Working with Table Cells

The building blocks of a table are cells, and each cell in your table is like an individual text frame. Using Cell Options, you can determine the Cell Inset Spacing, the Vertical Alignment, Row Strokes, Column Strokes, the First Baseline Options, and Diagonal Lines. Table text can be formatted in exactly the same way as text in a text frame, and paragraph and character styles are equally beneficialsee s 13 and 14. The only restriction on the formatting of tables is that text can be rotated only in increments of 90°, 180°, or 270°. (If you really must have text rotated at any other angle, format the text in its own frame, then cut and paste the text frame as an inline frame into a cell.)


Selecting the Cell and the text within the cell are two distinct things. To select the cell, drag from the top left of the cell. Alternatively, because it's all too easy to inadvertently resize the rows and columns when trying to select individual table cells, especially if your table is complex, put your Type cursor in the cells and choose Table > Select > Cell (Cmd+/ [Ctrl+/]).

Merging and Splitting Cells

You can merge two or more cells in the same row or column into a single cell. You can also split cells horizontally or vertically.

Figure 12.25. Tables Within Tables. This section of a film calendar shows a three-column single-row table that has been pasted into a merged cell above the two columns in the second row. A similar effect may have been possible by Splitting Cells vertically (not the same as Unmerging, which will restore the cells to their premerged state), but does not allow the same degree of independence when adjusting the column widths of the individual rows.

[View full size image]

Adding Diagonal Lines to a Cell

Choose Table > Cell Options > Diagonal Lines. From the Draw menu, you can specify Diagonal in Front or Content in Front to position the diagonal line in front of or behind the cell contents.

For Line Stroke, specify desired weight, type, color, and gap settings; specify a Tint percentage and Overprint options, and then click OK.

Figure 12.26. Diagonal Lines.

Working with Table Cells

Just like a regular text or picture frame, each table cell has fill and stroke properties. Choose the cell (Cmd+/[Ctrl+/]), or drag your pointer across a range of cells to select multiples, and use the Fill and Stroke boxes on the bottom of the Tool palette to change the properties of a cell. To modify specific sides of the cell border, determine which stroke line(s) you are affecting with the Preview Proxy at the bottom of the Stroke palette. Selected lines appear in blue; deselected lines in gray. To deselect all lines, triple click the Preview Proxy. Alternatively, you can use the Cell Options dialog box, which has all these options in one place.

Figure 12.27. Cell Options: Your one-stop shop for table cell formatting.

Tables are extremely versatile and can be used for much more than just "tables." For example, putting a screen behind a single paragraph is a common request that is easy in Word, but has long proved problematic for the more heavyweight layout applications. Until now, that is. With InDesign the solution is simple.

Figure 12.28. A shaded paragraph.

Like all tables, the single cell table will move with the flow of text. What's more, the table celland it's shadingwill expand and contract as necessary if you edit the paragraph.

Tip: Shading a Paragraph

If you want to put a screened background behind a specific paragraph, a table is an elegant solution. Select the text in the paragraphbut not the final hidden carriage-return characterand choose Table > Convert Text To Table to make a one-cell table. You can then stroke and/or fill the table as you wish andbecause it's a tableit will grow as you add type and move as part of the text flow. You control the paragraph spacing between the table and the paragraphs above and below using Table Options >Table Setup.

Table Aesthetics

Here are some rules of thumb that may be useful when working with tables that really look like tables.

  • Table text is typically one or two points smaller than body text.

  • Condensed sans serif faces work well.

  • Use lining numbers, not proportional old style numbers.

  • Keep it simple. Establish the hierarchy of information by the way the table is constructed, rather than changing fonts, weights, and point sizes.

  • Use borders, column rules, row rules, and cell tinting sparingly.

  • Don't try to cram too much into a finite amount of space. Just because it's a table doesn't mean it shouldn't be readable.

  • Don't justify texttable cells are too narrow.

  • Don't use first line indents. If table cell entries run to more than one paragraph, break them into separate cells.

  • If a table runs across several pages, repeat the header row on each subsequent page on which the table appears.

  • When tables run more than one page, a footer row is only necessary at the end of the complete table.