Simple steps to convert a list into a formatted Word table

Takeaway: Lists are great, but sometimes, a table is better. Learn how to quickly convert a list in Word into a formatted table.

If you have a list in Word, you can quickly convert that list to a table. Generally, you’ll do so to change the way the list appears or to apply functionality that’s more easily implemented and managed in a table. Now, let’s see how easy it is to convert a list:

  1. First, select the list. (Click the Move handle, the small four-arrow pointer at the top-left corner.)
  2. Click the Insert tab.
  3. Click the Table option in the Tables group.
  4. Choose Convert Text To Table from the dropdown list. (In Word 2003, choose Convert from the Table menu and then select Text To Table.)
  5. Word does a good job of assuming the table setup based on the list’s composition. In this case, Word wants to create two columns, based on the tab characters that separate the two columns. This is correct, so click OK without changing any settings. That won’t always be the case, so be sure to check the settings carefully.

Most likely, the table won’t be perfect. In this case, you’ll probably want to reduce the width of the first column and then add some formatting. With Live Preview (in the ribbon versions), you can quickly format the table by selecting the table and clicking the contextual Design tab and hovering over the many styles in the gallery (in the Table Styles group). To see more styles, click the Table Styles dialog launcher (the arrow in the group’s bottom-right corner) to display the entire gallery. Choose any format. In Word 2003, choose Table AutoFormat from the Table menu to find predefined formats.

In this case, the format adds bold to the top row, assuming it’s a row of headings, so remove the bold from the second column in the first row. To move the entire table, click the Move handle and drag and drop the whole table.

With just a little work, you can totally change the visual appeal of your document. This is a great time-saver for users with little time and/or skill. Frankly, even your power users will appreciate this tip-just because they know a lot about Word, doesn’t mean they want to work harder than they have to!

To remove the table, select it and click Convert To Text in the Data group on the contextual Layout tab. Word will remove the table and its format, leaving the text in its original list form. If you want the list flush with the left margin, be sure to move the table before converting it back to text. In Word 2003, select the list and choose Convert from the Table menu. Then, select Table To Text.

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Susan Harkins

About Susan Harkins

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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