Ten frequently asked questions about table formatting in WordPerfect

by Laura Acklen

The Table feature in WordPerfect® is enormously popular and is accessed by nearly all users, regardless of their industry or level of expertise. Its ease of use, flexible formatting, and built-in spreadsheet functions make it the perfect tool for organizing information.

This frequently asked questions (FAQ) tutorial is the first in a two-part series that focuses on the Table feature. Part 1 covers common problems related to table formatting; Part 2 will tackle common questions regarding table math. In addition, you can refer to two tutorials from previous issues of the WordPerfect Expert newsletter that cover creating forms with tables and creating formulas in tables.

Q: How can I make the heading rows of my table appear on every page?
A: If you label your column headings as "header rows," they will appear at the top of every page. You can use more than one row of column headings, but only for consecutive rows. For example, you can set rows 1 through 3 as header rows, but not rows 1 and 3. To set up header rows, select the row or rows, and choose Table > Format. Click the Row tab, and then enable the Header Row check box (see Figure 1).

Tip: It's nice to know a few shortcuts for opening the Properties for Table Format dialog box. In addition to choosing Table > Format from the menu bar, you can press Ctrl + F12, or you can right-click in the table and choose Format.

Figure 1
The Row page of the Properties for Table Format dialog box contains an option for setting header rows in a table.

Q: How can I get my numbers to line up by their decimal points?
A: Select the column (but not the column heading), or select the cells containing data that you want to align on the decimal points. Choose Table > Format. Click the Cell tab, open the Align cell contents drop-down list, and then choose Decimal Align (see Figure 2).

Tip: If you want to change the formatting for more than one cell, select the cells first, and then make your changes in the Properties for Table Format dialog box — the changes will apply to all of the selected cells.

Figure 2
Choose Decimal Align from the drop-down list in the Align cell contents section of the Cell page.

Q: Why are some cells aligned properly, and others are not?
A: Tables have different levels of formatting: cell, column/row, and table. Cell formatting is at the top of the hierarchy, so it overrides the other formatting levels. Column/row formatting is next, and table formatting is last.

For example, if you have set formatting on the Table page and later make changes on the Column or Row pages, the changes override the settings made on the Table page. By the same token, changes made to a cell or group of cells override settings made on the Column, Row or Table pages.

The quickest way to correct inconsistencies is to select the cell or cells, choose Table > Format, and make your changes on the Cell page.

Q: Why did a row move down to the next page?
A: Table rows adjust so that they are always as tall as the tallest cell in the row. If one cell in a row has enough text to wrap down to the next page, the entire row moves down. This can leave a big space at the bottom of the page. What can you do about it?

Well, first make sure that you don't have extra hard returns (check every cell in the row). It's easy to press Enter when you are finished typing in a cell and want to go to the next cell. Not only does pressing Enter not take you to the next cell, it adds space to your table. Instead, move to the next cell by pressing an arrow key or Tab; move to the previous cell by pressing Shift + Tab.

If taking out extra hard returns doesn't solve the problem, you can split the row into two rows and then manually cut and paste some of the text into the new row. To do this, select the row, and choose Table > Split > QuickSplit Row. Now, decide where you want the text to break, and move the remaining content down to the new row.

Q: Why does text disappear when I'm typing in a table?
A: For one reason or another, you're out of space. But don't worry, your text isn't gone — WordPerfect stores the text and codes it as Hidden Text. When more space becomes available, the text is no longer coded as Hidden Text, and it moves into the table where you can see it. The following situations are the most common causes of disappearing text:

Too much text in a cell. If the text in a cell fills up a page, any additional text is stored as Hidden Text. To find possible solutions, jump ahead to the last question in this tutorial ("How can I reduce the amount of spacing in and around my table?"), or review the answer to the previous question ("Why did a row move down to the next page?").

A fixed row height. By default, row height in a table is set to Auto. This option allows WordPerfect to set the row height automatically, depending on the content of the row cells. If you know how long the entry will be, you can set a fixed row height. To do this, choose Table > Format, click the Row tab, and choose Fixed (in the Row height section). Then, type the height in inches. Fixed row heights are used frequently in form documents, such as invoices, inventory lists, and applications.

Unusually large cell margins. Check the Row and Column margins (choose Table > Format, and click the Row or Column tab). The default setting for row margins is .083 on the top and .040 on the bottom; the default setting for column margins is .083 on the left and .083 on the right. Your settings should be set to the defaults or smaller to maximize the amount of space in the cells.

Q: Is there a way to prevent unauthorized or accidental changes to certain cells in a table?
A: Sure thing! You can lock the cells that you don't want modified. Simply click in the cell (or select a group of cells), and then choose Table > Format. On the Cell page, enable the Lock cell to prevent changes check box, and choose OK.

Caution: Do not lock all of the cells in a table because you won't be able to unlock them. In order to access the Properties for Table Format dialog box, you need to have at least one unlocked cell that you can click. From the Cell page of the dialog box, you can disable the Lock cell to prevent changes check box.

Q: Can I rotate the text in my column headings?
A: Yes! Click in the cell that you want to rotate, and choose Table > Format. On the Cell page, make a selection from the Rotate drop-down list. The sample cell in the dialog box shows you how the heading will look when it's rotated (see Figure 3).

You can rotate text only in 90-degree increments. If you need a more precise rotation, consider creating the heading in Presentations™. You can insert the heading as a graphic above your table or in the top row, with all of the cells joined together into one big cell (select the row, and choose Table > Join > QuickJoin).

Figure 3
The sample cell in the Properties for Table Format dialog box dynamically reflects the selections you make, so you can preview the results.

Q: Can I place text next to a table?
A: Absolutely. There are at least three ways to do this: (1) Create a large cell by joining cells in a column and removing the lines; (2) place the table in one column and the text in another column; or (3) place the table in a graphic box, and let the text wrap around the table. The following considerations can help you decide which method to use.

Although you can easily create a large cell on the left or right side of a table, doing so does not cause the text to flow around the table. The first line of the text lines up with the first row of the table, and any text that extends beyond the last row of the table wraps within the cell margins.

You can place tables in columns. Here again, the text wraps within the column margins. If you don't need the text to wrap around the table, you can just create a large cell and use columns.

The most flexible option, however, is to place the table in a graphic box so that the text can wrap around the box. The disadvantage of this method is that you have to edit the graphic before you can change any of the information in the table. (To edit the graphic, double-click the box.)

Q: How can I create a table that automatically increases in size as information is inserted during a merge?
A: Just add the REPEATROW merge command to the rightmost cell in the table row that contains the field codes for the merge. Here is an example:

Name Address Contribution YTD Contribution
FIELD(Name) FIELD(Address) FIELD(Contrib) FIELD(YTD)

Q: How can I reduce the amount of spacing in and around my table:
A: First, get rid of those extra hard returns (HRt)! They can cause the table rows to be wider than they need to be. Turn on Reveal Codes (Alt + F3), and delete any hard returns that you find. A row is always as tall as the tallest cell, so you need to check every cell in the row.

Second, consider changing the orientation of the table. If you have many columns, you might want to change to landscape orientation by changing the paper size to 11 × 8½ inches. Landscape orientation gives you more room for columns, but less room for rows. The default, portrait orientation, allows more rows on a page, but fewer columns.

Third, try reducing the top and bottom margins of the document. You might be able to get those stray lines on page 2 to move up to page 1.

Fourth, resize the columns so that the descriptive columns are larger. The text won't wrap as much, and the row will be smaller. Numeric columns can be sized so they are just large enough for the entries. The quickest way to resize a column is to position the mouse over the vertical line between the columns. When the sizing pointer appears, click and drag the mouse.

Fifth, try switching to a smaller font. Keep in mind that for small type sizes, sans serif fonts (for example, Arial and Lucida Sans) are easier to read.

Finally, adjust the row and column margins. Row margins control the space between the text and the top and bottom (horizontal) lines of a cell. Column margins control the space between the text and the right and left (vertical) lines of a cell. To adjust row margins, choose Table > Format, click the Row tab, and set the controls in the Row margins section. To adjust column margins, choose Table > Format, click the Column tab, and set the controls in the Inside margins in column section. When setting the row margins, you can use a smaller bottom margin, because the font has "leading," which is the built-in space at the bottom of a character. If you remove the horizontal lines in the table, you can set the row margins to zero.

Note: Be sure you check out two previous tutorials in WordPerfect Expert: creating forms with tables and creating formulas in tables.