8. Applying and Customizing Table Styles

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In this final lesson, we show you how to add a visual impact to your table with Table Styles. These apply a sophisticated amount of formatting options to your table to boost readability and add a professional look.


Lesson Goal

Learn how to apply appropriate themes to Word tables.


What is a Table Style?

Table styles add a little flavor to your table. Simple black lines and text with a white background can be difficult to read. Much can be done to improve the readability of the table by introducing a little formatting. This can include:

  • Introducing color
  • Adding emphasis
  • Editing borders
  • Applying banding

Table Style options

When setting a Table Style, you can choose to add or remove certain features from the styles. One such feature is banding. This will apply shading to alternating rows. This makes it easier to distinguish rows from each other. You can also apply banding to alternating columns, however, this feature isn’t as useful. This is because rows can be difficult to tell apart, but the same is not true of columns.


These options also allow you to apply specific formatting changes to certain columns or rows in your table. Usually, the top row of a table is just for column names. Checking Header Row will apply different formatting to this row to make it stand out from the other rows.


Similarly, Total Row will apply different formatting to the bottom row. This is useful when the bottom row contains aggregate formulas, such as SUM, to count totals for a numeric column.


Distinct formatting can also be applied to the first or last columns. This may be useful if your first column contains key identifying info, such as a person’s name. If your last column contains your own personal comments or notes, checking Last Column would be useful to distinguish it from the rest of the table.



In the previous lesson, we used calculations to populate cells in a table.

In this lesson, we'll learn how to apply appropriate styles to Word tables.

A Word table with a well-structured layout does much to benefit its audience. But a plain table can still be a pain to look at.

The visual impact of the table can be vastly improved in a variety of ways. You can introduce color, add emphasis, edit borders, and apply banding to shade alternate rows or columns.

The right combination of these can give the table an impressive and professional look.

Fortunately Word has a wide variety of table styles which allow you to make striking changes to your table very quickly and efficiently. Like text styles, you can save the formatting of a table.

However, table styles do not affect the shape and layout of the table.

For example, styles will not change the columns width. We'll return to the case study document and refine the table there by applying and customizing a Word table style. To start, we just need to click anywhere in the table and navigate to the Contextual Design tab.

We can easily preview the styles in the Table Styles group by hovering over a style and seeing the table update.

Let's hover over the style on the right. In this style, the black borders add structure to the table. However, they're a bit too strong, so we'll move the mouse away.

Let's examine the second style from the left. This time we'll apply the style instead of previewing it. Like the previous style, the borders are now a shade of gray. In addition, the first column is bolded and rope ending has shaded each alternate row.

Before looking at some more previews, we'll have a look at the Table Style Options group in the Contextual Design tab. This enables us to turn some features of the table style on or off.

When we uncheck the banded rows box, the alternate row shading disappears.

When we check the banded columns box, we add shading to each alternate column.

We'll revert back to banded rows as distinguishing rows is more useful than distinguishing columns.

Next, notice that the text in the first column is bolded.

When First Column is checked, different formatting is applied to the first column.

The extent of the formatting depends on the style.

The same is true for Last Column.

The header row checkbox is similar. It changes the formatting of the top row.

It also prevents banding from shading the top row. However, something's not quite right here.

The Header Row checkbox is intended for the Column Name row which usually appears at the top.

We added two additional rows on top so Word is a little confused. These words aren't essential, so we'll just delete them.

The last checkbox is Total Row. This is useful when the bottom row contains aggregated data.

We'll keep this box checked so that the reader can easily see that the bottom row is for averages only.

With these options covered, we'll explore more table styles.

We'll start by expanding the Table Styles preview window.

All the table styles appear in one of three categories. Plain tables use minimal formatting. Grid and list tables are far more comprehensive.

The main difference between grid and list is that list tables tend to remove borders that separate columns.

Both look professional but we'll opt for a list table.

The most important factor in choosing a table style is color.

As you may recall from previous lessons, less is more.

We advise you to opt for subtle colors.

Light grays or blues are usually a good option, so we'll opt for list table three, accent one.

If your company has branding guidelines, it's best to follow those over any suggestion made in this learning plan.

This style looks professional already but we'll make one minor adjustment. We'll add a single vertical line just to separate the first column.

We'll navigate to the Contextual Design tab and click the Border Painter command.

We can leave the other border settings as these have already been defined by the style. To add the border, we'll bring the cursor to the start position, hold down left click, drag to the end position and release.

Note that when we selected the border banner, we automatically enabled grid lines.

These dashed lines represent invisible borders in the table. Let's turn these off so we can see how the table will look on the printed page.

We'll navigate to the Contextual Layout tab and deselect the View Gridlines command.

Our table is now complete.

This concludes our final lesson in this course.

We've learned about three key ways to restructure text.

The first method using bullet points cuts down text to snappier sentences that are easier to read.

The second method used tab stops to create a simple table. As stated in these lessons, normal Word tables are almost always preferable to tab stop tables but understanding how to edit them is still a useful skill.

Finally, we used Word tables to break down text into a simple spreadsheet.

These tables support a wide variety of customization options and can even support simple calculations.

Knowing how and when to use these methods will greatly improve the readability of your documents.

Adding Bullet Points and Tables


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