Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Adjusting Column Widths on Joined Tables.

Adjusting Column Widths on Joined Tables

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated June 18, 2022)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


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You can easily join tables in Word by simply removing the paragraphs that originally separated the tables. However, this may present a problem if the tables had different numbers of columns or if the column widths in each table were different. There are many different ways you can approach this problem, most of which involve some sort of repetitious activity that can get very tiring if you have many columns in the table.

One quick solution to this problem is to allow Word to do the formatting for the columns. To do this, you follow these steps:

  1. Position the insertion point anyplace in the newly joined table.
  2. Display the Layout tab of the ribbon and click Select | Select Table. The entire table is now selected.
  3. Take a look at the controls in the Cell Size group. Note that there are controls for both Height and Width. You are interested only in the Width control; click the up-arrow at the right side of the control. Word makes the column widths quite a bit narrow, but more importantly it makes the overall aggregate of the column widths the same. (The right border of the table is now consistent for the entire length of the table.)
  4. Click the AutoFit tool in the Cell Size group. Word displays a submenu from which you should choose AutoFit Window. The overall width of the table expands to fill the available margins and the interior columns are now consistent in their widths.

At this point you can make any additional changes you want to the widths of the columns.

The problem with the methods discussed so far is that you still may not end up with the column widths you want. After all, you are leaving the widths up to Word, and that may not produce the best results for your needs. More often, you may want the joined tables to assume the column widths already set in the first table. In this case, the following method will work great. Just make sure you do these steps before you join the two tables:

  1. Select all the cells in the second table that you want to join with the first table. Do not do this by selecting the entire table. The only thing you want to select is the cells, not the end-of-row markers just to the right of the last column in the table.
  2. Press Ctrl+C. This copies the selected cells to the Clipboard.
  3. Position the insertion point at the end of the first table. The insertion point should be right after the very last cell in the table, and just before the end-of-row marker for the last row of the table.
  4. Press Enter. This inserts a new, empty row for the first table.
  5. Press Ctrl+V. This pastes the contents of the Clipboard.

If you followed these steps precisely, Word will have pasted the information at the end of the table, inserting rows as necessary. In addition, the columns are the same width as the other columns in the first table. You can then delete the second table since it is no longer needed.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9924) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Adjusting Column Widths on Joined 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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What is five more than 6?

2022-06-19 05:20:22

Thierry Hoornaert

While I was working for a client, they mentioned a document with a complex table that, once converted to pdf for archiving, had the last column(s) altered. Curiously, exporting/printing the file to pdf went fine. I'm sure they used another conversion tool for archiving, but I couldn't get to that information, nor make them change that.

It might be interesting to add that the document was assembled by VBA, calling bookmarked text blocks, which in view of the current tip topic (Adjusting Column Widths on Joined Tables), can be a challenge. The library with the bookmarked text (and tables) had one set of margins for all bookmarks.
On top of that, rows had to be dynamically numbered, but that is another topic.

The document had 4 columns in general, but columns had different widths on some rows, and some rows had an extra column, while elsewhere some cells were, I'm sure, merged. Setting fixed column widths didn't help. I made sure the page layout was correct (A4 is used here) as Letter conversion to A4 can mess things up.
I concluded that the table was not consistently built with the end result in mind.

Looking at the layout, I saw that I should create a table with (e.g.) 6 columns, making sure all cells would start and finish according to one of these set columns. I then merged cells to get to the final looks. To make sure that the overall look would not be altered by any pdf conversion, I kept at least 1 row with 6 visible columns, while getting rid of the borders between the columns: it looked like a blank line, something the layout could afford.

For what I know, it is working fine since then.
Would you do the same? Is there another way to get there?

Best regards,
Thierry Hoornaert


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