Apply Simple Table Formatting in Microsoft PowerPoint


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

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In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to quickly format table data copied from a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet 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 styles you don’t want or add the ones you want. 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. YYou can download the demo file for this PowerPoint tutorial.

How to apply a built-in table theme 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 in seconds. They’re great when you have little or no time to devote to applying custom formats for a custom look.

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Figure A displays data copied from a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to a blank PowerPoint slide. Starting with existing data is faster and easier than manually creating a PowerPoint spreadsheet. When you copy the table data, PowerPoint applies the built-in style Medium Style 2 – Accent 1. In this case, the copied results are presentable as is, and you may not need to do anything else.

Figure A

You can start copying data from an Excel spreadsheet to a PowerPoint sheet.
You can start copying data from an Excel spreadsheet to a PowerPoint sheet.

If you are serious about reducing formatting, you can choose 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 spacing.
The No style, no grid style removes all formatting by spacing.

This style is the closest thing to a style, but it could 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 originally copied table in the next example.

When applying a style, PowerPoint attempts to match dates to styles. For example, if PowerPoint thinks the copied data has a header row or column, it will display styles with those items. In our case, this didn’t happen even though the Excel spreadsheet has a header. Fortunately, this is not a problem.

If PowerPoint doesn’t recognize a header row or column, do the following before applying a style:

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1. Select the table.

2. Click the Contextual Table Design tab.

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

As you can see in it Figure C, PowerPoint adds formatting to the header to clarify its position. Subsequently, the table style options now show row headings. In addition, PowerPoint uses the formatting of the current style, Medium Style 2 – Accent 1, in the header.

Figure C

Check the Header option to show styles with headers.
Check the Header option to show styles with headers.

Now that PowerPoint uses header styles by default, click the gallery’s More button to see what PowerPoint has to offer. Just hover over a thumbnail (Figure D), and the live preview shows that style in the selection table, making it much easier to make the first choice the right choice. If you’re in a hurry, just pick a style and go.

Figure D

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

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

How to tweak a built-in table style in PowerPoint

If you have time, you can use a built-in style and tweak it. To demonstrate this, I applied Medium Style 3 – Accent 6 to the table in Figure E, which you can see is sharp, clean and ready for use in an emergency; However, you may prefer horizontal row lines to keep viewers in the same row.

Figure E

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

How to add horizontal lines to the table in Figure EDo the following:

1. Select the cells instead of selecting the entire table as you did in the previous examples.

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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 are white (Figure F). If you applied a shading format you would see all the edges.

Figure F

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

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

Figure G

Pink may not be the desired ribbon color.
Pink may not be the desired ribbon color.

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

5. Look in the Light section. Light Style 2 – Accent 6 is what you want so click on 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 in place, although we took a little 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 beginner’s decision. On the other hand, it was just a click and that was my goal to point you in that direction. It’s easy to see how easy and fast it is to tweak a built-in style.



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