All About: All About Tables in PowerPoint: An In-Depth Tutorial

About this lesson

Learn all about PowerPoint Tables in this deep dive about everything concerning the table tool in PowerPoint for Mac and Windows users. Become a master by learning the multiple methods of inserting tables, entering data, managing the layout.

Solve sticky problems such as how to do math in a table, or adjust the width, including autofit tricks, bizarre results when pasting text into a table.


00:27 The Agenda
01:00 Why Use PowerPoint Tables
01:55 Why Not Use PowerPoint Tables
02:12 Creating Tables from the Placeholder
03:50 Adding New PowerPoint Table Rows
04:19 Ribbon Insert Method #1: Visual Chooser
05:12 Ribbon Insert Method #2: Insert Table Dialog Box
05:43 Ribbon Insert Method #3: Draw a Table
06:05 How to Find Draw Table Tool on a Mac
06:24 Ribbon Insert Method #1: Insert Excel Spreadsheet Object
06:46 PowerPoint Tables Cannot do Math – Use Excel Insert
07:12 Excel Table Bad News in PowerPoint – No Table Formatting Choices!
07:57 Navigating Inside the Table – Tricks, Tips, and Shortcuts
09:08 Adding Data into a Table
09:37 Strange Results from Data Paste into PowerPoint Table
11:48 Moving Data from Excel to PowerPoint Table
13:12 Editing the PowerPoint Table Layout: Insert and Delete
14:30 Trick: Insert Multiple Rows
15:04 Delete the Table
15:19 Tip Watch the Changing Cursor Shape
15:46 Overcoming Frustrating Table Width Adjustments in PowerPoint
16:48 Table Layout Menu for Insert, Delete, Merge Cells, Split Cells
17:25 PowerPoint Cell Alignment of Top, Bottom, Center, Left and RIght
17:47 Autofit Tables – What Works and Does Not – Distribute Evenly and Autofit Double Click
19:17 Change Text Cell Direction of Up, Down, Sideways, and More
19:56 PowerPoint Table Design Menu
20:55 Table Preset Styles
22:12 Tables are Text-Based and No Image Objects Allowed – A Fix
22:46 PowerPoint Table Issue: Cannot Do Formulas
23:06 Troubleshooting Extra Spacing in Broken PowerPoint Tables
24:54 PowerPoint Table Issue of No Content Autofit


Subject Microsoft PowerPoint

Software Compatibility All Versions - Mac and PC


Course Completed

PDF Files There are not any files associated with this lesson.



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PowerPoint tables can bring visual organization to your slide data. But it can be a frustrating tool to get everything properly aligned and formatted. Hi, I’m Les, I’m here to get you started to being a PowerPoint table expert, with our all about PowerPoint tables. Let’s power up and get going.

In the next half hour, we’re going to go deep into everything about PowerPoint tables, including the whys, the how’s the tricks to moving through the table, being able to put data in how to edit and format the table. And as always, I’ll provide my decades of experience to show you some specific issues and solutions with tables. If you’re looking for something specific, use the YouTube chapter tool by hovering your mouse over the video play bar on the bottom of the video to see the chapters. Before I take you into the mechanics of building tables, let’s make sure we understand how tables shine in presenting your data. Look at this bullet list for the store team schedule. All information is listed. But at first look, it’s just a bunch of words and hard to make any visual sense of the information, but drop it into a table. And instantly you can see the schedule and how we have two teams covering from Monday through Wednesday, with three teams for the rest of the weekdays, and then everyone works on Saturday, and no one on Sunday. Tables make certain types of data jump off the page when organized properly. Or it may be used to help to align and display objects like these foods with some organization of fruit versus vegetable. And the three rows of color. When tables might not work is like this slide. If we were presenting this to a group of people on our slideshow screen, then there is way too much data to digest. So we need to be careful of when we use and not use tables on our slide decks. So let’s get into creating tables. This will work on Windows and Apple Macs. And there are many different ways to drop a table into our slide, starting with the placeholder method. In a typical PowerPoint slide, there’s a placeholder waiting for data, you can use the very very faint looking action icon in the middle of the placeholder. Look for the table like icon in the first row on the far left and click. Then in the dialog window, you can enter the dimensions of your table in columns and rows. Go ahead and guess we can add and remove the columns and rows as we go forward. And our new table gets dropped somewhere on the page. to relocate it. Go to any edge of the boundary and look for a four way arrow cursor to show up. Once it’s there, click and drag to the new location. Now let’s put some text data into our table. I will click in the first cell. Although it could be any cell that we want to start with and just start typing. All the text will stay inside the cell and word wrapped inside if necessary when ready for the next column. Hit the keyboard tab key to advance, the tab key will keep you moving to the next cell to the right until you reach the last column and a tab key again will push you to the next row. And on the first column to continue on. Note the wrapping of the text here with the line was longer than the cell was wide. Each cell is like a mini text box. Here’s a new concept. Adding new rows. We originally built the table with three rows, but when you get to the very last cell and hit the Tab key, voila, a new row is added. And this will continue once we reach the last cell and we hit another keyboard TAB key. New Tab key, new row. So using the placeholder icon insert is the first method to add a table. But let’s look at the other ways all using the Ribbon Menu and we’ll see these techniques. All start with the insert Ribbon Menu, and then clicking the table action icon down arrow to see the table insert choices. We will explore all of these but let’s start with the visual layout chooser. drag your mouse down and to the right to select the number of rows and columns. And when you click, it will drop that type of table onto your slide. Here’s our two by two table. And I will quickly add in some text to make it clear of what we just created with the visual insert table choice. And like before, if I hit the Tab key at the last column and the last row, PowerPoint will add in a new row. And, we will have to learn about how to add columns later on. Finally, I’m going to click on the edge boundary of the table and hit my delete key for us to start all over again. Let’s look at method two from the insert ribbon menu, which is the simple insert table. This is the same simple dialog box that we saw with our first example by clicking the icon in the placeholder. This simple dialog box will tell PowerPoint the number of columns and rows in our requirements. Click OK. And there we have the matching table. I’m going to now delete this table so that we can see the next insert Ribbon Menu choice. The third menu technique is the draw table choice shown here on Windows. This is where you can visually transform your ideas into a table using a virtual pen with your mouse or touchpad. At first, this does look like just a Windows only choice because the menu is not listed for Mac users. But there is a trick to get this capability on the Mac. But because this is such a much more involved tool, we have a dedicated video on drawing tables. Look above for the link for the full tutorial on drawing tables in PowerPoint, including how to turn this feature on for the Mac. The fourth method of inserting a table from the insert Ribbon Menu is Excel spreadsheet. Once again, Mac users your menu choice is different. As you need to select Insert on the Ribbon Menu and object and then Microsoft Excel worksheet. There’s good news and bad news with the Excel table. First off, PowerPoint cannot do arithmetic by itself, there is no way to put in auto updating formulas in a regular PowerPoint table. It is just a set of static text and numbers in individual cells. The good news is that you can put in a spreadsheet, and it can do all the updated math for you. And now the bad news again, you lose all the fancy table formatting of PowerPoint, much of which I’m going to show in the rest of this tutorial. The formatting choices you have are just the Excel formatting choices, which is not as visual as the PowerPoint choices. Still it is as you can see with the changing green menu at the top, it is really excel in a baby spreadsheet living inside your PowerPoint presentation. To change the dimensions and the rows, you just stretch the windows boundary. In my opinion, I don’t use this features for creating tables, as I lose too much control on the visual look. Instead, I just make sure that I update the table manually, and always double checking my math.

On to navigating inside the table. There’s lots of different ways to get around inside of a table. Remember that each box is a cell that is self contained, meaning that text will word wrap inside the boundaries of the cell, you can click anywhere inside the table and add it with your keyboards backspace or delete keys. Or once inside the table, the arrow keys will let you move inside the cell. And when you reach the edge, the right or the left arrow key will have you jumped to the next box for you to edit inside of that cell. Another technique is the tab key to jump from cell to sell, or using the Shift Tab to move back a whole cell at a time. And lastly, for large tables, the helpful keyboard shortcut of Ctrl plus the home key will have you jump to the top left cell of the table and the control plus END key will take you to the bottom right corner cell. Also remember that when you’re on the last cell, a new tab key will create a new empty row.

Putting data into the table. Dropping data into an empty table or editing an existing table is pretty straightforward. Select the spot to add or edit the data and type. Here I’m using the tab key to get to the count column. And I’m going to make an update. And to create a new line I just moved to the bottom right cell and hit the Tab key to create a new row and then I just type tab type and continue on. Now let’s look at the copy and paste command because it does get a little bit strange. I’m going to get set up so I’m going to cut out a small portion of the table. Note that the structure of the table stays in place when I cut but the data does get copied out and when I paste it the data and the table format follows along. We put it into a new spot to work with them. So far first example, I’m going to highlight two cells to copy. But I’m going to place my cursor in just one cell, and then paste. And, as expected the paste fields to cells side by side. Good, let me go ahead and undo this and try again. Now I’m going to select four cells and copy, I’m going to click in one open space for the four cells, and then paste. And again, all is good. So let’s undo that and try again. So let’s do this. Again, I’m using the same exercise, but with different results. This time around, I’m going to highlight the for cells like I did before, but when I go to paste, I’m going to highlight just two cells and paste them in. And what we get is the unexpected is just the first row of data. Let me try again, I’m going to repeat the experiment. Instead of highlighting just two cells, but the four cells copied, I’m going to come over and highlight six cells, and they get even stranger results. When I paste in these four cells, all the cells get filled, but just that the last row gets repeated data from the first row. For our last variation, I will select all four rows and two columns, and then go to the top corner, where I have a space for four by two layout, pasting in at the top corner. In this case, it safely paste everything into in as expected, although it would have overwritten data if we had not counted correctly, and with no warning. So the lesson is to be careful with copy and paste of data into a table. Check your work before and after. Up to this point, I’ve been demonstrating the copying from an existing PowerPoint table to a PowerPoint table. But more than likely, you’ll be getting your data from a different program, such as Excel. Earlier, we saw the embedding of a spreadsheet in the PowerPoint. But now let’s copy data from Excel. Here I have a table comparing water temperatures at different depths, I will highlight just that table, copy the Excel numbers and the format. And when I jump back to PowerPoint, if I do a simple paste, I get the raw data unformatted dropped into a new table. But look if I hover my mouse over the different paste options, I can paste not just the raw data inheriting the formatting of the slide, which is the first default choice. Watch as I preview the changes as I hover my mouse over the five different pace choices. Look at the other PASTE SPECIAL options. The second choice is keep source formatting from the Excel spreadsheet. The third choice of dropping in an embedded spreadsheet, which is what we did at the start of the tutorial, or the fourth choice of dropping in the data as a picture. And the last is just drop it in plain text. See our extended tutorial on all about the clipboard of copy, cut and paste listed above.

Moving on to editing the layout of the table, not the data contents. First off, here’s how to select one or more rows, move to just outside the desired row and look for the larger horizontal arrow to appear. Then click or click and drag just like multiple rows. Same for selecting columns, but look for the black vertical arrow on top of the table to select the Insert rows and columns. You do not have to have the whole row or column selected, every action will be relative to the selected cell. While there are menu driven choices, the easiest method is to right mouse click the cell that you want to impact and look for insert. There’s a drop down menu that will give you the choice to insert columns right or left of the selected cell or rows above and below. Note the Mac version has a different menu layout, but you will find all the same commands for the insert and delete columns and rows. And as you see, delete has fewer choices. As you are deleting the highlighted row or column, not the ones above below or to the right or the left. However, there is the additional choice to delete the complete table. Here’s a bonus time saver inserting more than one row. By default. If you have a single cell or row selected, then the insert command will just add in a single row. But if you select multiple rows, in our case three rows. When you issue the command PowerPoint will insert the same number of empty rows highlighted. The same will be true for both columns and rows and as hinted at a moment Gotta go. If you right click and select Delete, you can elect to delete the whole table, not just the data. When editing the table, pay close attention to the on screen mouse icon, as it will change from the regular pointer to the row and column black arrows, which we saw earlier for selecting, and I want you to focus on now the double arrow head pointer. Once the double head arrow pointer is displayed, a click and drag will let you visually increase or decrease the row height or column width. Let’s focus on the frustration of the column adjustments. The border change between two columns will increase one side and decrease by the corresponding amount on the other side. So while one column gets wider, the other will shrink, which can be cumbersome. Let me undo my changes here. And now watch as I add space to all the columns by stretching the outside boundary of the table, which may help and give us that needed extra space to go ahead and fine tune by hand the columns one by one by one.

I will provide some better solutions in a moment. But first we must meet the table menus on the Ribbon Menu to table menus of table design and layout will only appear when a table is selected. Click outside the menus disappear, click anywhere in the table and they pop up again. Let’s start with the Layout menu, as it has many or our now familiar tools for deleting and inserting both columns and rows. This menu matches what you find on the Mac. But we also see the additional command of merging, but only if we have more than one cell selected. And when clicked, the multiple cells get joined together as a single cell. A great way to put labels over related columns. You do have precise control over individual cells, or groups of columns and rows with a specified height and width sizes that can be ratcheted up and down, or you can put in a precise number. For alignment. inside the cell you have six controls, left, centered, and right. And then top, middle and bottom center the middle is a great choice to center the text exactly inside the middle of the cell. Now back to the troubling column fit. Excel and Word each have some excellent autofit tools, but not PowerPoint. Still, we have some choices. If we examine this table we do see that the various columns have different column widths as it is currently laid out. But if I select the whole table, we do have the actual command of distributed columns, which looks inviting, and in the end, it does exactly what it claims to do. This command will look at the whole table width and distribute the columns evenly. Spreading out the columns in equal sizes. It does not pay attention to the cell contents, but goes for the mathematically exacting even width columns, which might work for your set of data. In our example table it is visually laid out consistently. But to my eyes. There are columns like payment numbers that seemed too wide for my taste. So you could use the technique of equal distribution to get started and then go back by hand to customize. But Whoa, here’s a slick trick. Double click that PowerPoint autofit the contents, but just that one column to the left. Double click and PowerPoint tries to fit as best as it can. Unfortunately, it’s just one column at a time, but it’s better than nothing. And another layout choice is the text direction where you can change the orientation of the cell to text. In our first column payment numbers takes up too much width. So let’s flip it on its side to make the column more narrow. Pay close attention to the orientation as it impacts the width of space needed to display the text. Once I find that the upward text looks good, I’m then going to go back and make it centered both right and left plus centered up and down.

The second table context aware menu is table design. With the table selected, you can click on table Designed to add formatting and effect, what are the two table menus are missing until you click the table. So let’s explore the choices for table design as compared to table layout. First off, if we stick with some of the pre designed layouts, we find that we can customize look based on the table contents. If the first column is a label and unique compared to what follows to the right, turn on the first column, checkmark the highlight. With it off, it takes on the same look at the cells to the right. And the same applies to the first row. With a click on your mouse, you can make it stand out or blend into the same look for the rows below. And equally true for the bottom row, which PowerPoint calls total row. Then you can preview how the table looks with some of the pre done Stiles. A subset of a bigger set of choices is displayed in the Ribbon Menu, but click the down arrow to expand your choices. Hover your mouse over the thumbnail layout, and you see the results on the screen. Note that the Mac version does not provide a preview, but is not that hard to click and try on the look. Lastly, you can go back and try on the appearance of both the banded rows and banded columns. To see if that looks enhances your display of your data or takes away from the overall look. You will find that jumping between the visual table Design Menu and the cell controller the table Layout menu will be needed to get just that right look. See our food chart how I use the Layout menu to center the label of food coloring over the two columns with the merge cells command and stain in the Layout menu to center both left and right, the merge cells. Next, selecting both the fruit and vegetable heading in the two separate cells, I’m going to use the same center command to impact in both cells. However, this will not work on the pictures. Because tables are only text based. They do not hold images. This example has the photos just floating above the table. So I need to visually align the image objects inside each cell by clicking and dragging. This technique is not elegant in PowerPoint. But if you spend the time, your audience will never know. It is wonderful that tables provide visual structure that PowerPoint tables also do have some issues. First off, as stated earlier, there is no way to do math in PowerPoint. So check your work, or use the earlier trick of inserting an Excel spreadsheet. Next is the annoyance of extra rows. Seeing our broken table, I have extra spaces under the rows of Team A and Team B. There’s some invisible characters that’s messing us up. And unlike word where you can display hidden characters in PowerPoint, you just have to hunt them down. In the Team A row clicking and tabbing through each cell does not give me any ideas of where the hidden character might be. If I try to make the row heights smaller, PowerPoint refuses because there is some offending space characters in one of the cell. So I have to find it. Let’s see this simpler example on Team B. On Saturdays row, we see is not aligned. And if I click in that row, I find that there’s an extra hidden character in front of the “X”. Watch as I use my right arrow key on the keyboard to show the extra spaces and characters and maybe end of line return character. So getting just in front of the “X”, I can hit my keyboard Backspace to remove any additional characters that is forcing the “X” to drop down a row and want to leave it out with the backspace key. The line is now uniform to just one row. So back to the Team A row. The best way to find the problem is to start on one end and use your keyboard arrow to slowly work through the row until you find the invisible character. In this case, it’s right after the “X” in the Wednesday column and a single keyboard delete key. We’ll make that row now uniform.

My last quibble is that there is no content autofit tool like in Word and Excel But with some custom handwork, you can make it fit. So it’s not the end of the world for an overall amazing data organization tool, a PowerPoint table. At this point, you have all the core skills needed to build tables in your slide deck. But if you want more than look for our advanced tables class, where we dig deeper into layouts and formats, plus some super tricks with live data from Excel, and some other techniques, including table animation, which is not built into PowerPoint, but we fix that. If you want more in-depth PowerPoint training classes for free, then do subscribe to our YouTube channel. Plus to like and share this tutorial with your friends and co-workers. Look for part two of this tutorial, or visit us at our free PowerPoint training school at Until next time, go Power Up