Word gives table designers many more options than LibreOffice

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Tables have been part of word processors for decades. They are useful for breaking up a wall of text with a graphic element. They are good for taking data from a report or another document and making it easy to find.

They are also used for document design. You can make a complex layout for a page by creating a table. However, most word processors have other tools, such as text boxes, for laying out a page and document.

Two of the most robust word processors are Microsoft Word and LibreOffice Writer. Both allow for the creation of complex tables.

Example of a table in Word 2016 for Windows
This is an example of one of the dre-defined styles applied to a table in a Windows Word 2016 document.

They have pre-defined table styles that you can use to create appealing tables to integrate into your documents. You also can stylize your own table and add it to the list of pre-defined styles for your word processor.

Example of a table in LibreOffice
This is an example of one of the pre-defined styles applied to a table in a LibreOffice 6.

This article will look at how to insert a table and the predefined styles for both word processor. LibreOffice is the same from operating system to operating system. The version of Word that will be covered is 2016 for Windows.

It will examine the following:

  • How to insert a table in each one
  • Preset formats for tables

Word for Windows
Inserting and designing tables starts with the Insert ribbon. After you use the Table icon in it to insert a table. This action opens two table ribbons: Design and Layout.

Through these two ribbons you have numerous options to stylize a table.

Inserting

Inserting a table into Word 2016 document
This shows the grid to insert a table into a Word 2016 document.

Tables can be inserted into a document through the Insert ribbon. The Table icon in the ribbon has an arrow under it that reveals a grid with squares.

Highlight squares down to give you the desired number of rows and to the right to get the desired number of columns. You can insert a table with up to eight rows and 10 columns.

Insert Table dialog
If you need more, launch the Insert Table dialog. The menu that is revealed when you click the arrow below the Table icon, there is an Insert Table item.

The dialog allows you to set the number of columns and rows. The grid that opens when you click the Table icon only allows you to insert eight rows and 10 columns.

The dialog allows you to set many more. Technically it will allow you to have a table with 63 columns and more than 1,000 rows.

The next section has three choices:

  • Fixed column width: With this radio button, you can set the width of each column.
      • You can use the up and down arrow buttons to change the amount.
      • Or you can type in the measurement.
    NOTE: The Auto setting allows Word to set the column width. A table created with this setting will fill the space between the margins of a document. The columns will have equal spacing.
  • AutoFit to contents: This setting creates very thin columns that expand as you add content to them. There is default spacing from the edges of the characters or object to the left and right walls of the cell. All the cells in a column will be of equal width, even if some cells have less content than others.
  • AutoFit to window: This will make the table wide enough to fill the space between the margins of a document. The columns will be of equal width.

The Remember dimensions check box is for if you want future tables to have the same dimensions.

Design tab
Once the table has been inserted into the document and the table is selected, two additional ribbons will appear: Design and Layout. These are two ribbons for controlling the table’s appearance.

This article focuses on the Design tab because it has all the things discussed in this article.

  • Preset designs
  • Borders and shading
  • Heading rows

Preset designs
Word 2016 comes with more than 100 preset designs.

  • Click the design ribbon after selecting the table.
  • Choose one of the designs in the Table Styles section. You can scroll through the choices with the up and down arrow buttons. The down arrow with the line above it, reveals the full list of preset designs.

There are options to Modify Table Style and New Table Style. Both open a dialog that is the same but are called a different name.

Modify Style dialog in Word 2016

Modify Table Style will change the preset style that you select. The dialog is called Modify Style. New Table Style open the Create New Style from Formatting dialog.

Here are the dialogs’ settings

Name
This textbox will have the name of the current style if you are modifying a chosen style or “Style#” if you are creating a new style.

Simply click on the current text and type over it.

Style Type
This is set to Table and cannot be changed when you are modifying a table.

Style based on
This drop-down list lets you choose from one of the more than 100 table styles to base your new style on or to pick a style to modify.

Apply formatting to
This drop-down list contains the following choices:New style dialog in Word 2016

  • Whole table
  • Header row
  • Total row
  • First column
  • Last column
  • Odd banded row
  • Even banded row
  • Odd banded column
  • Even banded column
  • Top left cell
  • Top right cell
  • Bottom left cell
  • Bottom right cell

After choosing whether you want to edit the entire table or just one part of it, the next section contains items for stylizing text. It has the following settings:

Fonts
This drop-down menu gives you the choice of all the fonts Word makes available. Click the desired choice.

Font Size
This drop-down menu allows you to choose the size of the font you just selected. The numbers in the list range from 8 to 72.

It is also a text box, so if the size you want is not in the list, type it in the box. The font size can be set to a half point, so 6.5, 11.5, etc are sizes Word will recognize.

Stylizing font
The next three settings are Bold, Italic, and Underline. Click one or more of these to apply it to the text in the table or the section of it you are editing.

Font Color
The next drop-down arrow reveals a color palette that allows you to set the fonts color.

Borders
The next four drop-down menus deal with the borders of the table or section you are editing.

Border Style
The first drop-down menu is a list of different border styles, ranging from solid to various types of dashes.

Border Width
The drop-down menu has different widths, from ½ point to 6 points. You cannot type a different width; you need to select one of these.

Border Color
The drop-down arrow reveals a color palette that allows you to set the color of the border in the table or section of the table you are editing.

Border sides
The drop-down menu next to the square icon lets you choose what walls of the table or section of it you are editing the choices you made in the previous three drop-down menus will be applied to.

The choices are as follows:Borders in Word 2016 for Windows

  • All Borders
  • No Borders
  • Outside Borders
  • Inside Borders
  • Top Border
  • Bottom Border
  • Left Border
  • Right Border
  • Inside Horizontal Border
  • Inside Vertical Border
  • Diagonal Up Border
  • Diagonal Down Border

Border Color
The next drop-down menu allows you to set the color of the border of the table or section of the table you have chosen to edit.

Clicking the arrow below the icon reveals the color palette. Click on the desired color to set the border to that color. The More Colors item in the palette opens the Colors dialog, which allows you to be more specific with the color choice.

Alignment
This allows you to set how text is aligned in the cells of the table or section of the table you are editing. The drop-down menu reveals icons with different alignments.

  • Align Top Left
  • Align Top Center
  • Align Top Right
  • Align Center Left
  • Align Center
  • Align Center Right
  • Align Bottom Left
  • Align Bottom Center
  • Align Bottom Right

Format button
The button opens a list of links to dialogs. These have more settings for modifying and creating table styles.

  • Table Properties
  • Borders and Shading
  • Banding
  • Fonts
  • Paragraphs
  • Tabs
  • Text Effects

After you are done creating or modifying a format, choose whether you want the style to be available only to this documents or future ones as well. There are radio buttons for the two choices.

Click the OK button.

LibreOffice
In LibreOffice tables are created through the Table menu or the Insert Table icon in the Standard toolbar.

The toolbar icon is almost exactly like Word’s. Clicking the icon reveals a grid. Move the cursor to the right for the desired number of columns and down for the desired number of rows. You can insert a table with up to 10 columns and up to 15 rows.

If you need more rows or want more control over the table’s style that you are about to create, design the table with the Insert Table dialog.

  • Use the More Options button in the Insert Table icon.More Options button in Insert Table icon for LibreOffice
    1. Click the arrow for the Insert Table icon.
    2. Click the More Options button under the grid that appears.
  • Use the Insert Table item under the Table menu.
    1. Click the Table menu.
    2. Click the Insert Table icon

Both open the Insert Table dialog. The dialog allows you to do the following:

  • Give the table a name. This is good for when you want to use the Navigator to go to a certain table in your document.
  • Set the number of rows and columns. It allows you to insert more than 15 rows and 10 columns.
  • Add Heading rows to the table.
  • Choose whether or not the table will have the default border or not.

Insert Table dialog in LibreOffice

Name
This is a text field that already has a name in it. If this is the first table you are creating in the document, it will be named Table 1. If it is the second table in the document, it will be named Table 2, and so forth.

In long documents, with many pages, it is important to rename tables and other objects, so it is easier to find them when the document needs to be completed. The names will appear in the document navigator.

To rename the table you are about to create:

  1. Click the text box so the cursor is flashing in it, or double click the name in it, so it is highlighted.
  2. Type a desired name.

Columns and Rows
These are two text boxes with corresponding up and down arrow buttons. In the table icon in the Standard toolbar, you could create a table with up to 10 columns and 15 rows. These text boxes allow you to enter many more . You can technically create a table hundreds of rows and columns with these two text boxes.

To enter the desired number of columns and rows,

  1. Click the up or down arrow buttons for the Rows and Columns text boxes until the desired numbers are displayed.
    • Or click either text box so the cursor is flashing in it.
  2. Delete the number that is there.
  3. Type the desired number.
    • Or click the number in either text box so it is highlighted.
  4. Type the desired number.

Heading
This check box that is the first item in the Options simply allows you to add a heading row to your table. This will be in the default table heading style for LibreOffice. The font, background, and border can be changed, the default style also can be changed.

If the table is long enough to spill over onto subsequent pages, you can repeat the heading rows on each page, so you don’t need to scroll back to the top of the table to remember what columns different data is in.

Place a check in the box to make the headings repeat on subsequent pages.

The next text box allows you to establish how many rows with the heading style there will be. If you have set the above Rows text box to 1, you can have 1 Heading row. Otherwise you are only allowed up to one less heading rows than you have total rows. For example, if you have 4 in the Rows text box, Heading rows will only go up to 3.

To enter the desired number of Heading rows:

  1. Click the up or down arrow buttons for the Rows and Columns text boxes until the desired numbers are displayed.
    • Or click either text box so the cursor is flashing in it.
  2. Delete the number that is there
  3. Type the desired number.
    • Or click the number in either text box so it is highlighted.
  4. Type the desired number.

Don’t split table over pages
A check in this box prevents the table from having rows on subsequent pages if the following are true:

  • There are not too many rows. LibreOffice will not reduce the height of rows so the table is not squeezed onto one page.
  • If the table is near the end of a page and it is small enough to fit on one page. In this case, the entire table would be moved to the next page, if there is a check in this box.

Border
A check in this box means that the default border for the table will be visible. If it is left blank the table will appear with a light gray border in the Writer document.
However, the borders will not appear if the document is printed or exported as a PDF.

AutoFormat
Clicking the AutoFormat button in the dialog opens the AutoFormat dialog.

AutoFormat
AutoFormat dialog in LibreOfficeThe AutoFormat dialog allows you to apply a pre-defined format or take a table you have stylized and use that as a format for future tables.

The dialog allows you to:

  • Choose from a list of pre-defined formats.
  • Delete a format.
  • Rename a format.
  • Add a format

There are 18 formats to choose from. They are located in the left Format combo box.

  • None
  • Default Style
  • 3D
  • Blue
  • Brown
  • Lavender
  • Yellow
  • Gray
  • Green
  • Red
  • Black 1
  • Black 2
  • Turquoise
  • Currency
  • Currency 3D
  • Currency Lavender
  • Currency Gray
  • Currency Turquoise

Click the desired one from the list. A preview of the selection will appear in the middle of the dialog.

For these formats you can add and remove the different aspects of the format with the check boxes in the Formatting section:

  • Number format: A check in this box will use the formatted number, such as decimal points. Otherwise, the number format will be the default or the one that you set. Number formatting can be set by clicking the Table menu then clicking Number Format. This will open a Number Format dialog.
  • Font: A check in this box means that the table will use the formatted font. If it is deselected, the font that the document is currently set at will be used.
  • Alignment: A check in this box means that the table will use the formatted alignment. Otherwise, it will use the alignment setting at where the cursor is located.
  • Borders: A check in this box will use the border styles you see in the example. If it is unchecked, the default borders will be used. Even if you do not put a check in the Borders checkbox in the Insert Table dialog, the borders will still be applied.
  • Pattern: The pattern is the background colors and images, so a check in this box will include them. Otherwise, the background will be clear, showing the document color.

Delete
You can delete any format that came with the installation or anyone that you added.

  1. Click on the format that you want to delete.
  2. Click the Delete button. This opens a dialog warning you : “The following AutoFormat entry will be deleted.”
  3. Click the OK button. The format you selected will now be deleted.

Rename
Anyone of the formats in the list, either pre-formatted or added, can be renamed.

  1. Click the format that you want to change the name of.
  2. Click the Rename button at the right of the dialog. A ReName AutoFormat dialog appears.
  3. Type a new name in the text field.
  4. Click the OK button. The format will be in the list with its new name.

Add
Adding a format cannot be done without first setting up a table. The Add button in the dialog is grayed out if you have accessed the dialog through the Insert Table dialog.

Follow these steps to add a format to the list in the AutoFormat dialog:

  1. Create and design a table.
  2. Add the desired formatting.
  3. Click the Table menu
  4. Click the AutoFormat Styles item to open the AutoFormat dialog.
  5. Click the Add button. This opens a dialog where you give your table format a name.
  6. Type a desired name.
  7. Click the OK button.

Formatting a table
Regarding step 1 in the list above, you can use all of LibreOffice’s tools to format a table. The

Conclusion
Word 2016 for Windows has many more predefined styles to choose from than LibreOffice 6.0. It has styles with diagonal lines in cells, which LibreOffice doesn’t have.

It also allows you to modify one of the more than 100 styles. Modifying a style allows you to find a style you like and make modifications to it.

A modified style can be added to the list of pre-defined styles and used in the future.

LibreOffice only allows you to remove certain Formatting aspects of a table style to apply it to one table. You can rename any of the styles that come with the installation.

Word 2016, however, does not let you design a table first, then add it to the list of pre-defined table styles. You have to use the Create New Style from Formatting dialog to create a new style. This is a form that you fill out.

In LibreOffice, you design an actual table first, then you add it to the list of pre-defined formats. This may be seen as an advantage for the open-source word processor.

Someone can spend time designing a table that really works well in a document, and they decide they want to use the style in future documents. They can easily add it to the list.

Word forces you to fill out forms to modify or create a new style. This may not be the most intuitive way to create a style.

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