Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. 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: Cannot Set Heading Rows in a Table.

Cannot Set Heading Rows in a Table

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 4, 2022)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


Sandra has a table that spans several pages. When she designates the first row as the "Heading Row," Word tags ALL the rows as heading rows. If she then deselects "Heading Row" (on any row, whether the first row or not), ALL the rows are deselected.

This obviously is not normal behavior for Word. If you select a row or two and indicate that those rows should be treated as heading rows, Word should repeat only those rows at the top of each page. There are two possible reasons why this might occur.

The first possible reason is that you had the whole table selected when you set the heading rows. Let's take a look at how this behavior manifests itself in a table that has no rows set to be heading rows. First, select the entire first row of your table and make sure that the Layout tab of the ribbon is visible. (This is the Layout tab for tables, not the regular Layout tab.) You should notice, at the right side of the tab, that the Repeat Header Rows tool is available. Don't click it right now; you just need to notice that it is available.

Now, select a later row in your table. If you again display the Layout tab of the ribbon, you should notice that the Repeat Header Rows tool is no longer available—it is grayed out and cannot be selected. This is as it should be, because Word doesn't understand how to repeat a secondary row at the top of each page on which the table may appear.

Now select the entire table—all the rows. If you again display the Layout tab of the ribbon, notice that the Repeat Header Rows tool is again available. You can select it at this point and Word marks all the rows as "to be repeated" at the top of each page. This obviously cannot be done—all rows treated as heading rows results in none being treated that way.

The solution to this is to simply select any row in the table and, on the Layout tab of the ribbon, deselect the Repeat Header Rows tool. Word turns it off for the entire table, even though you had just a single row selected. Then you can go back and select just the first few rows (not the entire table) and use the Repeat Header Rows tool to specify that only those selected rows should be treated as heading rows.

The second possible condition that may explain what Sandra is experiencing is if the table is nested inside another table. You can't successfully set heading rows on individual rows of a table that is within another table.

If this is the case, then the solution is to "unnest" the tables. You need to copy the inner table, paste it into an area of the document that is outside of any other tables, and then get rid of the outer table. You should then be able to format the heading rows as desired.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11998) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Cannot Set Heading Rows in a Table.

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 7 - 6?

2019-02-02 07:42:35


May I suggest you wrest the words "simply" and "just" (as in 'just do this...') from your explanations. They are never helpful and can only serve to make the reader more frustrated if it still doesn't work. I worked for a large software company in tech support and often served to review documentation. Believe me, customers are more frustrated, even insulted, by these words. Offen they've already had a problem; they go to the Help and read that, and they want to scream - that it's SIMPLE seems to imply they must be dumb for getting it wrong.

This suggestion is for you only, please, not publication.

Thank you.

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