There are lots of features you can add to your tables in InDesign to make them more appealing and easier to follow for your readers. Three of the most useful features are explained below: (1) creating two header rows that repeat at the top of every page of a multi-page table; (2) adding images to your table; and (3) aligning columns of numbers.
We’ll use the basic table from our first blog post about tables as a starting point to explain step-by-step how you can set up all of these features in your table.
Creating a second header row
In our previous blog post, we created a basic table (see right) with one header row containing column heads. However, adding an extra header row to contain an overall table title is particularly suitable for a table that will flow onto two or more pages. Here are the steps to create an extra header row for a table title:
Insert your cursor anywhere in the table, then click the fly-out menu in the Table panel and choose Table Options>Headers and Footers. Change the number of Header Rows to 2, choose Once per Page from the Repeat Header drop-down menu, then click OK.
You’ll see that InDesign has created a new blank row below your existing header row, so you’ll want to copy and paste your column heads into the second row. Select the column heads row, copy it (Ctrl/Cmd+C), then select the new lower header row and paste (Ctrl/Cmd+V). Now select the top row again and press Delete to remove the text. Merge the cells in the blank top header row by clicking the fly-out menu in your Table panel, and choosing Merge Cells. Type your table title in the top row, then create and apply a new paragraph style to it called, say, Table Title or tt. Your tt paragraph style could include centering the title, all caps, a different typeface and/or color, or whatever features suit you. Here’s how our table looks now with its two header rows and the title centered in all caps:
These two header rows will repeat at the top of the table on every page, regardless of how many pages this table continues on.
Adding images to your table cells
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words! Adding images to your table cells is easy with just a few steps of preparation. First be sure that the table cells you are adding images to are large enough to hold the images. In our example, we made the cells larger by selecting all the cells that will hold images, then in the Table panel increasing the height of the cells (see the second row in the Table panel that shows the height icon and says At Least) and the width of the cells (the third row). We used the up arrows to increase the cell size to 0.75 in x 1.38 in. Use your up and down arrows to adjust the height and width of your cells to suit you.
With the cells still selected, click the fly-out menu in your Table panel and choose Cell Options>Graphic. Make sure all the Cell Insets are set to zero as shown below, check the Clip Contents to Cell box, and click OK. Now these table cells are ready to have an image placed in them.
Click in any image cell and then place your image there by choosing File>Place or pressing Ctrl/Cmd+D and choosing an appropriate image. Once the image is in the cell, you can move and resize it using your Direct Selection Tool, if needed.
Lining up numbers in columns
In our example table above, we have two types of numbers in columns: numbers mixed with words (in column 3) and prices with two decimal points (in column 5). Other numbers that might appear in tables are dates, numbers with lots of decimal points (24.57825), whole numbers, and many other variations. Following are some standard ways to align numbers in columns.
Numbers with decimal points
Lists of numbers with decimal points, including prices, are always aligned on the decimals. To line up decimals, start by selecting your entire column of decimal numbers, then open the Tabs panel by clicking Type>Tabs. Select the tab icon on the right called Align to Decimal, then click anywhere between the arrows at the top of the ruler to set a tab (see the blue decimal tab set in the image below). Then slide the tab left or right so that the longest number in your column appears to be centered. Now all of your decimal numbers will align properly on their own, and you don’t need to hit the Tab key at all.
For a list that consists strictly of whole numbers, align the numbers to the right by using right alignment and right indent. First select the whole column, then look for the icons (shown at right) in your Paragraph panel. Change the alignment to Align Right, and all of your numbers will align properly to the right. It often looks nicer if the longest number is centered in the cell, and you can adjust the amount of space on the right of the cells by adjusting the right indent. In the image below, see how 0.04 in was added in the Right Indent box, and now the longest number is centered in the column.
Numbers mixed with words
Most often, numbers mixed with words should be left aligned, but having said that, the most important thing is that the column looks its best. For example, in our 3rd column, we have numbers mixed with words (e.g. 3 to 10). However, rather than left align this column, it looks nicer centered because the numbers and words all have a similar number of characters.
So use your best judgment in deciding whether to left align or center numbers mixed with words, and go with whichever looks the best to you.
Dates should always be left aligned, no matter what format they take (May 1, 2017 or 5/01/17 or 2017-05-01). Left aligned is the default setting for tables in InDesign, so your dates should already be left aligned. If you’d prefer a bit more space on the left side of your date cells, first select the cells and then add a bit more space either using the Left Indent icon in your Paragraph panel (as explained for the right indent above), or alternatively increase the Left Cell Inset at the bottom of your Table panel.
Creating new cell styles
If you’ve created columns of cells with specific attributes applied to them (such as changing their size for adding images, or aligning to a decimal point), you may want to save these attributes in a new cell style. That way, if you create other tables within the same document, you can easily apply these attributes to cells in other tables.
To create a new cell style, first select all the column cells with a specific attribute (for example, the cells you added images to). Open your Cell styles panel, click the fly-out menu, and choose New Cell Style. Type a name for your new cell style (such as image, or decimals, or right-aligned), then click OK. With the cells still selected, click the new style in the Cell Styles panel (as shown below) to apply that cell style to all the cells you have selected. And now the Cell Style is available for use in any other tables you create.
3 blog posts to help you with tables
We hope our set of three blog posts about setting up tables in InDesign will help you get started with your own tables.
Want to import from Excel into InDesign? explains:
- importing a spreadsheet from Excel into InDesign
- changing widths of columns to fit a book page
- adding a header row that repeats from page to page
- creating paragraph styles for columns heads and text
- aligning text within table cells
- copying and pasting a table into main narrative flow of text
Making tables look good in InDesign explains:
- creating and applying cell styles for header and text rows
- creating and applying a table style
- setting up alternating row colors for a modern-looking table
- adding color to table cells and text
This blog post explains:
- adding a second header row to include a table title
- adding images to table cells
- aligning numbers in columns
- creating new cell styles for use in other tables
If you have any questions or comments, we’ll welcome your feedback in the comments. Happy designing!