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Create tables

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A table consists of rows and columns of cells. A cell is like a text frame in which you can add text, anchored frames, or other tables. Create tables in Adobe InDesign CS5 or export them from other applications.


To create, edit, and format tables in Adobe InCopy, make sure that you are in Layout view.

Create tables

A table consists of rows and columns of cells. A cell is like a text frame in which you can add text, inline graphics, or other tables. You can create tables from scratch or by converting them from existing text. You can also embed a table within a table.

When you create a table, the new table fills the width of the container text frame. A table is inserted on the same line when the insertion point is at the beginning of the line, or on the next line, when the insertion point is in the middle of a line.

Tables flow with surrounding text just as inline graphics do. For example, a table moves through threaded frames when the text above it changes in point size or when text is added or deleted. However, a table cannot appear on a text-on-path frame.

Michael Murphy provides an article on creating and formatting tables at Mind Your Table Manners.

Jeff Witchell from provides a video demonstration on The basics of setting up tables.

Create a table from scratch

When you create a table in InDesign, you have the option to create the table within an existing text frame (Using the Insert Table option). Alternatively, you can create a table and allow InDesign to create the enclosing text frame (Using the Create Table option).

Using the Insert Table option

  1. To draw a table within an existing text frame use the Type tooland place the insertion point where you want the table to appear.

  2. Choose Table > Insert Table.


    If the cursor is currently not within a text frame, the Create Table option is available.

  3. Specify the numbers of rows and columns.
  4. If your table contents will continue on more than one column or frame, specify the number of header or footer rows in which you want the information to be repeated.
  5. (Optional) Specify a table style.
  6. Click OK.

    The new table fills the width of the text frame.

Using the Create Table option

When you use the Create Table option to create a table, you do not need to first create a text frame in your document. As soon as you draw the table on the document, InDesign creates a text frame the size of the table that you draw.

  1. Choose Table > Create Table.


    If the cursor is currently within a text frame, the Insert Table option is available.

  2. Specify the numbers of rows and columns.
  3. If your table contents will continue on more than one column or frame, specify the number of header or footer rows in which you want the information to be repeated.
  4. (Optional) Specify a table style.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Use the Table cursor to draw the table that you require.

    InDesign creates a text frame the size of the drawn area and places the table within the text frame.

The row height of a table is determined by the specified table style. For example, a table style may use cell styles to format different parts of the table. If any of these cell styles include paragraph styles, the leading value of the paragraph styles determines the row height of that area. If no paragraph style is used, the document’s default slug determines the row height. (The slug is based on the leading value. In this context, a slug is the approximate height of the highlighting in selected text.)

Create a table from existing text

Before you convert text to a table, make sure that you set up the text properly.

  1. To prepare the text for conversion, insert tabs, commas, paragraph returns, or another character to separate columns. Insert tabs, commas, paragraph returns, or another character to separate rows. (In many instances, text can be converted to a table without having to be edited.)
  2. Using the Type tool  , select the text you want to convert to a table.
  3. Choose Table > Convert Text To Table.
  4. For both Column Separator and Row Separator, indicate where new rows and columns should begin. Choose Tab, Comma, or Paragraph, or type the character, such as a semicolon (;), in the Column Separator and Row Separator field. (Any character you type appears in the menu the next time you create a table from text.)
  5. If you specify the same separator for columns and rows, indicate the number of columns you want the table to include.
  6. (Optional) Specify a table style to format the table.
  7. Click OK.

If any row has fewer items than the number of columns in a table, empty cells fill out the row.

Embed a table within a table

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Select the cells or table you want to embed, and then choose Edit > Cut or Copy. Place the insertion point in the cell where you want the table to appear, and then choose Edit > Paste.

    • Click inside a cell, choose Table > Insert Table, specify the number of rows and columns, and then click OK.

  2. Adjust the cell inset as necessary. (See Format text within a table.)

If you create a table within a cell, you cannot use the mouse to select any part of the table that oversets the cell boundary. Instead, expand the row or column; or place the insertion point in the first part of the table, and use keyboard shortcuts to move the insertion point and select text.

Importing tables from other applications

When you use the Place command to import a Microsoft Word document that includes tables, or a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, imported data is an editable table. You can use the Import Options dialog box to control the formatting.

You can also paste data from an Excel spreadsheet or a Word table into an InDesign or InCopy document. The Clipboard Handling preference settings determine how text pasted from another application is formatted. If Text Only is selected, the information appears as unformatted tabbed text, which you can then convert to a table. If All Information is selected, the pasted text appears in a formatted table.

If you’re pasting text from another application into an existing table, insert enough rows and columns to accommodate the pasted text, select the Text Only option in Clipboard Handling preferences, and make sure that at least one cell is selected (unless you want to embed the pasted table into a cell).

If you want more control over formatting the imported table, or if you want to maintain spreadsheet formatting, use the Place command to import the table. If you want to maintain a link to the spreadsheet, select the Create Links When Placing Text And Spreadsheet Files option in File Handling preference settings.


You can also copy and paste tabbed text across a selection of table cells. This technique is a great way to replace content while preserving formatting. For example, suppose you want to update the content of a formatting table in a monthly magazine. One possibility is to link to an Excel spreadsheet. However, if your content comes from a different source, you can copy the tabbed text containing the new content, select the range of cells in the formatted InDesign table, and paste.

Add text to a table

You can add text, anchored objects, XML tags, and other tables to table cells. The height of a table row expands to accommodate additional lines of text, unless you set a fixed row height. You cannot add footnotes to tables.

  1. Using the Type tool  , do any of the following:
    • Position the insertion point in a cell, and type text. Press Enter or Return to create a new paragraph in the same cell. Press Tab to move forward through cells (pressing Tab in the last cell inserts a new row). Press Shift+Tab to move backwards through cells.

    • Copy text, position the insertion point in a cell, and then choose Edit > Paste.

    • Position the insertion point in a cell where you want to add text, choose File > Place, and then double-click a text file.

Add graphics to a table

  1. Place the insertion point in the table cell into which you want to add the image.

  2. Do any of the following:
    • Choose File > Place, and select one or more graphic files.
    • Select and drag-and-drop one or more graphic from the Graphics category in the CC Libraries panel.

    The image or images are available on the placegun.

  3. To place the image or images, click inside each table cell.

  4. Do any of the following:

You cannot drag-and-drop InDesign snippets from the Graphics category in the CC Libraries panel.

When you add a graphic that is larger than the cell, the cell height expands to accommodate the graphic, but the width of the cell doesn’t change—the graphic may extend beyond the right side of the cell. If the row in which the graphic is placed is set to a fixed height, a graphic that is taller than the row height causes the cell to be overset.


To avoid an overset cell, place the image outside the table, resize the image, and then paste it into the table cell.

You can also place images in table cells, using the following methods:

  • Choose Object > Anchored Object > Insert, and then specify settings. You can later add a graphic to the anchored object.
  • Copy a graphic or a frame, position the insertion point, and then choose Edit > Paste.

Add table headers and footers

When you create a long table, the table can span more than one column, frame, or page. You can use headers or footers to repeat the information at the top or bottom of each divided portion of the table.

You can add header and footer rows when you create the table. You can also use the Table Options dialog box to add header and footer rows and change how they appear in the table. You can convert body rows to header or footer rows.

Header rows repeated once per frame


To number tables sequentially, such as Table 1A, Table 1B, add a variable to the table header or footer. (See Create running captions for figures and tables.)

  1. Select the rows at the top of the table to create header rows, or at the bottom of the table to create footer rows.
  2. Choose Table > Convert Rows > To Header or To Footer.
  1. Place the insertion point in the table, and then choose Table > Table Options > Headers And Footers.
  2. Specify the number of header or footer rows. Blank rows may be added to the top or bottom of the table.
  3. Specify whether the information in the header or footer appears in every text column (if text frames have more than one column), once per frame, or only once per page.
  4. Select Skip First if you don’t want the header information to appear in the first row of the table. Select Skip Last if you don’t want the footer information to appear in the last row of the table.

    The Skip First option is especially useful if you want to indicate that the header or footer is continued. For example, for a table that spans multiple pages, you may want the header text to be “Table 2 (Continued).” Since you don't want “(Continued)” to appear at the beginning of the table, select Skip First, and simply type Table 2 in the first row of the table.

  5. Click OK.

You can perform a number of functions to create similar rows and columns or duplicate them. 

Primarily, you can perform the following functions on table's rows and columns:

  • Drag-and-drop table rows and columns from one position to another within the same table.
  • Duplicate rows and columns.
  • Paste rows and columns before or after another row/column
  • Copy a row's contents to a column or a column's to a row.

Drag-and-drop and duplicating rows/columns

You can move table rows and columns from one position to another within the same table. Follow these steps to drag-and-drop and duplicate rows/columns.

  1. Select the row or column you want to drag-and-drop to another row or column. Make sure, the whole column or row has been selected. Partially selected rows or columns cannot be drag-dropped.

  2. Hover over the selected rows, a unique cursor indicating that the selection can be moved is displayed.

  3. The item row can be dragged and dropped. You can swap columns with rows. A dragged row only drops as a row, and a dragged column drops as a column only.

    Drag-and-drop rows and columns

    Here, moving a row from one location to another keeps the total count of rows same as before, three only.


    Drag & Drop is only possible within the same table.

  4. To duplicate a row or column, press or hold the Alt(Win) or Opt(Mac) key after selecting a row or column. Multiple continuously selected rows or columns can be dragged-dropped.

  5. Drag-and-drop the selected row or column to the intended position. The total count of rows or columns increases as the selected entity has been duplicated.

    You can also copy the contents from header and footer rows to body rows (by pressing Alt/Opt key). Likewise, body rows can also be duplicated and converted to header and footer rows.

You can only drag-drop header rows within header section (applicable only if you have multiple header rows) unless alt/opt is used for duplicating the rows. Body rows cannot be drag>dropped into header section unless alt/opt is used for duplicating the rows.

Copy rows/columns and paste before/after

You can copy and paste rows before or after a selected row. Using the Paste Before/After workflow, you can copy rows/columns from a table and paste them to another table as well.

  1. Select a row/column.

  2. Select the column or row.

  3. Select Table > Paste Before/Paste After. 

  1. Do any of the following:
    • Place the insertion point in the header or footer row, and then choose Table > Convert Rows > To Body.

    • Choose Table > Table Options > Headers And Footers, and then specify a different number of header rows or footer rows.


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