Format tables

To prevent structured information (i.e. tables) from degenerating into numerical deserts, they should be embellished using PowerPoint’s numerous formatting options. However, the goal is not to win a beauty contest for table designers, but to present the information in such a way that the audience understands what it is about as quickly as possible. Tables should support a statement with facts. The better this succeeds, the better the presentation will be.

Adjust cell size

First, we adjust the cell size. For this we select a table that we have already created (exercise). We see that our example table has some cells (e.g. Street) with a text break, because the width is not sufficient to display the street name in one row. To increase readability, we want to widen the cells so that PowerPoint no longer requires a line break.


We navigate to the Layout tab (Table Tools) and look at the Cell Size group. The lower of the two fields determines the width of a cell. If we click on the small black arrows, we can expand or narrow the cell size. Alternatively, we can enter the width in cm directly into the text field.

Tip: Alternatively, the column can also be dragged narrower and wider directly with the mouse. A double arrow appears at the transition between two cells, which can be moved by holding down the left mouse button. A double click with this double arrow adjusts the cell size directly to the text content.


Alternatively, we select the entire table with one click and click with the mouse button pressed on the white handles at the edge of the table. While the mouse button is pressed, the table can also be enlarged or reduced by moving the mouse.


Alternatively, we select the entire table with one click and click with the mouse button pressed on the white handles at the edge of the table. While the mouse button is pressed, the table can also be enlarged or reduced by moving the mouse.

The result can be seen: the table has been enlarged so that no text needs a wrap. The table has become clearer.


Next, we adjust the height of the cells. Again, we select the entire table or the corresponding cells. We navigate to the Layout tab (Table Tools) and click the upper button in the Cell Size group. Similar to the cell width, we can use the black arrows or direct specification to change the cell height.


The entries become visible immediately. Therefore, we experiment around until the table has an optimal height.

Next, in the Alignment group, let’s look at the main alignment options. The green arrow in our screen shot points to the left-aligned, centered and right-aligned buttons. The selected cells will change their horizontal alignment with a click on the corresponding button. By default, left-aligned is enabled and we keep this setting.

The red arrow points to the vertical alignments. With the three buttons we determine whether the selected cells are aligned top, vertically centered or bottom. For our example, we select vertically centered.


The table now looks even more structured. The additional space between the lines increases the overview. The viewer of the table finds his way around more quickly.


Select frame lines

Another important setting option are frames. Frames can be set for the entire table or for individual cells. With the colorful tables that PowerPoint uses in the default setting, it is not necessarily necessary to draw additional frames. However, often spreadsheets are printed in black and white and the tables have a very light background color. Frames help to better identify boundaries in plain designs.

To draw a frame, we first select our sample table.


We click on the Design tab (Table Tools) in the Table Style Sheets group on the small triangle next to the Frame button (see red arrow in the picture).


Now we see a selection of different frame lines. Frame line left sets a frame on the left side of the selected area. For our example we choose the classic “All frame lines”.


All cells now have a black frame.


More editing options

Tables use the same functionality as all other PowerPoint elements. We select a cell or text and change the font, colors or size. The background color is changed similarly. We select the cell and choose a fill effect or shading. There are no limits to the imagination.

Remember: The goal should always be to maximize clarity and highlight the facts for the key message of the slide. If we are giving a presentation on our company’s profits, we might draw a table that contrasts sales and costs. We could highlight the cell for total profit in color to emphasize the key message “we make profit”.