Guide: LibreOffice Writer Part 4: Tables

In this fourth part of our LibreOffice guide, we explore the surprisingly in-depth world of tables. It’s a great way to sort information and it’s available in Writer.

In the previous guide, we discussed paragraphs, line spacing, and columns. So, at this point, we are beginning to have a pretty good grasp at the basics. So, let’s cover something with a bit more meat: tables.

One can easily spend paragraphs describing a large complex chunk of information, but sometimes, a table is much better at describing and organizing this information. Writer offers so many options for tables, you could cram whole spreadsheets into it. While Calc can be a better program to create and house this kind of information, Writer offers an ability to create tables as well.

Step 1: Create a Table

First, we want to figure out where in the document we want to insert our table.

Around where I highlighted looks pretty good. Now, to insert the table.

First, we want to click on “Table”. In the drop down menu, we are after the first option: “Insert Table…”

Note: You can also insert a table with “CTRL+F12” if you like speed keys.

In the pop-up screen, you’ll have a small variety of options for your table. The most important at this point is the rows and columns options. Some may confuse what rows and columns are, so a simple way I’ve been able to remember it is that columns are like pillars in buildings (think of Greek architecture for instance). Therefore, columns are the ones that go up and down. The act of rowing, meanwhile, propels a boat forward. So, that is the one that goes left and right.

So, think of the Greek Acropolis with its columns sitting on a shore as a person rowing a boat on a nearby river goes by. In my position, I can never go wrong with confusing rows and columns even if I remember only part of that picture.

So, think of how many rows and columns you’ll need and select those numbers either with the arrows or just typing the numbers in.

You’ll note that I’ve also highlighted “Styles” in the screenshot. This is optional, but all they do is offer different ways to make the table look more pretty. You can either pick a default starting theme or just stick to default. For our purposes, I’ll stick with the plain boring default style for now because it’s actually possible to edit the table in more detail later on.

Now, click on the “Insert” button.

If you chose the settings I chose in the previous screen shot, you’ll end up with a table that looks like this above. Now, you can click on individual cells and start adding text!

Step 2: Editing Your Table

So, I’ve decided to enter some information into the table. Using basic text formatting we’ve learned earlier, I’ve boldfaced some of the information to make it look a little better. There are better options available beyond this, but what we have will do for now.

Now, if you have any part of the table selected, you’ll notice a table menu appear at the bottom of the screen (as highlighted in the screen show). This context sensitive bar is used to make a host of different adjustments to your table. The first set of buttons are used to add rows and columns to our table. Let’s say I want to add a column. First, we need to select a cell in the table near the column we want to add:

Note that I’ve selected a cell on the right hand column. The row really doesn’t matter because we are adding a column. Next, I’m going to click on the Add Columns Right button (also highlighted in the screenshot). This will add a column to the right of the cell I have selected.

Now, you’ll see the results. An added column has been made right where I want it. Now I am free to add information that I want in it. The same idea applies to rows. First, I’ll just select the row near where I want the row to be added…

… then I want to click on, in this instance, the new row below button to create a row.

Perfect! I’ve also taken the liberty to fill in some information while I was at it.

Step 3: Adding Formula’s

So, you might think that, with that last screen shot, all I have to do is manually add all the numbers to get the total’s. You can manually add it yourself. Alternatively, you can let Writer make the calculations for you which can make things a whole lot easier. First, click on the cell you want the total to be inserted in to.

Next, click on the Sum button I’ve highlighted on the bottom tool bar.

From there, click and drag your mouse over the cells you want to add up. In this case, it’s the three cells above the total cell. You’ll see the formula appear not only in the cell you selected for your sum total, but also in a new bar just above the document. If you are happy with the selection, just hit the enter button on your keyboard.

The total should now appear in the cell you selected for the Sum! No real thinking about math on your part, you just let the software do the calculation for you!

Note: You’ll notice the “Fx” button next to the Sum button. You can click on any cell you wish, then click on that button. From there, using that bar that pops up just above the document, you can add any formula you want. Since this is about the basics, we’ll leave learning this part up to you if you wish to pursue this further.

Step 4 – Deleting Rows and Columns and Optimizing Dimensions

Now, let’s say you are unhappy with a row or column. Deleting rows and columns is actually easier then adding rows and columns on the fly. Let’s say you want to delete the far right hand column. You can either select a cell within that column or hover your mouse just above that row until you see a down arrow. If you click, you’ll select the whole column. Regardless, you’ll get the same result in a moment.

Next, click on the delete column button (as highlighted).

You’ll notice that the net result is that the column is deleted, but this leaves an empty space behind. The immediate reaction might be that you broke the table and you need to start over. Not so. There is a simple solution. Simple hover your mouse just outside of the top left hand corner of the table. When it changes to a diagonal arrow, click to highlight the whole table.

Next, click on the optimize size button (highlighted). In the drop down menu, click on the “Distribute Columns Evenly Button”

The result is that the table is just like before. Four columns evenly distributed.

Next, we can do the same with deleting a row. Select a cell in the row you want to delete or select the row by hovering your mouse next to the table on the row you want to highlight until it changes into a right arrow. Then, click to highlight the row.

Next, click on the delete row button (as highlighted in the screenshot). The good news is that, in this example, the row is deleted and you don’t have to reset the size of the remaining rows. However, should you need to evenly distribute the rows, highlight the whole table, click on the Optimize Size button, then click on Distribute Rows Evenly button (to the right of the distribute rows evenly button).

Step 5: Making Your Table Pretty

Now, if you are still wondering how to make your table look pretty after seeing those presets earlier on, yes, we finally got to that part of the tutorial. First, let’s mess with some borders. For example, we can highlight a whole row…

Then, you can click on the borders button. Next, when we want to select which border style we want our selection to have, we actually have to hold down shift on our keyboard before we click. Otherwise, chances are, the changes won’t take. In the highlighted selection, I am deleting the left and right borders while keeping the top and bottom ones. I can really highlight all the “Day” rows or do this one at a time.

Next, I feel like adding a background colour to some of these cells. So, first, I’ll highlight the row, column, or cell I want to change. In this case, I’m going to highlight the top row.

Next, I’m going to click on the paint can or “Background Color” button.

After that, I’m going to pick any colour I wish to use. In this case, I chose Light Magenta 3. So, I’m going to click on that swatch.

Note that after you click on that swatch, you’ll still have the cell selection highlighted. Deselect those cells and you’ll get a true idea of what that colour looks like.

There. Not so bad.

Now, let’s circle back to the borders a little bit. We can modify the style and colour of them. Lets highlight those three “Day” cells.

From there, we can click on the border style button (as highlighted in the screenshot). In this case, I’m going to click on the thick line (also highlighted) in the drop down menu.

OK, maybe not the prettiest, but we can add a little border colour. Let’s highlight those cells again.

Now, we need to click on the border colour button (highlighted), then click on a colour I’m going to want. In this case, I chose green just for the heck of of it. After that, I’m just going to deselect the cells to see how it looks.

Well, I tried. At any rate, you can totally customize the look of your tables in Writer however you like instead of having to rely on just some preset looks. It might be faster to rely on presets, but it’s nice to know that you have options to fully customize the look of your tables.

Finally, we can easily delete the whole table. Just select it in any way you deem necessary.

Then click on the delete table button (highlighted).

Step 6 – Splitting and Merging Cells

One last thing we can do with our tables is split cells. This permits even further customization of our table.

I’ve created a new table as shown below:

Next, I’m going to click on the cell I want to split. After that, I’m going to click on the split cell button.

Now, I’m going to get a pop-up window asking me how I should split the cell. In this case, I’m going to split the cell in 2 (as highlighted) and then split it horizontally.

You’ll notice that a new line has been created within the cell. This indicates that a new cell has been created.

Now, let’s fill in that extra cell. Heck, lets split the remaining cells in that column and add info just for good practice.

So, let’s say we want to go back without the undo button. That too is simple. Simply highlight the cells you want to join…

… then click on the “Merge Cells” button. Those cells will become one again.

In this example, you’ll see the information on the second cell added one line below the first cell. You can just delete the extra line and re-make the cell into what it once was.

Note: Should you merge cells vertically and wan to centre the contents vertically, you can click on the “Center Vertically” button as highlighted below:

That’s it! That’s a general rundown of tables in Writer!

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