Table Tool Enhancements in Word 2013

This blog focuses on a couple of enhancements added to Microsoft Word 2013 to make it easier to work with Tables: the new Insert Row/Column controls and the new Border Painter and Border Sampler tools.

All versions of Word have given users the ability to arrange text into a Table format – an ideal way to present information in the form of a list with defined Rows, Columns and Cells. However, making structural changes to a Table, like adding additional Rows and Columns to an existing Table, has always meant making sure that your cursor was in the proper Row or Column and then taking a trip with your mouse to the top of the screen to use the various Insert Row and Column tools provided on the Table Tools Layout tab as pictured below:

Now, these tools were not difficult to use, but they were out of the way when you were working in a Table and you had to keep moving your mouse to the top of the screen. Also, if you were not aware of what Row or Column your cursor was in at the time you used one of the buttons, you’d end up with the new Row or Column in the wrong position in your Table.

Now, with the new Row/Column insertion controls, all you have to do is hover your mouse pointer on the edge of the Table (on the left side of the Table if inserting Rows, or at the top of the Table if inserting Columns) and wait for the Insertion Control to appear. The Insertion Control will appear as a small circle with a plus sign (+). All you have to do is click the plus sign symbol, and your new Row or Column is added to your Table as pictured below:

This makes it faster and more intuitive to add the new Rows and Columns you need without having to move your mouse out of the Table and up to the Ribbons.

The other Table tools that have been enhanced are the tools that let you enhance the thickness, color or style of borders in your Tables. In past versions of Word, you’d first have to select the Rows, Columns or Cells whose borders you wished to enhance and then use the drop down menu from the Borders button and make the correct choice of which Border (top, bottom, outside, inside, etc.) you wished to enhance. This menu was easy to misinterpret and you’d end up with an incorrect border choice that you’d have to undo and try again:

Or, you could have used this menu to open the Borders & Shading dialog box, which was also a non-intuitive and time consuming box to work with:

So, to make this process easier, Microsoft Word 2013 now contains two new tools for enhancing Table Borders: the Border Painter and the Border Sampler. The Border Painter allows you to set the style, color and thickness of the border you want and then simply use your mouse like a pencil to apply the borders by drawing them only on the border segments you wish to enhance. The Border Sampler allows you to click on an existing border segment and then copy an existing border style to use wherever you wish.

First, the Border Painter. In order to use this tool, you must first be in an existing Table so the Table tools contextual tabs are present. Then on the Table Tools Design tab, select the style, color and weight (thickness) of your desired Border Style. This automatically turns on the Border Painter as pictured below:

Your mouse pointer will now look like a pen, and you simply drag your mouse over the borders you wish to enhance and they will acquire the border style you want as pictured below:

Finally, what if you’ve already created a unique Border Style, but then need to re-create it elsewhere in your Table? Enter the Border Sampler Tool, which allows you to copy an existing Border Style and use it again. All you need to do is click the drop down arrow on the Border Styles button as pictured below:

You will then see a palette of existing Border Styles as well as Recently Used Custom Border Styles. All you need to do is select the Border Style you wish to reproduce. Your mouse pointer will then look like a pen, and you can copy the selected Border Style over any additional Border segments you wish to enhance.

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