

Edit a table in MS Word - Split Cells panel

Split Table

You may decide that it makes more sense to split up a table into two separate tables. Microsoft Word lets you do that easily, too.

In this example, I want to split the table right above the Accessories cell. And so, I'll place the cursor in that cell. Next, click on the Layout tab, then click the Split Table button.

Edit a table in MS Word - How to split a table

Now, we've got two separate tables.

Edit a table in MS Word - Split Table

Table Formatting

When you first create a table, it looks plain and boring. But Microsoft Word has many features so you can format tables to look exactly the way you want them. Here are some common ways to format tables:

1. Table Styles

The easiest way to format a table is by using one of the pre-formatted table styles. Put the cursor in any cell in the table. Click on the Table Design tab. Next, click on the arrow to expand the Table Styles group. 

Edit a table in MS Word - Table Styles

Click on a style you want to use and it's applied immediately.

You can change any style you’ve selected. Again, click on Table Design, expand the Table Style group, then click Modify Style

The Modify Style panel opens. Make the selections you want, then click OK.

2. Use Your Own Formatting

The Table Design tab gives you control over the appearance of every aspect of your table. Click on the Table Design tab and any of the appropriate buttons on the ribbon.

Edit a table in MS Word - Table Design

Resize a Table

You can also resize your table. Click on any cell to select the table, then click and drag one of the corners to resize it.

Edit a table in MS Word - Resizing a Table

Or, you can use the Layout tab to resize individual cells, specific rows or columns, or the entire table. Select the columns or rows you wish to resize. Specify the height and/or width you wish to apply.

Edit a table in MS Word - Layout to resize columns and rows

You can also adjust column width by hand by using the Table Ruler. Click inside a column you want to change. Then, drag the sliders in the Table Ruler to set to desired width.

Edit a table in MS Word - Table Ruler

Text Wrapping

If you want text to flow around the table, you can do so by changing its text wrapping. 

Click in any cell to select the table. Click Table > Table Properties….

Edit a table in MS Word - Text Wrapping

In the Table Properties panel and under Text Wrapping, click Around > OK.

Edit a table in MS Word - Table Properties

Now the text flows around the table.

Edit a table in MS Word - Text Wrapping Around

Take note that the Table Properties panel allows you to format other qualities of the table, including:

  • Size
  • Alignment
  • Positioning
  • Borders and Shading

On the other tabs, you can change:

  • Column, Row, and Cell Size
  • Allow row to break across pages
  • Repeat as header row at the top of each page
  • Cell Vertical Alignment
  • Alt Text (Title and Description) - more information about the table, to help people with vision or cognitive impairment who may not see the table

Find Great Styles for Microsoft Word

You don’t have to start from scratch to create an impressive and effective Word document — even if you don’t have design skills. You can find great styles by using a template for Word.

Premium Word templates - Envato Elements
Access thousands of Word templates with unlimited downloads at Envato Elements.

One great source for great Microsoft Word templates and professional graphics is Envato Elements. For one low monthly subscription, you get unlimited downloads of templates, graphics, fonts, and other creative tools you need for your project. It’s a terrific option if you create plenty of materials.

For single projects, GraphicRiver is an outstanding source for templates for Word. This marketplace gives you access to thousands of creative elements on a pay-per-use basis.

Learn More

Microsoft Word has many robust features to help you realize the vision you've got for your document. But with power comes complexity. That’s why it’s a good idea to learn how to use Microsoft Word

These articles will help you get started:

Visualize Your Data with Microsoft Word Tables

Make your information clearer and easier to understand by learning how to make a table in Microsoft Word. Tables organize data into rows and columns, which makes them easier to grasp at a glance. Follow the steps in this article to create, format, and customize tables in Word.

You can also use a premium Word template to get a premium design created by designers. Get Word templates from Envato Elements, if you want unlimited downloads of templates, graphics, and other creative tools you need — all for one flat monthly fee.

Or, get premium templates for Word from GraphicRiver if you prefer to pay for each use of an item. Both sources give you access to thousands of design elements created by professionals, so you can save time, energy, and effort while creating an outstanding Word document.

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