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How to apply simple table formatting in Microsoft PowerPoint

How to apply simple table formatting in Microsoft PowerPoint
Written by bobby
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How to apply simple table formatting in Microsoft PowerPoint

Logos of the Microsoft Office component Powerpoint on a heap. Copy space. Web banner format.
Image: Andreas Prott/Adobe Stock

Tables are common elements in Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, and the more succinct and clearer, the better. You can build tables from scratch or copy the table from another program and applying a built-in table style makes this route quick and easy. As a bonus, all PowerPoint table styles are based on Office themes so maintaining consistency is almost effortless.

SEE: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: A side-by-side analysis w/checklist (TechRepublic Premium)

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to quickly style table data copied from a Microsoft Excel Table using built-in table styles in PowerPoint. The easiest way to get a clean simple design is to start with a PowerPoint table style and remove the formats you don’t want or add the ones you do. Starting with a ready-to-go style is faster than starting from scratch and offers opportunities to explore.

I’m using Microsoft 365 Desktop on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can use earlier versions of PowerPoint. PowerPoint for the web supports built-in table styles. You can download the demo file for this PowerPoint tutorial.

How to apply a built-in table design in PowerPoint

PowerPoint has several built-in table designs that you can apply with a quick click. These styles contain combinations of formatting elements, such as shading, borders, font colors and more. Applying a style requires two clicks: Click the table to select it and click the style to apply it. The result is a professional table that’s ready for the show within seconds. They’re great when you have no or little time to devout to applying individual formats for a custom look.

Figure A displays data copied from a Microsoft Excel Table into a blank PowerPoint slide. Starting with existing data is quicker and easier than creating a PowerPoint table manually. When you copy the Table data, PowerPoint applies the built-in Medium Style 2 — Accent 1 style. In this case, the copied results are presentable as is, and you might not do another thing.

Figure A

You can begin by copying data from an Excel Table into a PowerPoint sheet.
You can begin by copying data from an Excel Table into a PowerPoint sheet.

If you want to seriously reduce formatting, you can choose the No Style, No Grid table style as follows:

1. Select the table.

2. Click the contextual Table Design tab.

3. In the Table Styles group, click the first style thumbnail, No Style, No Grid (Figure B).

Figure B

The No Style, No Grid style removes all formatting by the spacing.
The No Style, No Grid style removes all formatting by the spacing.

This style is the closest thing you can get to no style at all, but it might also be just what you need if you want to start from scratch. If you applied the style in step #3, press Ctrl + Z to remove it so you can work with the original copied table in the next example.

When applying a style, PowerPoint tries to match data with styles. For instance, if PowerPoint thinks the copied data has a header row or a header column, it will display styles with those elements. In our case, this didn’t happen, even though the Excel Table has a header row. Fortunately, this isn’t a problem.

If PowerPoint fails to recognize a header row or column, do the following before applying a style:

1. Select the table.

2. Click the contextual Table Design tab.

3. In the Table Style Options group (to the far left), check Header Row.

As you can see in Figure C, PowerPoint adds formatting to the header row to clarify its position. Subsequently, the Table Styles options now display row headers. Furthermore, PowerPoint uses the current style’s formatting, Medium Style 2 — Accent 1, on the header row.

Figure C

Turn on the Header Row option to display styles with header rows.
Turn on the Header Row option to display styles with header rows.

Now that PowerPoint defaults to styles with header rows, click the gallery’s More button to see what PowerPoint has to offer. Simply hover over any thumbnail (Figure D), and Live Preview will display that style in the select table, making it much easier to make the first choice the right choice. If you’re in a hurry, simply choose a style and go.

Figure D

Live Preview temporarily applies the style to the table using Live Preview so you can compare styles before committing.
Live Preview temporarily applies the style to the table using Live Preview so you can compare styles before committing.

Now let’s continue by tweaking a built-in style.

How to tweak a built-in table style in PowerPoint

If you have the time, you can use a built-in style and tweak it. To demonstrate, I applied Medium Style 3 — Accent 6 to the table in Figure E, which you can see is sharp, clean and ready to go in a pinch; however, you might prefer horizontal row lines to help viewers stay on the same line.

Figure E

Let’s add horizontal row lines to this style.
Let’s add horizontal row lines to this style.

To add horizontal lines to the table in Figure E, do the following:

1. Select the cells instead of selecting the entire table as you’ve done in previous examples.

2. Click the contextual Table Design tab. At this point, you can see that the table has borders, you just can’t see them because they’re white (Figure F). If you were to apply a shading format, you would see all the borders.

Figure F

Add a horizontal row line.
Add a horizontal row line.

3. The quickest way to get the bottom line is to not use a line at all, but banded rows. To do so, with the cells still selected, click the Banded Rows option in the Table Styles Options. Although PowerPoint applies a theme color, it’s a pale pink (Figure G); fortunately, you can quickly change your choice.

Figure G

Pink might not be the band color you want.
Pink might not be the band color you want.

4. Click the gallery’s More button in the Table Styles group. The applied style is in the third row of the Medium section. There are two other banded styles that also have a header row in the green column. However, there’s nothing you want to apply.

5. Look in the Light section. Light Style 2 – Accent 6 is what you want so click it (Figure H).

Figure H

Choose a light green from the theme colors.
Choose a light green from the theme colors.

As you can see, a row line format was there, even though we took a slight detour before finding it. Once you’re familiar with all the ways to tweak a built-in table style, you won’t make such a rookie choice. On the other hand, it was only a click and that was my point of steering you in that direction. It’s easy to see how tweaking a built-in style is easy and quick.

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