Google Docs – Getting to grips with tables

One of the most common things that is added to documents is a table. So, it makes sense that you know how to create the table the way you want it. Here we’ll look at pretty much everything related to tables:

  • Inserting a table
  • Deleting a table
  • Adding information to a table
  • Inserting rows & columns
  • Deleting rows & columns
  • Column width & row height
  • Vertical & horizontal alignment of cells
  • Cell background colour
  • Table borders
  • Merging & unmerging rows & columns
  • Cell padding

Inserting a table

1) Click on “Insert table”.

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2) This opens a grid and with it you select how many rows and columns you want.

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The biggest table you can make is 20 x 20, although you can add rows and columns to it later if you want.

You can also insert a table by going to “Insert” then “Table”.

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Note, by default, the table will be the width of the page (margin to margin) and that all the columns are the same width and the rows are the same height.


Once a table is created, to edit the table all you need to do is, to right-click on the table and this brings up the table menu.

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Most of the functions below initially start by going to this “Table” menu. The same menu can be accessed by going to the “Table” menu at the top of the screen.

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Deleting a table

To delete an entire table, right-click on the table and select “Delete table”.

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Adding information to a table

To add the information you want to the table, just click on a cell and start typing.

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Inserting rows & columns

To insert a row to a table, right-click on the row where you want to add the row and choose either “Insert row above” or “Insert row below”.

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This will automatically match the style of the row either above or below.

Inserting a column is similar, right-click on the column where you want to add the column and choose either “Insert column to the left” or “Insert column to the right”.

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Note, Docs will automatically adjust the columns of your table, so it fits the width of the table.

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Deleting rows & columns

To delete a specific row or column, right-click on the row or column you want to delete and select “Delete row” or “Delete column”.

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You can also delete multiple rows or columns at the same time. Highlight the rows or columns you want to delete. Note, you don’t need to highlight the whole line just a cell in each row or column. For example, here I’ve only selected the bottom to cells on the left to be able to delete the bottom rows.

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Column width & row height

Above I inserted a column and I want to name it “recommendation”, but the only problem is that the word ‘recommendation’ is a bit too long for the cell. So I need to adjust its size.

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There are two ways you can change the column width or row height.

1) Hover over the border line you want to change, the cursor will change to two arrows. Then click and drag it to where you want it.

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2) Or you can type in the specific width or height.

a) Right click on the column or row and select “Table properties”.

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b) Check either the “Column width” or “Minimum row height box” and type in the size you want (in cm) and press “OK”.

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Tip: This can be useful if you want to make a number of columns or rows the exact same size. In this case, highlight the rows or columns you want, then right-click to enter the “Table Properties”.

Note, the row height is called MINIMUM row height. This is because the row height can’t be smaller than your font size. If you try to make it smaller, it will reduce it to the size of the current font in that row.


Vertical & horizontal alignment of cells

Horizontal alignment

Using the table above, I want to centre all the columns. To do so, just select all the cells you want to change, then go to the toolbar and click on “centre”. It’s the same way as centring a piece of text.

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Vertical alignment

Vertical alignment is useful if you have rows that are quite big and you want to position the text in the cells in a specific position.

Here I have my table and first I want to change the top row alignment, then the rows below.

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1) Select the top row.

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2) Right-click and enter the Table properties. Under “Cell vertical alignment”, normally by default it will say “Top”, click on this and select “Bottom”, as I want the text in this row to align along the bottom of the row. Press “OK”.

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As you can see, it moved the text in top row from the top of the cells to along the bottom.

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I also want to change the cells below. So I select all the cells below the first row, go back into Table properties and this time, select “Centre”. As you can see it’s centered those rows.

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Cell background colour

So far, we have just a black and white table, which looks a little boring, so let’s add a little colour to it.

Select the top row and go to the border colour in the toolbar and you will be presented with the colour palette. Click on a colour.

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As you can see it fills all the cells with that colour.

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Alternatively, you could go to Table properties.  Click on the box below “Cell background colour” from the colour palette, click on a colour and press “OK”.

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Note, you can colour in individual cells, just click on the cell you want and follow the steps above.


Table borders

By default, all the lines (borders) on the table are black and 1pt in size, but we can change the colour, thickness and style of these.

Changing all the borders

First, let’s change the colour, thickness and style to all the lines in the table.

1) Select all the cells.

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2) In the toolbar, you have the shortcuts to border colour, thickness, and style.

Colour – Click on the colour you want

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Thickness – Click on the size you want

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Style – There are only 3 styles. Click on the one you want.

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The alternative way, is to go to Table properties. Here you can change the border colour and thickness, but it’s quicker to use the toolbar, plus you have the option of the style.

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Changing specific borders

I’ve come across a lot of people that didn’t realise this option existed, but Docs also allows you to change specific borders, so you can format your table exactly how you want it. Here you need to select which ones you want, then you edit them.

In this example, I’m going to add a thicker horizontal line to clearer show that groups 1 and 2 are separate, and then I’m going to add a thicker border all the way around the table.

1) Select the row you want.
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2) In the cell on the right-hand side, click on the little triangle. This opens the line selecting menu.

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3) I want the line below, so I click on the symbol in the middle to the right.

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4) This selects the line.

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5) Now, I want to edit it. When you select a line, the toolbar automatically changes and gives you three options, line colour, line thickness, and line style.

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6) Here I just want to increase the thickness, so click on the icon and choose a larger number, e.g. 3pt.

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As you can see, this has increased the thickness of that line, and it’s clear that group is separate from group 2.

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You can also select multiple lines. This time I want to select the lines on the outside of the table.

1) Select all the cells and click on the little triangle in the top right-hand corner.

2) Select the top right icon.

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3) This selects all the lines on the outside.

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4) Go to the toolbar and select the line thickness you want, e.g. 6pt.

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As you can see, it thickened the outside lines of the table.

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Merging & unmerging rows & columns

Apart from the normal grid pattern, sometimes you want certain rows or columns to be a different length or height from the rest. For example, you may want a category name or a title. To do this you need to merge the cells together. In the example below, I’ve added a row at the top of my table and I want to add a title to it.

1) Select all the cells you want to merge.

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2) Right-click and select “Merge cells”.

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As you can see all the cells in the top row have been merged together as one long cell.

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Now I add my title.

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Table alignment

If you have a table that isn’t the width of the page, you may want to align it on the page, in a different way to the way your text is aligned. For example, generally I choose “justify” to align my text in the paragraphs, but if I have a table I often want it in the centre of the page. As you can see below the table is to the left of the page, which doesn’t look that good.

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1) Right-click on your table and go to Table properties.

2) Under “Table alignment”, click on “Centre”.

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This now centres the table on the page, but doesn’t affect the paragraph above it.

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Cell padding

The final thing I want to show you is cell padding. This allows you to change the amount of space there is around your text in the cell. I usually use this if there is a lot of text in the cell. In the example below, I have my comments about a student and the text pretty much fills the cell. Let’s create a bit more space around it.

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1) Right-click on the cell and go to Table properties.

2) Click on the box next to “Cell padding” and change the number (in cms).

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As you can see, this has now created more space around the text, which may make it easier to read and look less cramp on the page.

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eBooks available on Drive, Forms, Sheets, Docs, Slides, and Sheet Functions:

Baz Roberts (Flipboard / Twitter / Google+)


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