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Table and cell styles

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About table and cell styles

Just as you use text styles to format text, you can use table and cell styles to format tables. A table style is a collection of table formatting attributes, such as table borders and row and column strokes, that can be applied in a single step. A cell style includes formatting such as cell insets, paragraph styles, and strokes and fills. When you edit a style, all tables or cells to which the style is applied are updated automatically.


There is one important difference between text styles and table styles. While all character styles attributes can be part of a paragraph style, cell style attributes are not part of the table style. For example, you cannot use a table style to change the border color of interior cells. Instead, create a cell style and include it in the table style.

[Basic Table] and [None] styles

By default, each new document contains a [Basic Table] style that can be applied to tables you create and a [None] style that can be used to remove cell styles applied to cells. You can edit the [Basic Table] style, but you can’t rename or delete either [Basic Table] or [None].

Using cell styles in table styles

When you create a table style, you can specify which cell styles are applied to different regions of the table: header and footer rows, left and right columns, and body rows. For example, for the header row, you can assign a cell style that applies a paragraph style, and for the left and right columns, you can assign different cell styles that apply shaded backgrounds.

Cell styles applied to regions in table style

A. Header row formatted with cell style that includes paragraph style B. Left column C. Body cells D. Right column 

Cell style attributes

Cell styles do not necessarily include all the formatting attributes of a selected cell. When you create a cell style, you can determine which attributes are included. That way, applying the cell style changes only the desired attributes, such as cell fill color, and ignores all other cell attributes.

Formatting precedence in styles

If a conflict occurs in formatting applied to a table cell, the following order of precedence determines which formatting is used:

Cell style precedence

1. Header/Footer 2. Left column/Right column 3. Body rows. For example, if a cell appears in both the header and the left column, the formatting from the header cell style is used.

Table style precedence

1. Cell overrides 2. Cell style 3. Cell styles applied from a table style 4. Table overrides 5. Table styles. For example, if you apply one fill using the Cell Options dialog box and another fill using the cell style, the fill from the Cell Options dialog box is used.

Table/Cell Styles panels overview

Use the Table Styles panel (Window > Styles >Table Styles) to create and name table styles, and to apply the styles to existing tables or tables you create or import. Use the Cell Styles panel (Window > Styles > Cell Styles) to create and name cell styles, and to apply the styles to table cells. Styles are saved with a document and appear in the panel each time you open that document. You can save table and cell styles in groups for easier management.

When you position the insertion point in a cell or table, any style that is applied is highlighted in either of the panels. The name of any cell style that is applied through a table style appears in the lower left corner of the Cell Styles area. If you select a range of cells that contains multiple styles, no style is highlighted and the Cell Styles panel displays “(Mixed).”

Open the Table Styles or Cell Styles panel

  1. Choose Window > Styles, and choose Table Styles or Cell Styles.

Change how styles are listed in the panel

  • Select Small Panel Rows to display a condensed version of the styles.
  • Drag the style to a different position. You can also drag styles to groups that you create.
  • Choose Sort By Name from the panel menu to list the styles alphabetically.

Define table and cell styles

  1. If you want to base a new style on the formatting of an existing table or cell, place the insertion point in a cell.
  2. If desired, define a paragraph style for the cell style.
  3. Choose Window > Styles >Table Styles to open the Table Style panel, or choose Window > Styles > Cell Styles to open the Cell Styles panel.
  4. Choose New Table Style from the Table Styles panel menu, or choose New Cell Style from the Cell Styles panel menu.
  5. For Style Name, type a name.
  6. For Based On, select which style the current style is based on.
  7. To define a style shortcut, position the insertion point in the Shortcut text box and make sure that Num Lock is on. Then hold down any combination of Shift, Alt, or Ctrl (Windows) or Shift, Option, and Command (Mac OS), and press a number on the numeric keypad. You cannot use letters or non-keypad numbers for defining style shortcuts.
  8. To specify the formatting attributes, click a category on the left and specify the attributes you want. For example, to assign a paragraph style to a cell style, click the General category, and then choose the paragraph style from the Paragraph Style menu.

    For cell styles, options that don’t have a setting specified are ignored in the style. If you don’t want a setting to be part of the style, choose (Ignore) from the setting’s menu, delete the contents of the field, or click a check box until a small box appears in Windows or a hyphen (-) appears in Mac OS.

  9. If you want the new style to appear in a style group you’ve created, drag it to the style group folder.

Load (import) table styles from other documents

You can import table and cell styles from another InDesign document into the active document. During import, you can determine which styles are loaded and what should occur if a loaded style has the same name as a style in the current document. You can also import styles from an InCopy document.

  1. From the menu of the Cell Styles or Table Styles panel, choose Load Cell Styles, Load Table Styles, or Load Table And Cell Styles.
  2. Double-click the InDesign document containing the styles you want to import.
  3. In the Load Styles dialog box, make sure that a check mark appears next to the styles you want to import. If any existing style has the same name as one of the imported styles, choose one of the following options under Conflict With Existing Style, and then click OK:

    Use Incoming Style Definition

    Overwrites the existing style with the loaded style and applies its new attributes to all cells in the current document that used the old style. The definitions of the incoming and existing styles appear at the bottom of the Load Styles dialog box so you can compare them.


    Renames the loaded style. For example, if both documents have a style named “Table Style 1,” the loaded style is renamed “Table Style 1 copy” in the current document.

Apply table and cell styles

Unlike paragraph and character styles, table and cell styles do not share attributes, so applying a table style does not override cell formatting, and applying a cell style does not override table formatting. By default, applying a cell style removes formatting applied by any previous cell style, but does not remove local cell formatting. Similarly, applying a table style removes formatting applied by any previous table style, but does not remove overrides made using the Table Options dialog box.

In the Styles panel, a plus sign (+) appears next to the current cell or table style if the selected cell or table has additional formatting that isn’t part of the applied style. Such additional formatting is called an override.

  1. Position the insertion point in a table, or select the cells to which you want to apply the style.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • Click the table or cell style in the Table Styles or Cell Styles panel (chose Window > Styles >Table Styles or Cell Styles). If the style is in a style group, expand the style group to locate the style.

    • Press the shortcut you defined for the style. (Make sure that Num Lock is on.)

Base one table or cell style on another

You can create links between similar table or cell styles by creating a base, or parent, style. When you edit the parent style, any changed attribute that appears in the child styles will change as well. By default, table styles are based on [No Table Style], and cell styles are based on [None].

  1. Create a new style.
  2. In the New Table Style or New Cell Style dialog box, select the parent style in the Based On menu. The new style becomes the child style.
  3. Specify formatting for the new style to distinguish it from the parent style.

Edit table and cell styles

One of the advantages of using styles is that when you change the definition of a style, all of the tables or cells formatted with that style change to match the new style definition.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • If you don’t want the style to be applied to a selected table or cell, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the style in the Styles panel, and choose Edit [style name].

    • In the Styles panel, double-click the style, or select the style and choose Style Options from the Styles panel menu. Note that this method applies the cell style to any selected cell or the table style to any selected table. If no table is selected, double-clicking a table style sets it as the default style for any table you create.

  2. Adjust settings in the dialog box, and then click OK.

Delete table and cell styles

When you delete a style, you can select a different style to replace it, and you can choose whether to preserve the formatting.

  1. Select the style in the Styles panel.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Delete Style from the panel menu.

    • Click the Delete icon  at the bottom of the panel, or drag the style to the Delete icon.

    • Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the style, and then choose Delete Style. This method is especially useful for deleting a style without applying it to the selected cell or table.

  3. Select the style to replace it.

    If you select [No Table Style] to replace a table style or [None] to replace a cell style, select Preserve Formatting to keep the formatting of the table or cell to which the style is applied. The table or cell preserves its formatting but is no longer associated with a style.

  4. Click OK.

Redefine table or cell styles based on current formatting

After you apply a style, you can override any of its settings. If you decide you like the changes, you can redefine the style to retain the new formatting.

  1. Place the insertion point in the table or cell that is formatted with the style you want to redefine.
  2. Make changes to the table or cell as necessary.
  3. Choose Redefine Style from the Styles panel menu.

For cell styles, changes to only those attributes that are part of the cell style will enable the Redefine Style command. For example, if the cell style includes a red fill and you override a cell to use a blue fill, you can redefine the style based on that cell. But if you change an attribute that is ignored in the cell style, you can’t redefine the style with that attribute.

Override table and cell styles

After you apply a table or cell style, you can override any of its settings. To override a table style, you can change options in the Table Options dialog box. To override a cell, you can change options in the Cell Options dialog box or use other panels to change the stroke or fill. If you select a table or cell that has an override, a plus sign (+) appears next to the style in the Styles panel.

You can clear table and cell overrides when you apply a style. You can also clear overrides from a table or cell to which a style has already been applied.


If a style has a plus sign (+) next to it, hover over the style to view a description of the override attributes.

Preserve or remove overrides while applying a table style

  • To apply a table style and preserve cell styles but remove overrides, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you click the style in the Table Styles panel.
  • To apply a table style and remove both cell styles and overrides, hold down Alt+Shift (Windows) or Option+Shift (Mac OS) as you click the style in the Table Styles panel.

Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the style in the Table Styles panel, and then choose Apply [table style], Clear Cell Styles to apply a style and clear cell styles.

Remove overrides while applying a cell style

  1. To apply a cell style and remove overrides, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you click the name of the style in the Cell Styles panel.

    Only those attributes that are part of the cell style are considered overrides. For example, if the cell style includes a red fill and all other attributes are ignored, changing a different cell option is not considered an override.

Clear attributes not defined by a cell style

  1. Choose Clear Attributes Not Defined By Style from the Cell Styles panel menu.

Clear table or cell overrides

  1. Select the table or cells containing the overrides.
  2. In the Styles panel, click the Clear Overrides In Selection icon  , or choose Clear Overrides from the Styles panel menu.

When you break the link between tables or cells and the style applied to them, the tables or cells retain their current formatting. However, future changes to that style won’t affect them.

  1. Select the cells to which the style has been applied.
  2. Choose Break Link To Style from the Styles panel menu.


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