3. Creating a Basic Table

 
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Overview

Tables are an efficient way of storing structured text similar to spreadsheets. In this lesson, we cover a basic type of table which uses tabs to separate out columns.

Summary

Lesson Goal

Deploy tabs to create a very simple table of information.

Tables in Word

Tables in Word are similar to Excel spreadsheets.

Like bullet points, they restructure information in an easy to consume format. But unlike bullet points, they’re not free form.

They have a simple but strict structure. They expect rows of information.  Every row should have similar features which are captured in columns.

 

What are tab stop tables

Most tables in Word are built with conventional tables which we’ll cover in the next lesson. But simple tables can be built by using tabs to define columns and hard returns to define rows.

The use cases for this type of table are limited, but they are useful to understand for 2 reasons. So you can edit existing documents which contain tab stop tables and to give you a better understanding of tabs and indentation in Word.

 

Building a tab stop table

Enable the ruler from the View tab and click in the ruler to add a tab stop. Each marker on the ruler indicates where the cursor will jump to when you type tab. In other words, these marks represent the columns in the tab stop table.
 

Transcript

In the previous listen, we refined our bullet points by making some minor adjustments.

In this lesson we'll deploy tabs to create a very simple table of information.

Tables, resembling simple spreadsheets, allow users to easily display structured data.

Tables differ from bullet points as they aren't suitable for breaking down concepts and ideas.

Bullet points are also quit freeform.

Tables on the other hand expect rows of information. Each row has similar features which are captured in columns.

We'll start with a very simple style of table which uses tabs to define the columns.

These are called tab stop tables.

In most cases a conventional Word table is a better choice than a tab stop table.

However, understanding how to build and edit tab stop tables has its advantages.

First, many Word users still use them, so it's useful to know how to edit tab stop tables built by other users.

Second, only tab stop tables allow users to create a discreet table with leaders.

Given the lack of borders in tab stop tables they often look more discreet than normal Word tables.

One style uses punctuation marks to connect each row.

For example, a continuous line of periods between each column.

These are called leaders and they're common in tables of contents and indexes.

Normal tables can't use leaders so you must create a tab stop tables to use them.

A third advantage of using how to build tab stop tables is that it provides an advanced understanding of indentation in Word.

This may seem a little abstract, but mastering line spacing and indentation can be the difference between a sloppy document and a professional looking document.

We can see a good use case for a tab stop table in the contact us section at the very end of the case study document.

The author of this document attempted to put this information in a tabular format.

You'll notice that it's very simple, with a small number of rows and only three columns, service, phone, and email.

If this information is truly presented in a tab stop table then we should see that each column is separated by a single tab when we turn on formatting marks.

Evidently this is not the case.

Each column is separated by periods.

This is problematic because it takes much longer to build and is far more difficult to edit.

For example, if we add the word opportunities after career, everything else goes out of alignment.

We need to remove this word to fix it.

This would not happen in a true tab stop table.

Since this table is very simple, the quickest way to fix this issue is to build again from scratch.

We'll leave the original in place for reference and delete it when we've completed the tab stop table.

We'll start by typing the first column name and then typing tab.

As mentioned earlier, each column should be separated by a single tab.

However, when we press tab, the cursor only moves a little to the right.

This is because typing tab will only move the cursor to our nearest default tab stop.

In our case, the default tab spot is half an inch or 1.27 centimeters.

We want a much wider tab stop than this but if we change the default tab stop value, it will effect indentation across the entire document.

Fortunately Word enables us to set different tab stops for specific areas of text.

To do this, we first need to have an idea of our preferred column width.

We'll opt for five centimeters or two inches.

We'll start the process of setting the width by deleting the tab we already entered.

Next we'll click just below the five centimeter mark on the ruler.

If your ruler is set to imperial measurements and shows inches, click below the two inch mark.

You'll notice that a little L has appeared on the ruler.

This indicates our custom tab stop.

Now when we press tab, the cursor will jump to the five centimeter mark.

This is much easier and far more accurate than entering many spaces.

We will now type the next column name, phone.

We want this column to be five centimeters wide as well so we'll click below the 10 centimeter mark.

We'll enter another tab and type email.

We'll now type enter to start a new row.

Note that our custom tab stops are still in place.

We'll quickly fill up our table with the same information as above and bold the top row.

This'll take a little time, so I'll do it off screen.

Each row of this new table is a little too far apart so we'll quickly adjust the line spacing by selecting the information, right clicking, and selecting paragraph to open the paragraph options box.

We'll set spacing after to zero point and click OK.

Our basic table is now complete.

We'll stop the lesson here.

In the next lesson we'll make some edits to complete the table.

Adding Bullet Points and Tables

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