Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles

Tools of the Trade

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book


Building tables in QuarkXPress has long been painful without buying a third-party XTension. Fortunately, XPress now has a Table tool which lets you create simple tables quickly and painlessly. Whether you need a table for financial data in an annual report, a form for ordering supplies, or a chart listing this week's Top Ten Pop Songs, the Table tool will make your life a happier place.

Table Terms. In order for you make and use tables, you need to understand some table terminlogy.

  • A cell is one box of information within a table. Tables consist of a grid of cells, and cells are always picture or text boxes.
  • A field is the contents of one cell; in XPress, cells can contain either text, pictures, or be blank.
  • A row is a horizontal series of cells in a table (there is normally more than one row in a table).
  • A column is a vertical series of cells in a table (there is normally more than one column in a table).
  • A table is the entire unit, all columns and rows containing cells.
  • A delimiter is a text character that tells XPress to separate one field from the next. The primary delimiter characters are usually a tab and a new paragraph character, but it can also be a comma, a space, or any other character. You only need to worry about delimiters when converting text into a table or a table into text (I'll cover both of these later in this section).

It's important to remember that tables in QuarkXPress are actually just grids of text and picture boxes separated by regular ol' lines. You could manually make a table with boxes and lines, but it would take much longer than using the Table tool and you wouldn't be able to take advantage of a few special table features (like combining cells together).

Building Tables

You can make a table anywhere on your page (or pasteboard) by selecting the Table tool from the Tool palette (that's the one that looks like a small flyswatter) and dragging out a box, just like you would any picture or text box. The program immediately displays the Table Properties dialog box, in which you can enter the number of columns and rows you want in the table, as well as whether you want the cells to be text or picture boxes (see Figure 3-82). Don't worry, you can always change the cell type, or insert (or delete) rows and columns later. You can even change the tab order of your cells and link the cells together. I'll discuss these features soon.


Figure 3-82 Drawing a new table

Once you have drawn a table, you can insert text or pictures into each cell, just as though each cell were a text or picture box (which, as I said before, it actually is). So you can click in the cell with the Content tool and either type or use Get Text or Get Picture. If you have linked your cells together (see "Linking Text Cells," below), any text you type or import flows from cell to cell. If you have not, it only flows into the cell in which the text cursor is flashing.

Convert Text to Table. QuarkXPress lets you turn any selected block of text into a table by choosing Convert Text to Table from the Item menu. This gives you the Convert Text to Table dialog box (see Figure 3-83), which lets you specify the row and column delimiters, and the order you want the table filled. XPress automatically calculates the number of columns and rows, so you don't have to type those (though you can override these numbers if you dare).


Figure 3-83 Convert Text to Table

Let's say you need to format some data from Microsoft Excel. You can tell Excel to export the data using a tab-delimited format, which places tabs between each field and a paragraph return at the end of each row. Import that text file into XPress, select it, specify these delimiters, and press OK. QuarkXPress does the rest and builds a table object on your page, placing the proper fields in each cell. The original text box is still there; if you don't want it anymore, you'll have to delete it yourself.

Note that some comma-delimited text files use a format in which any fields that actually contain commas are surrounded by quotations marks. Currently, XPress cannot deal with these kinds of files, so it's much better to use tab-delimited text whenever possible.

QuarkXPress also lets you convert a table into text; I'll cover that later in this section.

Setting tab order. XPress lets you specify the table's "tab order"—the order in which you jump from cell to cell. You can select this option in the Table Properties dialog box when you first create the table, or when you use the Convert Text to Table command. Or you can change it later by selecting the table and choosing Modify from the Item menu, and clicking the Table tab. Normally, you'll accept the default (from left to right in the first row, and then downward through the rows). However, you can also choose one of three other orderings: Right to Left, Top Down; Top Down, Left to Right; and Top Down, Right to Left (sorry, I can't find any way to start the data at the bottom and tab upward).

Linking text cells. While XPress 5 didn't allow any linking of text cells in a table, XPress 6 is more flexible, letting you link text cells within a table together, or to any other text box or text cell. You can link cells automatically, following a specified link order, or linked manually in any order you want.

To link cells automatically, turn on the Link Cells option in the Table Properties dialog box when creating a table. Then choose one of four choices from the Link Order popup menu—the same orderings as in the Tab Order popup menu. Text placed into a table cell flows from cell to cell in the link order. If you forget to set this when you first create the table, you can select Link Text Cells from the Table submenu (in the Item menu or the context menu) while the Item tool is selected. Then you can choose the link order in the Table tab of the Modify dialog box. However, you can't apply automatic linking when there's already text in the cells.

Since text table cells are really text boxes, you can also use the Linking tool to manually link cells together. Use the Linking and Unlinking tools as I describe earlier in this chapter. You can also link text between cells in a table and any other text box.

Of course, if you link the cells in your table and then try to enter text in the third cell over, the text appears in the first cell. That is, linked cells act just like linked text boxes. This confuses even advanced users.

Note that if you later save your document as an XPress 5 file, the links will be lost. To avoid this problem, select Convert Table to Group from the Table submenu (in the Item menu or the context menu; see "Convert Table to Text or Group," later in this section).

Changing Rows and Columns

Now that you have a table, it's time to start formatting it: changing the size of the table, adding or removing columns or rows, combining and splitting cells, and changing the size of columns or rows.

Resizing the table. There are two ways to resize your table: you can drag one of the table's corner or side handles, or you can drag the edge of the table itself. The difference between these two methods is important. If you drag a corner or side handle, XPress changes all the cells in the table. For instance, if you pull the right side handle out, you change the width of every cell in the table.

You can hold down a modifier key while dragging a side or corner handle, too. If you hold down the Shift key while you drag, the table is resized to a square. The Command (Ctrl) key resizes the contents of each cell along with the table (Command-Option-Shift-drag or Ctrl-Alt-Shift-drag resizes the table and keeps the same height-width proportion.)

If, however, you click and drag the edge of the table (on any point where there isn't a handle), then you extend only the cells along that edge (see Figure 3-84).


Figure 3-84 Resizing your tables

Deleting columns and rows. To delete a column or row, you need to select a whole column or row of cells. To do this, select the table with the Content tool and then move the cursor just outside the table until the cursor icon changes to a horizontal or vertical black arrow. Clicking when you see this cursor results in a whole row or column being selected. Once you have selected a row or column, you can delete it by selecting Delete from the Table submenu (under the Item menu, or in the context-sensitive menu).

To select more than one contiguous column or row, drag the black-arrow cursor over additional columns or rows. To select discontinuous columns or rows, hold down the Shift key as you select each column or row.

Adding columns or rows. To add a new column or row, use the Content tool and place the cursor in a table cell. Now select Insert Row or Insert Column from the Table submenu (under the Item menu, or in the context-sensitive menu). Either way, XPress displays the Insert dialog box, which lets you choose how many rows or columns you want to add, as well as where the new rows or columns should be added (see Figure 3-85). If you turn on the Keep Attributes option, the added cells take on the formatting of the selected cell. When this option is off, you just get default, no-format cells.


Figure 3-85 Inserting rows or columns

Combining and splitting cells. Cells don't have to be exactly one row tall or one column wide. You can make a cell span across multiple rows or columns by selecting two or more cells and combining them. To select more than one cell in a table, Shift-click on each cell you want selected. Or, you can also just drag the Content tool over two or more cells to select them all. If you select a cell by accident, you can Shift-click on it to deselect it. Then, when you've selected two or more cells in a row or column, choose the Combine Cells feature from the Table submenu (in the Item menu, or in the context-sensitive menu). Combining cells eliminates all content from all selected cells except the one in the upper-left-most selected cell. That content will fill the newly combined cell.

If you later decide that you want combined cells returned to their original appearance, you can split them. Select the combined cell and choose Split Cell from the Table submenu (in the Item menu, or in the context-sensitive menu). Note that you can only split cells you've already combined; not regular cells.

Changing row and column size. You can resize a single row or column by dragging the gridlines between the rows and columns with the Content tool. This can be a little tricky; you have to move the cursor over the gridline until you see it change into a cross-like double-headed arrow. Once you see that cursor, you can click and drag the gridline.

Note that QuarkXPress has no way to automatically resize column or row boundaries based on the content of the cells. Maybe in a later version of the program it will offer an auto-expand feature.

There's one other way to change your row or column size: place the cursor in a cell and open the Modify dialog box (select Modify from the Item menu, press Command-M (Ctrl-M), or Command/Ctrl-double-click on the table). Here, switch to the Cell tab and set the height or width of this cell— changing it for this one cell changes it for all the cells in that row or column.

If you have more than one cell selected, you can click the Distribute Evenly button in the Cell tab of the Modify dialog box to equalize the rows or columns. That is, it takes the total width or height of the cells and divides it up equally for each row or column you have selected. This is extremely useful when you want several rows or columns to be the same width but aren't sure exactly what that width should be.

Maintain Geometry. When you select a table and open the Modify dialog box, you'll notice a feature called Maintain Geometry on the Table tab (see Figure 3-86). You can also select this option from the Table submenu (in the Item menu, or in the context-sensitive menu). When this checkbox is turned on, XPress will not change the size of the table when you add or remove rows or columns—it simply resizes the remaining rows and columns proportionally. It also maintains the table dimensions when you change row or column size. If you leave this feature turned off, then the table size actually changes when you add or remove columns.


Figure 3-86 The Table tab of the Modify dialog box

Also, when Maintain Geometry is turned on, you cannot resize a table by dragging one of its outside edges. You can, however, still use the corner or side handles.

Formatting Cells

Remember that each cell in a table is just a picture box or a text box, and you can do almost anything to a cell that you would to an ordinary box. For instance, to change a cell from a text box into a picture box, place the cursor inside it and choose Picture from the Content submenu (under the Item menu or the context-sensitive menu).

Similarly, to change the background color of the cell, you can use the Color palette or the Modify dialog box. You can even format a cell to have a background of None or a gradient.

Here's something you can do to cells in a table that you cannot do with regular picture or text boxes: You can apply formatting to the contents of more than one cell at a time. For example, if you want to apply a paragraph style to all the cells in a row, you can select that row (see "Changing Rows and Columns," above) and click on the style in the Style Sheets palette. If you want your headings to be rotated in the cells, you can select that row, open the Modify dialog box, and change the Text Angle field.

Formatting the Table Box

There is another box which contains the cells of a table and which is behind them, called the table box. However, by default, table cells have a white background so you can't normally see it. To change the color of the table box itself, pick a color in the Table tab of the Modify dialog box or select the table with the Item tool and then pick a color from the Colors palette. Now, if you change the background color of the cells to None either by selecting them or changing the table preferences (see below), you can see the table box's color. By default, the table box itself has a transparent background so you can see through it to objects below.

The table box also has a frame that surrounds the table. You can change its properties by first selecting the table with the Item tool, and then choosing Modify from the Item menu, and selecting the Frame tab.

Formatting Gridlines

Now that you know how to format the stuff inside cells, it's time to format the stuff around them: the gridlines. There are three ways to select the gridlines.

  • You can select the table with the Item tool (instead of the Content tool) and open the Modify dialog box (press Command/Ctrl-M). Choose the Grid tab of the Modify dialog box (see Figure 3-87), and then click on one of the buttons along the right side of the dialog box: vertical gridlines, horizontal gridlines, or all gridlines.

    Figure 3-87 The Grid tab of the Modify dialog box

  • With the Content tool selected, you can choose Select Vertical, Select Horizontal, Select Borders, or Select All from the Gridlines submenu (under the Item menu, or in the context-sensitive menu). When you choose Select Borders, XPress selects the four outer sides of the table.
  • You can choose one or more gridlines in your table by Shift-clicking on them with the Content tool.

Once you have one or more gridlines selected, you can specify color, style, and width in the Grid tab of the Modify dialog box. Or, if the Modify dialog box isn't open, you can change these settings in the Style menu or the context-sensitive menu. Remember that the gridlines are exactly like regular lines in XPress, so you can use custom dashes and stripes, change the gap color, or whatever else you choose to do.

Sometimes you'll want to make a table that has no gridlines—where the cells abut each other with no lines in between. To do this, select the lines you want to change and set their color to None. Note that when you have transparent gridlines, you're looking at the table box; if you've changed the table box's color, then you'll see this color "peeking through" the gridline.


Figure 3-88 One-celled tables

Convert Table to Text or Group

You can extract the contents of a selected table into a single text box by choosing Convert Table to Text from the Table submenu (under the Item menu or in the context-sensitive menu). XPress gives you choices regarding delimiter characters (what to put between the contents of each cell), the text extraction order, and the choice to delete the table once converted (see Figure 3-90).


Figure 3-90 Convert Table to Text

When you click OK the program generates a new text box with the contents from the table, separated by delimiters (usually tab characters). You can position this text box someplace on your page, or use Save Text (from the File menu) to export the text to disk. For instance, you might want to export the table to disk as a text file if your client or accounting department needs a text version of your table to import into a spreadsheet.

Picture cells in your table get automatically converted to anchored picture boxes when you extract the data with Convert Table to Text.

You can also convert a table to a group of text boxes by selecting Convert Table to Group from the Table submenu (under the Item menu or the context-sensitive menu). The table is replaced with grouped boxes. You might do this if you were saving back to QuarkXPress 5 format when you're using features not supported by that version.

Default Preference Settings

Are you tired of changing the gridlines in all your tables to half a point instead of one point? Do the cells in your tables always have the same background color? Do you want your table text to be vertically centered in your table's cells? Don't tire yourself by change these manually every time you make a table; instead, double-click on the Table tool to open the Tool tab of the Preferences dialog box, and click Modify to change the Table tool's default settings (see Figure 3-91).


Figure 3-91 Table tool preferences

Of course, like other document preferences, if a document is open when you change these settings, it affects just that one document. To change the application's default settings for any newly created documents, change these defaults with no documents open.

Note that these preferences affect both how tables appear when you draw them with the Table tool and when XPress makes a table for you using the Convert Text to Table feature.

Tables for Web Layouts

While I don't cover building Web layouts and exporting to HTML until Chapter 14, Going Online With QuarkXPress, it's worth noting here that you can use the Table tool to produce tables in Web layouts. Then, when you export HTML from your Web layout, XPress automatically converts your table into an HTML table. However, because HTML tables have severe restrictions, XPress simply won't let you do much formatting to tables that you create in a Web layout. For instance, gridlines must be a minimum of 2 pixels, you cannot change their color or style, and you cannot rotate text in a cell.

Therefore, if you want to use any of the more fancy table formatting, you must first turn on the Convert Table to Graphic checkbox in the Modify dialog box. This way, XPress exports your table as a picture (typically a GIF image) instead of an HTML table. If you turn your print layout into a Web layout, QuarkXPress turns this checkbox on by default.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020