About table and column widths

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About table and column widths

The dynamic behavior of tables in the Help+Manual editor and published output may be a little unfamiliar and even frustrating at first if you come from a word processing background. This is because they work much more like HTML tables than like tables in word processors like Word or Open Office Writer. However, if you have experience  with HTML you will feel right at home with Help+Manual's table sizing functions.

Table and column width values

Tables have two sets of width values that interact with one another: The width of the table and the widths of the individual columns. These values can be defined or undefined.

Undefined width:

When the width value of a table or a column is undefined its width is determined by its content then the cells and columns will expand just enough for the content to fit, and no more. This also applies to the height of table cells.

Defined width:

When the width value of a table or column is defined it will be at least as wide as the defined value. If the content is wider the defined value will be ignored and the table or column will expand to fit the content.

Content expands table cells

Table cells are always at least as large as the content they contain. Your width and height settings will always be ignored if your content is wider or higher. Table cells always expand to accommodate all the text and  graphics they contain. Additional wrapping text will only make a cell higher but graphics and non-wrapping text can also make cells wider, overriding the width settings.

Table width settings

Tables have three different "width modes":

Autosize:

This is the default setting. Initially, the width of the table and all columns is undefined. All widths are dynamic and everything expands to fit the content the content defines the width of both the columns and the table.

Fit on page:

Equivalent to a width of 100%. The table will always expand to fit the current margins of the paragraph or the entire page. Any column width settings that prevent this will be ignored. The table should have at least one dynamic column to allow it to expand to fit the page, otherwise all columns will automatically switch to dynamic width.

Manual:

The table will always have the preset width in percent or absolute pixels. It should have at least one dynamic column that can expand or contract to make the defined width possible. If the defined table width is not possible with the preset column widths all columns will automatically switch to dynamic width.

Column width settings

By default, columns are "dynamic" this means that they do not have a width setting, they expand automatically to fit the content in their cells and the table width settings.

"Lock Column":

The Lock Column tool in the Table tab locks the current width of the selected column as a fixed value in pixels. This width will be maintained if possible. This tool also shows whether the current column is locked or unlocked it is highlighted when the column is locked.

Column width in the Table Properties dialog:

You can lock the column width to a pixel or percentage value with Table > Properties > Selected Cells. This width will be maintained if possible.

Resizing column widths with the mouse:

Resizing column widths with the mouse always locks both columns affected by the resize operation. Be aware of this when planning your tables! You will often need to unlock one column after resizing with the mouse to allow your table to resize correctly.

Impossible column widths

If any column width setting is not possible all column widths in the table will be reset to dynamic. This will happen if the column contains content (graphics, non-breaking text) that is wider than the set width or if the set width is made impossible by the other table settings.

For example, this will happen if:

The table has a fixed width in pixels and the sum of the individual column widths is greater than the width of the table.

The sum of the column widths in percent is greater than 100%.

Any table column contains content that is wider than the defined width of the column.

Height settings

Tables do not have height settings. Their height is always defined by the height of their content.

Row/cell height is dynamic by default it expands automatically to fit the content. You can set a minimum fixed height value in pixels in Table > Properties > Selected Cells. If the content of the cell or row is smaller than this value white space will be added. If the content is higher the setting is ignored.

See also:

Working with Tables

Table Properties