We now have looked at three of the four objects that are offered to you on a new slide: Charts, Pictures, and Movies. So now it is time to take a look at Tables. You have options here, such as embedding a table from Calc or Writer, and there are times when you need that degree of power. But most of the time you can do what you need inside of Impress using its own functionality. As we saw last time with Charts, you can just click the button in the middle of a new slide and insert a Table that way, but that may not always be feasible, so you have the alternative option of going to the Insert menu and selecting Table. Either way you will get a window that asks you to specify the number of rows and columns:
Don’t worry if you aren’t sure how many you will need at first, you can always edit the table later, but if you do know your needs, this is a good time to fill it in since it is more work to fix it later.
This will insert a default table into your slide with the number of rows and columns you specified. But if you look to the Sidebar on the right you will see that the Properties window has opened the Table Design section for you:
You will note that by default there are checkmarks in two boxes here, but let’s look at what each of these means:
- Header Row – When this is checked, the very first row has a different background from the rest of the table, That could mean a different color, or a different shade, but something to set it apart.
- Total Row – Similar to Header Row, but in this case it is the last row that is set to be different. If your table had numerical data with totals at the bottom, this might help it to be clearer.
- Banded Rows – Like the old Green and White computer paper (or am I the only one old enough to remember that?) it alternates the background from one row to the next to make it easier to read.
- First Column – Makes the background darker on the first column
- Last column – Makes the background darker on the last column
- Banded Columns – Like with Banded Rows, makes columns alternate the background
Combine these with the designs you have in the sidebar, and you can have an attractive table that is easy to read. For instance, if I select the Turquoise design, and turn on Header Row, Banded Rows, and First Column, I can get a table like this:
If you select the table so that the border and the 8 handles appear, the Table Toolbar should open for you. On my system it docked at the bottom next to the Drawing toolbar, but you can also click-and-drag it to the Top or a Side or to be a Floating toolbar if you prefer:
You can do a lot from this toolbar, so let’s take a look at it. Remember that you can always read the name of the button by mousing over it and reading the pop-up. The buttons are:
- Table – This lets you create a table on the current slide. If you click the button you get the same dialog we already saw for choosing Columns and Rows, or you can click the drop-down on the right to get a graphical chooser to draw the rows and columns.
- Line style- This controls the borders between cells, and lets you select the style you want (e.g. solid line, dotted, dashed, and so on)
- Line color – This is for the cell borders.
- Borders – This lets you choose where you want the borders to go on cells, such as only on the side, or just bottom.
- Area Style/Filling – The first of these drop downs lets you select from Color, Gradient, Hatching, or Bitmap. Then the second one lets you choose from the options available depending on your first choice. This lets you refine the Table Design you selected earlier. For example, I selected the Turquoise design, but now I want to call out one particular cell. Select it, and give it a different color here.
- Merge Cells – As you might expect, lets you merge two cells into one
- Split Cells – Lets you split a cell into two or more cells. You have the option of splitting horizontally or vertically, but this is a confusing wording. The term horizontal refers to where the divider is drawn, so if you select horizontal it draws a new horizontal border that splits the cell in to two cells one on top of the other. I imagine this is not what most people would expect.
- Optimize – This evenly distributes the selected cells either horizontally or vertically. A good example of what this means is what happens when a cell contains more data than can be displayed. The cell will display part of it, but to see everything you would need to make the cell bigger. This button will do that, but it will also make the rest of the cells you select expand equally to the one the needs to be expanded. If you only select cells in a couple of rows or columns, only those rows or columns will be changed, but if you select the entire table all the cells will change by the same amount, which results in a better display in most cases. Also note that this will reduce cell sizes if the cells are larger than they need to be to display all of your data. As a rule, I use the Optimize button only when I have first selected the entire table, as I think the result is better when things are symmetrical.
- Top, Center, Bottom – These three buttons determine where the data will align vertically within the cell.
- Insert Row, Insert Column, Delete Row, Delete Column – These four buttons are self-explanatory.
- Table Design – No longer does anything because this has now been moved to the Sidebar. It will probably be removed in a future release.
- Table Properties – This opens a window where you can choose Font, Font Effects, Borders, and Background. This affects the entire table, but the assumption here is that you want all of the cells to be the same.
There are also three buttons you cannot see on the Toolbar, but you can reach them by right-clicking on a blank space on the toolbar, and in the popup select Visible Buttons. In that list you will see all of the buttons on the toolbar, but also three buttons you did not see. You can add any or all of them from here by clicking on the button to add it to the toolbar. They are:
- Select Table – This lets you select the entire table, with the border and 8 handles, and is easier than clicking on the slide until you get it. I recommend adding it.
- Select Column, Select Row – With your cursor in a cell, clicking on one of these buttons will select the entire row or column. Probably handy, but if you find too many buttons confusing these are ones you can get along without.
Also note that you can remove a button by going to Visible Buttons and clicking on a button you don’t need. Since the Table Design button is now useless, that might be a good thing to do with it.
As we saw previously the assumption Impress makes in your table when you select Table Properties is that all cells will be formatted identically and have the same properties. But suppose you want to make some cells different. Two cases that are similar come to mind. Frequently the first row of a Table is a Header row, which is different, and the first column is also a bit different. What if you wanted them to have, for instance, different fonts or alignment? I like to make my headers bolder, and usually I will center them, even if the rest of my table is flush left and standard weight. Well, to change the Font or Font weight for a Header row I could select the row either by clicking and dragging or by using the Select Row button. Then I can right-click, and in the popup menu I can select Character, and then change the Font, make it bigger, make it bold, add Font Effects like Underlining, and so on. Then I can right-click again, but this time select Paragraph, and on the third tab make the row Centered.
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