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Tables like the ones you see here are useful for organizing and presenting related data in a format that's easy to read and pleasant to look at. Tables are widely used in all kinds of business documents. Word offers a variety of ways to create tables of information. This document shows three of them. Only one of them is correct. The first example shows a table created with spaces between each column of information. The trouble is characters and most fonts have variable widths. For example the letter I is skinnier than the letter W. When you create a table with spaces unless you use an ugly mono spaced font you can not going to get the columns to line up.
Look closely at this first example and you will see what I mean. This is the wrong way to create a simple table in Word. Tabs, which you use in the second two examples, offer a better way. Tabs work with the tab stop sit inside of the ruler. When you type in items in a tabbed table, you press the Tab key on the keyboard to advance the insertion point to the next tab stop. When you type the text is lined up with that tab stop. Tabs are far better than spaces for creating tables of data because they ensure that the text aligns with the tab stop. Now there are two ways to use Word's tab feature and one way is far better than the other, as I will try to convince you now.
By default Word's ruler has built-in tab stopa set half an inch apart. You can actually see them on the ruler as tiny little marks in the bottom of the ruler. So I am going to click in one of these paragraphs here in the second table and if you look up in the ruler you will see these little tiny marks. These are the default tab stops. In the middle table here I've used the default tab stops and pressed tab as many times as I needed to, to get from one column to the next. So this first heading line for example has lots of tabs. You could see them all right here.
While the next one has fewer and the next one has more and about the same and it goes on and on like that. So the point is that each line is different. This is not a good way to use Word's tab feature. Now Word also enables you to create your own custom tab stops anywhere you like on the ruler. When you add a tab stop it automatically removes any default tab stops to the left of it. This third table here has custom tab stops. I have clicked in one of the paragraphs in the table and if you look up on the ruler, you will see those little tiny ones are gone. Instead we've got this tab and this tab and this tab.
These are custom tabs that I have set. With its setup like this I only have to press the Tab key once between each column to advance to the next column and you could see that right here. There is only one tab in between each of these columns. This is the best way to use Word's tab feature. Well at this point you're likely looking at these three tables and thinking that they all look pretty much the same. In fact if I turn off the nonprinting characters they really do look very much the same especially the last two. You're probably wondering what's the big deal? Well, the big deal is this.
If you decide to change the font settings for the table, maybe you want a larger or smaller font, one table is far more likely to survive the change without a lot of fixing. So let's give that a try. We will select all three tables. Right now they are set for 11 point text. Let's make that 12 points and see what happens. As you can see here the top table and the second table are really screwed up. But the last table works fine. It looks good. Let's make it a smaller font and see what happens.
The first table looks pretty much okay, but the second table is still screwed up and again the third table looks fine. The other benefit of using custom tab settings is that it's easier to change the width of the table columns. All you need to do is select the table paragraphs and drag the tab marker to a new position. So we will give that a try with this. I will select this and maybe I will just drag this tab marker here and as you could see it moves the whole column. You can't do this if you haven't set tab stops in the first place.
In the videos in this chapter I'll explain how to set up and use tabs properly to create simple tables in Word. I should also mention here that tabs are only one way to create tables in Word. You can also use cell tables, which I cover in another chapter.
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