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Microsoft Onenote 2010 : Using Tables to Organize Information (part 1) - Creating a Table

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1/2/2015 8:36:35 PM

Anyone who’s ever used various Microsoft Office programs like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to create documents, spreadsheets, or presentations knows how useful tables can be to organize information and group information together in logical, meaningful ways.

Whether you’re organizing information for yourself or for other people, you can use tables in OneNote to present data in a familiar, easy-to-understand, row-and-column format.

Even though OneNote has excellent table support, I must point out that its approach to table creation and formatting differs quite a bit from its other Microsoft Office counterparts. As I’ve mentioned before, such seemingly inconsistent design choices aren’t the work of programmers who want to drive you crazy. Like many things in OneNote, it has to do with the complexity of the OneNote canvas and the freedom it provides from the typical lines and cells that constrain other types of electronic documents.

Because OneNote is also primarily a tool that lets you focus on your thoughts and ideas, the creation of tables is much simpler, compared with other programs. The intent behind this feature design is for the interface to get out of your way so you can concentrate on what you’re thinking and writing about.

While even intentional inconsistencies between computer programs can increase the initial learning curve by a bit, the payoff comes later, when you’ve learned how to use the feature and you see how it saves you time. If you prefer to go the long, more comfortable route when working with tables, OneNote also includes the “normal” commands on the ribbon to let you create tables on your pages in more traditional ways.

Creating a Table

To create a table in the most straightforward way, follow these steps:

1.
On any page, click where you want to create a table.

2.
On the ribbon, click the Insert tab.

3.
In the Tables group, click Table.

4.
On the pop-up menu that appears, click the Insert Table command at the bottom of the menu.

5.
In the small Insert Table dialog box that appears (see Figure 1), enter the number of columns and rows you want to start with and then click OK.

Figure 1. The Insert Table dialog box is one of three ways in which you can create a new table in OneNote 2010.


If you prefer to visually draw a table grid before filling its cells with information, do the following:

1.
On any page, click where you want to create a table.

2.
On the ribbon, click the Insert tab.

3.
In the Tables group, click Table.

4.
On the pop-up menu that appears, slowly move the mouse pointer over the table grid from the upper-left corner toward the lower right until the text over the table grid indicates the table size. For example, a 4 × 3 table would create a table with 4 columns and 3 rows (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. For a relatively small table, you can drag the mouse over the starting grid to draw the table with the number of rows and columns that you want.


5.
When the text confirms the dimensions you want, click the left mouse button to create the table.

Here’s how it works:

1.
On any page, click where you want to create the new table.

2.
Start typing the text that you want to appear in the first table cell (the leftmost column and the topmost row).

3.
On your keyboard, press the Tab key. OneNote creates a new table, puts the text you typed on the current line into the first cell, and then creates the next column.

4.
To continue the table until it has the dimensions you want, press the Tab key whenever you want to create a new column or press the Enter key to create a new row.

If the information that you want to include in your notes already exists in a table format in another program, like the spreadsheet cells in a Microsoft Excel workbook or a table in a Microsoft Word document, you can copy any selection from these and other programs and paste the table or grid selection into your notes. Note that any tables and spreadsheet cells that you paste into OneNote might not come over exactly as they appear at their source. OneNote lacks some of the sophisticated formatting choices that the Quick Galleries in Word, Excel, and other Office programs offer. This is because tables in OneNote are primarily intended to organize information instead of dressing it up with fancy formatting styles for the purpose of presentation.

If you need to include a fully formatted table in your notes—the same way it appears in its original spreadsheet or document—consider taking a screen clipping of the table portion you want and then inserting it into your notes. Though you can’t edit the information in screen clippings, this workaround provides a quick-and-easy way to include related information from other sources in your notes.

After you have created a table in OneNote, an entire new toolbox of commands awaits you on the ribbon. To display it, click any cell in your table to activate the cursor and then look for the yellow Table Tools tab that appears directly over the Layout tab on the ribbon (see Figure 3). When you click this yellow tab, 15 table-related commands become available for you to use. If you work a lot with tables in OneNote, the extra clicks to reach these commands on the ribbon might become tedious. For this reason, most of these commands are also available by right-clicking any cell in a table and then clicking the Table command on the shortcut menu (only the three cell alignment commands are exclusive to the Table Tools ribbon tab). I’ll describe each of these commands in more detail in the following step-by-step procedures.

Figure 3. When the cursor is located inside of a table cell, OneNote adds a yellow Table Tools tab over the Layout tab on the ribbon. Clicking this tab reveals the table-specific formatting tools.



 
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