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How to align tables using Quick Tables in Microsoft Word

Tables can be confusing in Word. Here are some tricks to help make them simpler.

Microsoft Word on screen
Image: justplay1412/Shutterstock

The article How to control a Word table’s horizontal alignment shows you how to manually align tables between the left and right margins. It’s a quick task when working with only a few tables. If you have a large document with many tables, modifying the alignment for each manually would be tedious work. In this article, I’ll show you how to use the Quick Tables feature to speed things up.

SEE: 83 Excel tips every user should master (TechRepublic)

I’m using Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit system. (I recommend that you not upgrade to Windows 11 until all the kinks have been worked out unless you have a specific reason to do so.) You can manually change the alignment of a table in Word Online, but you can’t save a table to the Quick Tables gallery. There’s no demonstration file; you won’t need one.

How to use Quick Tables in Word

Normally, you might consider changing a default alignment property so that all new tables use your preferred alignment. To the best of my knowledge, there’s no way to do so, but you can do the next best thing: use Quick Tables. This feature has a few built-in table styles, but its real strength is allowing you to save customized tables for future use. Simply put, create and format a table shell (no data), include your preferred alignment and save it to the Quick Tables gallery. The next time you insert a table, grab the custom quick table, instead of going the normal route. By doing so you avoid the repetitive formatting tasks for each new table—the quick table is already formatted!

Let’s work through a quick example:

  1. Insert a table by clicking the Insert tab, clicking Table in the Tables group, choosing three rows and three columns (Figure A), and finally clicking to insert.
  2. Reduce the cell widths (so you can see the table actually realign in a bit).
  3. Select the entire table by clicking the table handle in the top-left corner.
  4. On the Home tab, click the Center Alignment option in the Paragraph group (Figure B).

Figure A

Insert a blank table with three rows and three columns.

Figure B

Center the table.

It’s at this point that you might start looking for a “save table as default” option, but it just doesn’t exist. Instead, let’s add it to the Quick Tables gallery:

  1. With the table still selected, click the Insert tab and then click table in the Tables group.
  2. At the bottom of the dropdown, choose Quick Tables.
  3. In the resulting submenu, choose Save Selection to Quick Tables gallery (Figure C).
  4. In the resulting dialog, give the table a meaningful name, as shown in Figure D, and click OK. We’ll discuss the other options in a minute.

Figure C

Save the formatted table to the Quick Tables gallery.

Figure D

Name the quick table.

Now, the centered table is quickly available:

  1. Click the Insert tab.
  2. Click Table in the Tables group and choose Quick Tables from the dropdown list.
  3. Thumb through the built-in tables until you find your custom table (Figure E) and select.

Figure E

Insert the formatted table.

It’s a bit quicker than inserting a new table and changing the alignment, but it’s much quicker when you save a heavily formatted table this way.

When saving the quick table, you have a few options to consider:

  • Name—always give the table a meaningful name so it’s easy to recall.
  • Gallery—There are several galleries to choose from; the purpose is to save similar objects together so they’re easier to work with and find later. The default is Tables, which in this case, is correct.
  • Category—You’ll probably use General most of the time, although, you can create new categories. You’ll want to do so if you have lots of custom objects.
  • Description—Add a bit of text to describe or explain the use of this table.
  • Save In—By default, the table is saved in the Building Blocks file. You can change that to the Normal template if you want this table available in all new documents.
  • Options—The default, Insert Contents in its Own Paragraph is the correct option for a table. You can choose to insert an object without any line breaks or as its own page.

Of course, benefitting from a quick table requires that the table exist as you’re inserting tables. It won’t help you after the fact.

Stay tuned

There’s more than one way to align multiple tables. In future articles, we’ll use a style and VBA to change the table alignment for all the tables in a document.