Convert Text to and from Tables in Microsoft Word

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Convert Text to Table

If you have to create lists in Word and line up the text in separate columns, you have probably had a few frustrating moments! This is actually an easy fix if you have used the TAB key and only pressed it once between each piece of information. Where we usually run into trouble is when the space bar is used to create the needed space and/or the TAB key pressed more than once.

Let’s say I’m doing a simple list with names and department. I am hitting the TAB key once between each column which will look odd and not seem like the way to go but it is what works. ENTER is pressed at the end of each line. (Show/Hide is turned on to show the formatting marks for TAB and ENTER):

This looks like a dog’s breakfast but not for long. Make sure the text that is to be converted into the table contains only a single tab character between each column. (It could also be a comma for the separator).

Here’s how to have a neat, organized list in no time.

  1. Select the text you want converted into a table. (Avoid paragraph markers above and
    below the text).
  2. Display the Insert tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the Table tool and then click Convert Text to Table. Word displays the Convert
    Text to Table dialog box.
  4. Make sure all the table settings in the dialog box are correct. (In this case, the Number of columns should be 3 and the Separate text at should be Tabs. (Word will automatically do this but always wise to check).
  5. Click OK to display a table.

Not only is this neat, you now have all the advantages of table formatting. When you click in the table, two new tabs will display at the end of the Ribbon under Table
Tools. The Design and Layout tabs give quick, professional looking formatting options. Most of them display a live preview when you mouse-over each selection. Can’t get much faster than that!

Remove Borders

Prefer to just have the text displayed as columns?  Remove the cell borders:

  1. Click in the table. Design and Layout tabs will display at the end of the Ribbon.
  2. From the Layout tab | Table group; click drop down arrow on Select and choose Select All (can also click the + symbol at upper left of table if it displays when you click in the table).
  3. Click the Design tab | Borders group and the drop down on the Borders icon. Choose No Border.

There you go, nice neat columns! (This is still a table, just without borders displayed).

Convert a Table to Text

No sooner do you get this accomplished when you find you have tables that need to be converted to text. You can convert the entire table or just specific rows:

  • Select the rows or table you want to convert to text.
  • On the Layout tab | Data group (at end of Ribbon), click Convert to Text.

  • The Convert to Text box displays. Under Separate text with, click the separator character you want to replace table cells (in this case, TAB) .

  • Click OK.

Here’s the results:

Note that the column spacing is based on your original table but can be adjusted by changing the tab stops. (These display on the ruler when the text is selected and can be just dragged to desired width).

This feature is a great trick also for a paste from Excel (and other programs), as the paste can sometimes produce strange results!

How would you use these features in your Word formatting?

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