Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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 Width from the Keyboard.

Adjusting Column Width from the Keyboard

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 7, 2015)

Many people who are familiar with WordPerfect later find the need to learn how to use Word. Sometimes the transition is not entirely smooth, in large part because tasks aren't accomplished the same way in Word as they are in WordPerfect.

A case in point is adjusting the width of table columns by using the keyboard. WordPerfect, which has always been a "keyboard oriented" program, makes the adjustments easy: just press > or < to widen or narrow the column. Word, on the other hand, has always been more mouse oriented and has no equivalent keyboard command for this task.

There are workarounds; for instance, you can use the keyboard to type Alt+A, R, U, and then press Tab a couple of times to get to the column width field. The problem with this, of course, is that it is not anywhere near easy (or intuitive).

If you don't mind using the mouse, you can hold down the Alt key as you drag a column border. The Ruler changes to show the precise width of your columns as you move the border. Very cool, but still a pain for those who would rather just use the keyboard. (It is also not terribly helpful for those who may not have very good mouse resolution or who cannot move the mouse very small distances.)

Perhaps the best solution is to make your own emulation of the WordPerfect capability. The following macro can do just that:

Sub StretchColumn()
    Dim iCol As Integer
    Dim sCurrent As Single

    If Selection.Information(wdWithInTable) Then
        If Selection.Columns.Count = 1 Then
            iCol = Selection.Cells(1).ColumnIndex
            sCurrent = Selection.Tables(1).Columns(iCol).Width
            Selection.Tables(1).Columns(iCol).SetWidth _
              ColumnWidth:=sCurrent + 1, RulerStyle:=wdAdjustNone
        Else
            MsgBox ("More than one column selected")
        End If
    Else
        MsgBox ("Insertion point not within a table")
    End If
End Sub

If you assign this macro to a shortcut key (as described in other issues of WordTips), then you can increase the width of the current table column by one point (1/72 of an inch) each time you press the shortcut key. You can make a simple change to the macro to create a version that decreases the column width, as well:

Sub ShrinkColumn()
    Dim iCol As Integer
    Dim sCurrent As Single
    Dim sNext As Single

    If Selection.Information(wdWithInTable) Then
        If Selection.Columns.Count = 1 Then
            iCol = Selection.Cells(1).ColumnIndex
            sCurrent = Selection.Tables(1).Columns(iCol).Width
            sNext = sCurrent - 1
            If sNext < 1 Then sNext = 1
            Selection.Tables(1).Columns(iCol).SetWidth _
              ColumnWidth:=sNext, RulerStyle:=wdAdjustNone
        Else
            MsgBox ("More than one column selected")
        End If
    Else
        MsgBox ("Insertion point not within a table")
    End If
End Sub

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13369) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Adjusting Column Width from the Keyboard.

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

Changing Your Name

One of the many pieces of information that Excel keeps track of is your name. If you want to change your name for Excel's ...

Discover More

Developing Reciprocal Conversion Formulas

When converting between measurement systems, you might want to use two cells for each type of measurement. Make a change in ...

Discover More

Use Filenames that Sort Properly

When storing your Excel workbook, you need to specify a file name to be used for the workbook. Take a moment to consider how ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Inserting Cells in a Table

You can enlarge a table by adding cells where they are needed. Just pick where you want the cells inserted, then use the ...

Discover More

Quickly Inserting Table Rows

Need to pop a few extra rows into a table? It is easy to do using the same tools you used to create the table in the first ...

Discover More

Distributing Columns Evenly

When you want the horizontal space in a table to be divided evenly among the columns in the table, you'll love this tip. The ...

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}] 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 7 - 1?

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.

Newest Tips
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.