Advanced PowerPoint:

Title: Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101

Did you want: Working with Presentations: PowerPoint 2007,2010,2013,2016 or español

Tables do not work particularly well on slides. With even just a few rows and columns a table quickly becomes hard to read.

What is a table?

A set of rows and columns make up a table. Rows run across the table and columns run from top to bottom. Usually there are column labels at the top and row labels at the left.

  1st Qtr 2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr 4th Qtr
East 20.4 27.4 90 20.4
West 30.6 38.6 34.6 31.6
North 45.9 46.9 45 43.9

The intersection of a row and a column is called a cell.

Table Frustration

Working with tables on a slide can be quite frustrating. It is entirely too easy for your table to get larger than the slide or for the text to be too small to read from the audience. Be prepared! It takes a lot of tinkering to get it working right!

TipPlan ahead! Sketch your table on paper first. Know how many rows and columns and what size they need to be before you start.

Where you are:
JegsWorks > Lessons > Presentations

Before you start...

Project 1: PowerPoint BasicsTo subtopics

Project 2: PowerPoint FormattingTo subtopics

Project 3: Advanced PowerPoint
    OutlineTo subtopics
    ImagesTo subtopics
    Tables & Charts Arrow to Subtopics
    Icon: Step-by-StepTable
    Icon: Step-by-StepChart
    Icon: Step-by-StepImport Data
    Icon: Step-by-StepAnimate Data
    FinishingTo subtopics
    ExercisesTo subtopics


Methods To Create a Table

  1. Button: Table Table Button on Formatting Bar:
    Button: Table - 2x3Creates a table with evenly sized rows and columns, centered on the slide.

    Click the Table button Button: Table and keep holding the mouse button down. A palette appears. Drag across the palette to choose the number of rows and columns that you want for your table. Simple!

    Example: 2x3 table inserted

  2. Menu Bar:
    Dialog: Insert Table
    Also creates a table with evenly sized rows and columns, centered on the slide.

    Choose  Insert | Table...  from the Menu Bar. The Insert Table dialog opens for you to choose the number of columns and rows.

  3. Slide using Title and Table layoutThumbnail for Title-Table slide layoutTable Layout:
    Choosing the Title - Table Layout  removes the text placeholder. Double-clicking the button in the center of the slide opens the Insert Table dialog.

  4. Button: Draw Table Draw Table button on Tables and Borders bar:
    Example: Drawn table on slide
    Allows you to draw a table at the location and size that you want and then to draw in different sizes of rows and columns.

    The Draw Table button Button: Draw table turns your mouse pointer intoPointer: Draw a pencil shape. Dragging creates the outside of a table. Drag inside the table to draw in the rows and columns that you want.
    If you need a variety of cell sizes, this method can be easier than having to merge cells here and there.

Manage a Table

Toolbar: Tables and BordersTables and Borders Toolbar:
As in other Microsoft Office programs, you can use the Tables and Borders buttons to format your table -

Button: Draw Table    Draw a table or a line inside a table to create a row, column or cell
 Button: Erase   Erase existing table borders
Buttons: Format borders Format borders- line style, line thickness, line color
Button: Fill Fill background with color or fill effect
Button: Borders Set borders for selected cells
Button: Table menu  Open a menu of table commands
Buttons: Merge and Split Merge or split cells
Buttons: Vertical alignment Set alignment inside cells - top, middle, bottom
Buttons: Distribute evenly Equalize row height or column width.

Menu: TableButton: Table menuTable Menu:
The Table button on the Tables and Borders bar opens a menu with helpful commands, including selecting, inserting, and deleting rows and columns.

TipYou cannot set the column widths or row heights to specific numbers or percentages in PowerPoint.

TipDeleting: The Delete key will only delete the selected data from the table, not a row or column. To delete rows or columns you must select what you want to delete and then use a command from the Table menu or the right click menu.

Resize a Table

Dragging on a table's handle will resize the whole table, causing rows and columns to change size to fit inside the new table size.

Table Handle - small circle at corners and middle of each sideHandles: The resizing handles on a table are just like the ones on a picture, small circles in the corners and the center of each side. They will not show until after you click on the table.

Drag table handlePointer Shape: Your pointer changes to a resizing shape when it is over the handle.Pointer: Resize horizontallyPointer: Resize verticallyPointer: Resize diagonallyPointer:Resize diagonalThese shapes are not the same as the shapes for resizing rows and columns.Pointer: Resize table horizontallyPointer: Resize table vertically

TipWhen resizing a whole table or just rows or columns:

  • Row height will not go lower than what is needed for the current font size of text.
  • Row height will increase automatically when reducing the column width makes text wrap to a new line in the cell.
  • Column width can be reduced to be too narrow to show any of the text.

Icon Step-by-Step 

Step-by-Step:Create a Table

 Icon Step-by-Step

What you will learn:

to insert a new slide
to add a table to a slide
to format table text
to add columns and rows
to size columns and rows
to distribute space evenly among columns or rows
to insert a symbol (for degree)
to stop AutoFit
to format table borders

Start with: Icon: Class disk,  nz-animate.ppt from previous lesson Animate Images

You will add a large table to a new slide and format it to fit on the slide and be readable. Tricky!

Be aware that your table may not look quite like the illustrations along the way, depending on exactly what you type and how you insert new rows and columns.

The Story So Far:
You are creating a presentation on New Zealand for World Travel Inc. to show customers.
You will add a table that shows the average maximum and minimum temperatures for each season at several places in New Zealand, in both Celsius and Fahrenheit degrees.
This kind of information is very helpful to visitors. You do need to know whether to bring a swimsuit or a snowsuit!

Add New Slide

  1. If necessary, open nz-animate.ppt from the previous lesson, Animate Images.

  2. Select the next to last slide, General Information.

  3. Click the New Slide button on the Formatting Bar. A new slide appears after the selected slide.

  4. Enter the slide's Title as  Temperatures .

  5. Apply the Title-Table layout Thumbnail for Title-Table slide layout.
    The text placeholder changes to a table placeholder.


TipAny slide layout that includes an object like a clip art image, table, or chart will have an icon in the placeholder.  You can double click the icon to go straight to the process for creating or adding such an object. Some layouts give you a choice of icons: Icons in placeholder created by slide layout table, chart, clip art, image from file, diagram, media clip.

Create Table

  1. Double click the icon in the center of the slide. The Insert Table dialog appears.

  2. Select 8 columns and 11 rows. The table appears on the slide, but some rows are hanging off the bottom of the slide. After you enter data, you will have to resize the rows and columns.

  3. In the first row, enter the data:

    Bay of Islands

    Table: First row dataThese numbers are temperatures in Celsius degrees.

    Whoops. You need another column for the 7.

  4. Icon: Class diskSave As  nz-table.ppt  to your Class disk.
    Full floppy disk How to handle a full Class disk

Add Column

Using the Table menu makes adding columns and rows easy. To add multiple columns or rows, you must select that many first. A bit unexpected.

  1. Click in the last column somewhere.

  2. From the Table menu on the Tables and Borders Bar, choose  Insert Columns to the Right . A new column appears at the right, expanding the table off the slide.
    TipIf you select several columns first, using this command will produce as many columns as you had selected.

    Selected columnAlternate: Right-click Menu to Add Column:
    your mouse over the top of the last column until the pointer changes to Pointer: Select Column the Select Column shape. (This can be tricky! It may be easier if the table is not already selected.)  Click. The whole column is selected.

    Right click menu: Insert ColumnsRight click on the selected column and choose  Insert Columns  from the popup menu.
    A new blank column appears to the left of the selected column.


  3. Table: First row correctedFill in the data correctly for the first row.


Format Table Text

Clearly the default font size is too large for your table. You can change that before you do any more data entries.

  1. Select the entire table by clicking the table border. The border changes to small dots.Border selected - dots

  2. Table with font size =20Change the Font Size to 20 on the Formatting Bar.
    Better since the rows are all now on the slide. But will you need more rows??
    Are some of your rows different heights? You will fix that later.

Size Column: Drag

Your first column needs to be wider to hold the place name. The temperatures are going to have only 2 digits (no 100's for New Zealand!) so those columns can be narrower.

  1. Drag column widerMove your mouse pointer over the right edge of the first cell, Bay of Islands.

  2. When the pointer turns to Pointer: Resize table horizontally the Resize Horizontal shape, drag to the right.

    This makes the next column over smaller. The width of the whole table does not change. You will have to resize the table yourself and then balance the widths of the other columns.

Size Column Widths Equally

Before you equalize the widths of the columns, you need to get the table back onto the slide.

  1. Pointer as Resize Horizontally at edge of tableMove your mouse pointer to the right edge of the table until the pointer turns to Pointer: Resize table horizontally the Resize Horizontal shape.

  2. Drag to the left until the table is back onto the slide. Your last cell may be too small to show the number. That's OK for now.

  3. Select the cells in the first row, except the first oneDrag across all the cells in the first row except the first one.
    The selected cells are highlighted.
    If your last cell is very narrow, you may not be able to see the highlight in that cell.
  4. Temperature table with evenly distributed columns for temperatureClick on Button: Distribute Columns Evenly the Distribute Columns Evenly button on the Tables and Borders Bar. All of the temperature cells are the same width now.

Add Rows: TAB

You have more rows of data than the table has. To add a row at the bottom of the table takes just a simple TAB!

  1. Complete the table with the data below.
    Use the TAB key to move from cell to cell. Using TAB when you are in the last cell in a row will move you to the first cell of the next row. Handy!
     Printable copy of the data
    Your table is a row short. After you enter the last temperature on the last existing row, just press the TAB key. A whole new row will appear. So easy!

Bay of Islands

Table with all data entered, but rows off the slide

Your table is hanging off the bottom of the slide. Not to worry. You will fix that later. You will find it a regular event to fix it, mess it up, and fix it again!

Add Rows: Menu

This table should really have column labels, otherwise these numbers make no sense. You will now add a row at the top of the table for labels.

  1. Right click menu: Insert rowsRight click on a cell in the top row.
  2. Choose  Insert Rows  from the popup menu.
    A new blank row appears above the row you clicked on.
    Alternate Method to Add Rows:
    Table Menu -
    Click in a cell in a row next to where you want the new row. From the Table menu, select either  Insert Rows Above  or  Insert Rows Below 
  3. Enter labels for Place, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter as shown in the illustration below.

Season labels

Merge Cells

The season labels should apply to two columns, the maximum temperature and the minimum temperature for that season. You can merge the two cells at the top of the columns.

The place names should apply to two rows, temperatures in Celsius and in Fahrenheit. You can merge two cells vertically.

  1. Select cell Spring and next blank cellDrag to select the cell with the word Spring and the next blank cell.

  2. Cells mergedClick on Button: Merge Cells the Merge Cells button on the Tables and Borders Bar. The label now extends across the space from two cells.
  3. Repeat to merge two cells for the labels Summer, Fall, and Winter.

    Table after entering labels and merging cells

  4. Bay of Islands cell and blank cell below selectedDrag to select the Bay of Islands cell and the blank one below it.

  5. Bay of Islands cell merged with blank cellClick on Button: Merge Cells the Merge Cells button on the Tables and Borders Bar. The label now can use the space from two cells vertically.
  6. Repeat to merge each place name with the blank cell below it. You will not see your highlighting clearly for cells that are off the slide.
  7. Adjust column widths again: If necessary, drag the right edge of the Places column to the right until the place names fit on one line (except for Bay of Islands). Then make the temperature columns equal widths again by selecting cells and clicking the Distribute Columns Evenly button again.

Places cells merged

Size Row: Drag

Are some of your rows still off the slide? To make the table shorter, you must resize the rows. Resizing rows can be quite frustrating!

The steps below fix two types of problems but your table may be just fine.

  1. If a row seems too tall (like the first Queensland row in the illustration above), move the mouse pointer over the bottom edge of the row. When the pointer changes to Pointer: Resize table vertically the Resize Vertical shape, drag up.  PowerPoint will reduce the height to the minimum for the current font size.
    Icon: TroubleProblem: Can't resize extra height
    If there are spaces or line breaks or paragraph breaks in any cell in the row, you can not drag the row to the minimum height for the visible data. You must remove the trouble-causing items first. Unlike in Word, there is no way to show the marks for these! You must be a detective to find them.
  2. Cell with line breakIf a row is still not short enough after dragging its border (like the first Wellington row in the illustration above), put your cursor in each cell in the row in turn and drag through the cell, but do not drag into a neighboring cell. Highlighting will appear where there are spaces or line breaks or paragraph breaks.
  3. Use the DEL or BACKSPACE keys to remove any extra spaces, line breaks, or paragraphs.
    When all cells in the row have been fixed, the row height should automatically shrink to fit the font size.
  4. If your table is still not quite on the slide, drag Handle the bottom center handle upward until it is.
  5. Icon: Class diskSave to your Class disk. [nz-table.ppt]
    Full floppy disk How to handle a full Class disk

    Table after removing extra spaces, line breaks, or paragraph breaks

Size Row Heights Equally

Small differences in row height will be more noticeable when your slides are projected. It is easy to make the rows all the same height once those hidden marks are removed.

  1. Select all the cells in a column.
  2. Click on Button: Distribute Rows Evenly the Distribute Rows Evenly button on the Tables and Borders Bar. The height inside the table is divided equally among all the rows.


Labels often have a colored background or a different font than the table text.

  1. Top row of table selectedSelect the top row of the table.
  2. Menu: Fill - palette - turquoiseOpen the palette of colors from Button: Fill the Fill Button on the Tables and Borders Bar.
  3. Select the teal from the color scheme colors, second from the right.
  4. First row formattedWith the row still selected, similarly apply White as the font color, using the Font Color button on the Formatting Bar.
  5. Repeat the actions above for the place names in the first column.

    Labels formatted

    TipFormat Painter will copy the text formatting but it will not copy the background fill.

Add Column After Formatting

The table is still not completely clear. You need to show which temperatures are in Celsius and which are in Fahrenheit. It will be a tight squeeze, but it can be done!

  1. Table with new blank column to left of SpringClick in the first cell under Spring, with the number 19 in it.
  2. From the Table menu on the Tables and Borders Bar, select  Insert Columns to the Left . A new column appears with the same formatting as the column your cursor was in.
  3. Merge the Places cell with the new cell in the top row.

Insert Symbol

The symbol for degrees, a raised circle like , is not on the normal English keyboard. You can insert it, and many other special characters, by using the Symbol dialog.

  1. In the 2nd cell of the new column, first type  C .
  2. Dialog: Symbol - degree markFrom the menu select  Insert | Symbol .
  3. Click on the small raised circle in the middle of the palette of characters.
  4. Click the Insert button in the dialog. Nothing seems to happen. The dialog remains open in case you want to insert more characters.

  5. C and F in first two data cells of new columnClick the Close button in the dialog. Now you can see the degree symbol next to your C.
  6. In the next cell down type  F° .
    (The symbol will be in the display of Recently used symbols at the bottom of the dialog.)
  7. C and F selected for copyingDrag to select the two cells you just typed in.
  8. Click the Copy button Button: Copy.
  9. Click in the next blank cell in the column and paste. The data you copied is pasted into the next two cells.

  10. C degrees and F degrees filled inRepeat to copy your C and F into the remaining blank cells.
    Now your temperature data is clearly labeled but the table is off the slide to the right... again!

    Table dropping off slide

Adjust Table and Columns

You may need to adjust and readjust the table size and column widths to get the table back onto the slide and the data columns equal again. Such an aggravation! Fixing one problem creates other problems.

  1. Table just fitsAdjust the width of the new column until the C and F just fit onto one line.

  2. Drag table handleIf necessary, drag the center handle on the right edge (small white circle) on the right side of the table back to the left until the table is back on the slide. 
    This will resize all the columns again and probably make the place names run over onto two lines again. <sigh>
  3. Table adjustedResize the Places  and C/F columns, if necessary, so that the text fits on one line (except for Bay of Islands).
  4. Distribute Columns Evenly: Select the data cells in a row and use the Distribute Columns Evenly button again.
  5. Icon: Class diskSave to your Class disk. [nz-table.ppt]
    Full floppy disk How to handle a full Class disk

WarningIf you insert a special character and the computer that is running your presentation does not have the same font that you used, you may see a completely different character instead. Not all fonts include all of the characters that other fonts have. This is a good reason to embed your fonts with the presentation.

Insert & Format Text

This slide still does not tell the viewer that these temperatures are maximums and minimums. There's no more room in the table! You can put this information in the Title, but you will have to format carefully to make it all fit.

  1. New line in TitleClick in the Title at the end of the word and press the ENTER key.
    The font size of the title drops one size to 40. A new line appears that will use the same formatting. Too tall for a subtitle!
  2. New titleChange the font size to 24.
  3. Change the font to Arial.
  4. Type as the new subtitle  Average Maximums & Minimums 
    Note the AutoFit icon AutoFit Options at the left of the Title placeholder. AutoFit automatically reduced the font size of the main title when you pressed ENTER so that the text would all fit in the placeholder. Now that you have changed the font size, a larger size would be OK for the main title.
  5. Menu: AutoFit - Stop Fitting Text to This PlaceholderHover over the AutoFit icon until an arrow appears. Click the arrow. A menu appears.
  6. Choose Stop Fitting Text to This Placeholder

    Title without AutoFitThe text size increases back to 44 for the main title and up one size also for the second line to 28.

Format Table

Depending on exactly how you insert rows and columns, you may have some cell borders that are formatted like the outside table borders. You can reset all of the borders easily.

All those numbers would be easier to read if they were aligned to the right. It's the way we expect numbers to be written.

  1. Click in the table and from the Table menu, select  Select Table  command.
    Or click on the table's border.
  2. Click the arrow to the right of the Borders button Button: Borders - outside borders on the Formatting bar to open the palette of border options.
  3. Button: Borders with paletteSelect Icon: All Borders All Borders.
    All of the cell borders are reset to the default color, style, and width.
  4. Drag to select all of the temperature cells (numbers).
  5. Click on Button: Align Right the Align Right button on the Formatting Bar.
  6. Icon: Class diskSave to your Class disk. [nz-table.ppt]
    Full floppy disk How to handle a full Class disk

Finished slide


View the slide at Full Screen.

Icon: QuestionWhat do you think of a table this big? Is it easy to read? Could you accomplish your purpose with less data? How about separate slides for Celsius and Fahrenheit temperatures? Would a chart be better?
In the next lesson you will add a chart to a slide. Will it be easier? Better?

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Last updated: 30 Apr 2012