Whenever designing for a presentation that requires tabled data, PowerPoint makes it simple to create, format, and import a table for your slides. Let’s a look at how each of these processes work in PowerPoint to make design easy and accessible.

Creating a table

To create tables, go to the Insert tab in the top menu, then open the Table drop down menu. From here, you can create a table in four different ways.

The first is to use the table grid in the menu. By hovering your mouse over different squares, you can select how many rows and columns you want your tables to have with ease. However, this grid is limited to only 10 columns by 8 rows, so if you are looking to start with more columns or rows, select either Insert or Draw Table from the bottom of the menu.

Clicking Insert Table will open a pop-up window where you can manually input the number of rows and columns you want to automatically generate tables on your slide. Alternatively, clicking Draw Table turns your mouse into a crosshair, and you create your first cell by clicking and dragging the box. In this instance, you’ll have to add columns and rows afterwards manually.

The last option is to create one using an Excel Spreadsheet, which is the fourth button in the Table menu. This will insert a spreadsheet document within your PowerPoint file and give a default one. It will also provide a toolbar similar to the one in Excel. You can input your data manually into the spreadsheet and tables will reflect the changes in real time. To exit the spreadsheet view, simply click anywhere on the slide outside the table.

Formatting a table

If you choose either of the first two options, your default  style will be based on the Theme colour of your document. Otherwise, it will take a basic table look with no fill colour and grey borderlines. Two new tabs will also open on your top menu; Table Design and Layout.

Starting from the left, we have two lists under Table Style Options with checkboxes beside them. Checking and unchecking these options will change the highlights within the columns and rows. The default design has a highlighted Header Row, for example, but you can change this to the First or Last Column. The changes will reflect automatically in your tables, so go ahead and experiment with how they look.

The middle section of Table Design is for Table Styles. Now you can change the overall look of your table using any of the presets in the scrolling menu. Hover over any example to see a preview reflected on your table. Don’t forget to click on the bottom arrow to expand the menu to show all your table options. You can edit any of these presets, or make your own, using the buttons to the right of it.

Shading will change the fill colours of the table cells. Shading offers a similar menu to any shape or textbox formatting options; choose from your Theme colours, set your own, or apply textures or pictures instead.

Borders will adjust the outlines of the cells themselves, giving you a dropdown menu of different border styles that you can apply to your table, depending on which border lines you want to show or not.

Effects gives you three different options: Cell Bevel, Shadow and Reflection. The next section gives you a shortcut to basic text edit options, mainly text colour settings and effects. The last section works in conjunction with the Borders, like line style, thickness, and colour for your table borders.

The last two buttons are Draw Table and Eraser. Draw can split cells, rows, and columns into smaller cells by drawing either a vertical or horizontal line. When you click on this tool, your cursor will change to a pen icon. Eraser works the opposite way, where it will erase any border lines you click on, and merge the cells surrounding them.

Other table formatting tools are in the Layout tab, These are tools for formatting the cells of your tables. In Rows & Columns, you have all the tools to add or delete rows and columns. Use the dropdown menu under Delete to select whether you want to delete a row or column.

Make sure your cursor has highlighted the cells you want to delete before pressing this. Similarly, make sure your cursor is selecting the right cell before inserting columns or rows to the left or right. Now Merge Cells will only be available to press if you have more than one cell selected. Click and highlight across the cells you wish to merge, then click Merge Cells. This will only work across adjacent cells. Now they will become one cell. If you wish to split a cell into two, first click on the cell you wish to split, then click on Split Cells.

The next section adjusts the cell size. You can manually input a cell height or width by entering a numerical value or using the up and down arrows. You can also choose instead to Distribute Rows or Distribute Columns which will evenly space each column or row. Highlight which ones otherwise it will distribute them all.

The next section is your Alignment tools. Similar to the tools you’ll find for textbox alignment, these ones will affect the text within your cells: left, centre or right-aligning text, and top, centre or bottom aligning them to the cell itself. Text Direction will let you rotate the direction your text runs, such as vertically or horizontally. Cell Margins add invisible padding to your cells so text inside doesn’t touch the borders. There are several presets in the dropdown menu, or you can click on Custom Margins at the bottom to manually input your own measurements.

The last Table Size category lets you resize the dimensions of your tables. You can manually enter values in the Height and Width boxes or use the up and down arrows to increase or decrease the sizes incrementally. If you check the Lock Aspect Ratio option, the proportions of the table will lock, so you can resize the table without losing the ratio of the dimensions.

While you work on your tables, use the quick menu that appears when you right-click a table. Here you have quick access buttons to some of the more commonly used table formatting tools such as Inserting or Deleting columns and rows and Merging or Splitting cells.

Importing Tables

In a similar way to importing charts from Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint also supports the import of tables into slides, which can save you a lot of time recreating tables of data that might already exist.

First, open the Excel document with the one you want to import. Highlight it and click Copy. Go to your PowerPoint the slide you want to import tables to. There are five Paste options depending on how you want to edit your tables after.

The first paste option is to Use Destination Styles. This means that the table will be pasted in using the theme fonts, colours, and default table design of the PowerPoint file you’re using. This is the best option if you want the table to match the rest of your document and will save you time reformatting. Your table is completely editable, just like a table made in PowerPoint.

The second option is to Keep Source Formatting, maintaining the font and formatting from your original Excel spreadsheet. This is the best option if you’ve already formatted it in Excel and don’t want any colours or fonts to change in this new document. Again, tables can be edited in PowerPoint afterwards.

The third option is to Embed. This will not only keep the original format of it, but also embed the spreadsheet itself into the PowerPoint document. You won’t be able to easily edit or format your tables like the first two options as it will technically paste as a Shape. You’ll see in the top tab menus, you won’t have Table Formatting tabs, but the Shape format tabs instead. To edit tables, use the Excel Workbook that has been embedded with it. This is a good option if you want to edit and format through the Excel spreadsheet instead of PowerPoint.

The fourth option is to paste as a Picture, which turns your table into an image file and pastes it as a picture. Your table will not be editable. You’ll be able to format using any Picture format tools, but no Table format tools will be available. This could be a good option if you have no need to edit tables and want ease in resizing or positioning tables on your slide instead.

The last option is Keep Text Only. You won’t paste in a table format, but as a textbox. There won’t be actual columns and rows, but the data will be separated similarly using tabs and hard returns. There won’t Table formatting options, but textbox format tools. This could be a good option if you don’t need actual tables, but just their raw data.

Tables are a great way to make data easier to read, next time we’ll look at chart creation in PowerPoint, but you should also remember the value of infographics in helping you visualise data and make it more legible for audiences. Learn more about presentation engagement in our Ultimate Guide, or download some free PowerPoint templates to get designing with speed and finesse.