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

Controlling the Format of Cross-References

When you use fields to add cross-references to tables or figures, Word normally takes care of formatting the words used in ...

Discover More

Valid Numbers in Form Fields

When you create a form you need to use special form fields. If you want to limit what users can enter in a form field, you'll ...

Discover More

Automatically Inserting Brackets

Want a fast way to add brackets around a selected word? You can use this simple macro to add both brackets in a single step.

Discover More

Learning Made Easy! Quickly teach yourself how to format, publish, and share your content using Word 2013. With Step by Step, you set the pace, building and practicing the skills you need, just when you need them! Check out Microsoft Word 2013 Step by Step today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Moving Rows and Columns with the Mouse

Like to use the mouse to help you with your document editing? You can move table rows and column with the mouse by using ...

Discover More

Repeating Rows for a Table Footer

Word allows you to specify rows that should be repeated at the top of a table when that table extends beyond the bottom of a ...

Discover More

Working with Table Columns and Rows

Need to add or delete columns and rows from a table? It's easy to do using the tools provided in Word.

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 8Mpixels. 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 5 + 0?

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.