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Word – 9 time-saving shortcuts for working in Tables

Posted March 26, 2014

PROBLEM: wasting time creating tables. Especially when trying to create complex tables where columns don’t align and content needs to be reorganized.

SOLUTION: Save yourself HUGE amounts of time…learn the shortcuts!

I recently trained a secretary who was having difficulty creating complex tables.  It turned out her boss had all kinds of ideas about how he wanted his tables to look.  However, they were so complex it was taking her huge amounts of time trying to create what he required.

I suggested she use the Draw Table tool and have a go at drawing the table.  She had the table created in less than 30 seconds.  The look on her face was priceless.

To me the Draw Table tool is one of the best shortcut tools Word offers.  In this post I want to share with you how to use this tool and many fantastic shortcuts that will make working in Word Tables so much easier for you.

Creating a table using the Draw Table tool

Fabulous feature to use if you need to create tables that have a complex layout.

    1. On the Insert tab from the Tables group click Table and then select the Draw Table command.
    2. Click and drag with the mouse pointer to draw the outside edges of the table.  Release your mouse button when you have the size you want.
    3. To add a row click and drag with the mouse pointer and draw a horizontal line through the table.
    4. To add a column click and drag with the mouse pointer and draw a vertical line down the table.
    5. On the Design tab in the Draw Borders group click the Draw Table button.  This will change the mouse pointer from a pencil back to the normal mouse pointer.


Eraser tool

Once a table has been created the eraser tool is useful for removing a cell, row or column partition.

  1. (Word 2010) On the Design tab in the Draw Borders group click the Eraser button. (Word 2013) On the Layout tab in the Draw group click the Eraser button.
  2. Move the mouse pointer to the line you want to erase.
  3. Click and drag the eraser over the line until it is completely selected.  The line will now be deleted.
  4. On the Design tab in the Draw Borders group click the Eraser button to change the mouse pointer back to the normal mouse pointer.

Balancing a drawn table

In most cases it is quite difficult to draw a table perfectly first time.  If you find your rows and columns are of different widths and heights, on the Layout tab in the Cell Size group click the Distribute Rows or the Distribute Columns buttons.  This will distribute the space evenly to give you a balanced look.

  1. Select the unbalanced columns or rows.
  2. Click the Distribute Rows and/or Distribute Columns buttons.



Shortcuts for moving around a table

To move from one cell to another using the mouse simply click the mouse pointer in the cell you wish to move to.  If you would prefer to use your keyboard use the shortcut keys below.

  • One cell up/down , press UP or DOWN ARROW.
  • One cell forward, press TAB.
  • One cell backward, press SHIFT + TAB.
  • To the first cell in a row, press  ALT + HOME.
  • To the last cell in a row, press  ALT + END.
  • To the first cell in a column, press ALT + PAGE UP
  • To the last cell in a column, press ALT + PAGE DOWN

Shortcuts for selecting in a table

You can easily select cells using your keyboard or mouse.  To use your keyboard simply hold down the SHIFT key and then use your ARROW keys to select over the required cells.   To cancel a selection, either press the DOWN ARROW once, or click elsewhere in the document, away from the selection.

Shortcuts for entering content into the table

To start a new paragraph within a Table cell press ENTER.
To move to a Tab stop within a Table cell press CTRL + TAB.

Shortcut for inserting a new row at the bottom of the table

  1. Place the insertion point in the last column of the last row of the Table.
  2. Press the TAB key.  A new row will automatically be inserted into the Table.

Note: the new row will copy the design and layout settings from the previous row.

Tips for aligning column borders

To alter the width of a column without changing the width of other columns press and hold the SHIFT key while clicking and dragging on the right border of the column.  This method adjusts the width of the column you are working on and leaves the width of the columns to the immediate right of your active column unchanged.

To align column borders hold down ALT while dragging.  This nudges the column lines into place.

Keyboard shortcut for reorganizing rows within the Table – MY FAVOURITE!

To quickly reorganize rows in a Table select the row you want to move and then press SHIFT + ALT and the up or down arrow key.  The selected row will move up or down a row within the Table.

Shortcuts for deleting Table content and deleting the Table

To remove the text inside the table but leave the table structure:

  1. Select the entire content (be careful not to include paragraphs before or after the Table, just select the Table).
  2. Press DELETE.

Note: If you include paragraphs before and after the Table the paragraphs and the Table will be deleted.

To remove the Table entirely:

  1. Select the entire content.
  2. Press BACKSPACE.

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