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: Self-Adjusting Column Widths.

Self-Adjusting Column Widths

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 1, 2022)

When setting up a Word document, it is typically most efficient to define your document margins first, then your page layout, then your paragraphs, and finally your individual character formatting. The reason for moving from the "larger picture" toward the smaller when formatting is because changes in the more encompassing elements affect those with a smaller scope.

An example of this is using columns in your document. Columns are a page-layout attribute, and Word allows you to effectively set whatever number of columns you need. These columns are evenly spaced within the document (provided the Equal Column Width check box is selected in the Columns dialog box), or they are set to the specific widths you indicate.

Column widths are always set based on the available horizontal space, between the page margins. What happens if you go back and change the page margins after you set your column widths? The answer depends on the setting of the Equal Column Width check box.

If the check box is selected, the column widths are self-adjusting. Word automatically adjusts the width of all columns to reflect the space available based on the new margin settings. If the check box is not selected, however, then Word only adjusts the width of your left-most and right-most columns. If you have only two columns, this is not a big deal. If you have more than two columns, however, the center columns remain their original width and the outside column widths are changed. If you have more than two columns in your document, you will want to check column widths to make sure they still reflect your needs.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13069) 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: Self-Adjusting Column Widths.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Checking for Sentences Beginning with Conjunctions

In my English classes in junior high, I would get marked down if I started sentences with a conjunction. ("There's a ...

Discover More

Using a Numeric Portion of a Cell in a Formula

If you have a mixture of numbers and letters in a cell, you may be looking for a way to access and use the numeric ...

Discover More

Adjusting Mouse Click Sensitivity

Mouse not working as you expect? Here are a few things that may get things back to the way they should be.

Discover More

The First and Last Word on Word! Bestselling For Dummies author Dan Gookin puts his usual fun and friendly candor back to work to show you how to navigate Word 2013. Spend more time working and less time trying to figure it all out! Check out Word 2013 For Dummies today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Space after a Table

Those familiar with styles are used to setting vertical spacing before or after paragraphs. You can get just the look you ...

Discover More

Fitting Your Text In a Table Cell

Got some text you absolutely must fit on a single line in a table cell? Then you'll appreciate this rather esoteric ...

Discover More

Fitting Text Into Cells

Need a way to make sure your text fits within the space available in a table cell? Word has a handy setting that will ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 1 + 3?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Videos
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.