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Create Excel Table & Fix Problems

Use Excel's Table command to convert a list of data into a named Excel Table. These tables have useful features, like sorting and filtering, to help organize and view data.

preview styles in the  table styles palette

What is an Excel Table?

In Excel 2007, and later versions, you can use the Table command to convert a list of data into a formatted Excel Table. Tables have many features, such as sorting and filtering, that will help you organize and view your data.

I recommend that you (almost) always format your lists as named Excel tables, to take advantage of those features, and many other benefits, described below.

formatted excel table

Excel Table Benefits

It's simple to format a list as a named Excel table, and there are many benefits, and just a few drawbacks

To see the easy steps in creating an Excel Table, you can watch this short video. The written steps are below.


  • In the header row, drop down lists in the heading cells make it easy to sort and filter the data
  • The table range expands and shrinks automatically, when you add or remove rows of data
  • Built-in styles make it easy to format the table's appearance, or change to a different look
  • Formulas and formatting fill down automatically
  • Formulas use structured references to table cells, showing the column name. This makes them easy to understand
  • Show or hide the table's built-in Totals row, where formulas show a Sum, Average, Count, or other summary amounts
  • An Excel Table makes an excellent source for a Pivot Table. You won't have to readjust the range, if data is added or removed


There are a few drawbacks to using named Excel tables though, so there might be situations where you prefer not to use them. For example:

  • Structured references to table cells don't have an "absolute" setting, so it's a bit trickier to copy them across a column
  • Tables won't expand automatically on protected sheets, even if the cells below the table are unlocked
  • You can't group and copy or move multiple sheets, if any sheet contains an Excel table
  • Custom Views are not allowed in a workbook that has 1 or more Excel tables

Preparing Your Data

Before you create the formatted Excel Table, follow these guidelines for organizing your data.

  • The data should be organized in rows and columns, with each row containing information about one record, such as a sales order, or inventory transaction.
  • In the first row of the list, each column should contain a short, descriptive and unique heading.
  • Each column in the list should contain one type of data, such as dates, currency, or text.
  • Each row in the list should contain the details for one record, such as a sales order. If possible, include a unique identifier for each row, such as an order number.
  • The list should have no blank rows within it, and no completely blank columns.
  • The list should be separated from any other data on the worksheet, with at least one blank row and one blank column between the list and the other data.

    prepare data for excel table

Create an Excel Table

After your data is organized, as described above, you're ready to create the formatted Table.

  1. Select a cell in the list of data that you prepared.
  2. On the Ribbon, click the Insert tab.
  3. insert table command

  4. In the Tables group, click the Table command.
  5. In the Create Table dialog box, the range for your data should automatically appear, and the My table has headers option is checked. If necessary, you can adjust the range, and check box.
  6. Click OK to accept these settings.

create table dialog box

Sort and Filter the Data

Your list is now an Excel Table, and is automatically formatted with a default Table Style, which you can change. See the steps below, in the Change Excel Table Style section.

At the top of the talbe, the heading cells have drop down arrows that you can use to sort or filter the data.

  • NOTE: In Excel 2013 and later, you can also use Excel Table Slicers to quickly filter the table data.

sort and filter commands

Turn Off Table Filters

In some Excel Tables, you might want to turn off the automatic filter buttons in the table heading row.

Here are a couple of reasons why you might want to hide the filters:

  • Filter buttons cover some of the text in the column headings
  • Discourage people from filtering the table, and hiding some of the rows of data

To turn off the filters:

  1. Select a cell in the Excel Table
  2. On the Ribbon’s Data tab, click the Filter command, to turn off the filter.

Note: After you turn off the filters, the Excel Table is still recognized as a table, so you can continue to use all its other features, such as Table Styles, and show Banded Rows.

sort and filter commands

Rename an Excel Table

When it is created, an Excel table is given a default name, such as Table 3. You should change the name to something meaningful, so it will be easier to work with the table later.

To change the table name:

  1. Select any cell in the table
  2. On the Ribbon, under the Table Tools tab, click the Design tab.

    design tab on Ribbon

  3. At the far left of the Ribbon, click in the Table name box, to select the existing name

    table name box

  4. Then, type a new name, such as Orders, and press the Enter key

    new name in Table Name box

Change Excel Table Style

After you create an Excel Table, you can quickly change its appearance, at any time.

Excel has a selection of built-in Table Styles, in a variety of colours, and in Light, Medium and Dark settings. You can also create a custom Table Style, if you need special colours or formatting.

To choose a different style for an existing Excel Table, follow these steps:

  • Select any cell in the Excel table
  • On the Ribbon, click the Table Design tab
    • Or, under the Table Tools tab, click the Design tab
  • In the Table Styles group, click the More button to open Table Styles palette

click the More button to open table styles palette

Next, follow these steps to apply one of the styles:

  • In the Table Styles palette, point to any of the table styles
  • The table on the worksheet will change automatically, to show a preview of the highlighted style.
    • Optional - Point to other styles, to find one that you like
  • When you decide on a Table Style, click on that style in the palette
  • The Table Styles palette will close, and the selected style is applied to the Excel Table on the worksheet.

Tip: You can repeat these steps at any time, to choose a new table style for an existing table.

preview styles in the  table styles palette

Create Excel Table With Specific Style

When you create a table you can apply a specific style from the Table Style options, instead of using the default style. Then, when you are applying that style, click the option to remove any current cell formatting from the data range.

Watch this video to see the steps, and the written instructions are below the video

Create an Excel Table With Specific Style

When you create a table with the Table command on the Ribbon's Insert tab, the table retains any formatting that it currently has, and the default Table Style is applied.

If you want to apply a specific table style when creating an Excel Table, follow these steps:

  1. Select a cell in the list of data that you prepared.
  2. On the Ribbon, click the Home tab.
  3. In the Styles group, click Format as Table
  4. Click on the Style that you want to use

    format as table

    OR, to apply a Style and remove any existing formatting, right-click on a Style, and click Apply and Clear Formatting

    format as table

  5. In the Create Table dialog box, the range for your data should automatically appear, and the My table has headers option is checked. If necessary, you can adjust the range, and check box.
  6. Click OK to accept these settings.

A formatted Excel Table is created, with the selected Table Style.

Create Custom Table Style

When you create an Excel Table, a default style is applied. You can change to a different built-in style, or create custom styles, with your own formatting.

  • Tip: The easiest way to create a custom style is to find a built-in style that is similar to the style you want to create. Then, use that as the basis for your custom style. This method is used in the steps below.

To create your own custom Table Style, based on a built-in style, follow these steps.

  • Select a cell in the Excel table
  • Next, on the Excel Ribbon, click the Design tab.
  • In the Table Styles group, click the More button to open Table Styles palette
  • In the Table Styles gallery, right-click the style you want to duplicate.
  • In the pop-up menu, click Duplicate
  • The Modify Table dialog box opens, and shows the current settings for the Table Style

Modify Custom Table Style

Next, follow these steps to name the style and set the formatting

  • At the top of the Modify Table dialog box, type a name for the new Table style.
    • If you created a new style, the dialog box will be named New PivotTable Quick Style.)
  • Next, scroll through the list of Table Elements, to find an element that you want to change
    • Tip: Elements in bold font have formatting applied
  • To modify an element's formatting, click it to select it
    • You can select any element in the list whether it is bold or not
  • Next, click the Format button
  • In the Format Cells dialog box, select the Font, Border, and Fill settings you want for the selected element.
  • Then, click OK, to return to the Modify Table dialog box
  • At the right side of the dialog box, you can see the revised formatting in the Preview section
  • Optional -Repeat the formatting steps for other elements, if you want to change them
  • Optional - Add a check mark to Set As Default Table Style For This Document.
  • Click OK, to close the dialog box

Note: If any sheet in the workbook is protected, you can’t modify or delete a Custom Style.

Apply Custom Table Style

The new Table style that you created is not automatically applied to the active Excel table. Follow these steps to apply your new custom style.

  • Select a cell in the Excel table that you want to format.
  • Open the Table Styles palette.
  • The custom Table Style you created is added to a Custom section at the top of the Table Styles palette.
  • Click your custom style, to apply it to the active Excel table

In this screen shot, the new custom style, MY GREEN TABLE, is being applied to the Excel Table.

custom style MY GREEN TABLE

Show Totals in a Table

After you create an Excel table, it's easy to show the total for a column, or for multiple columns, using a built-in Table feature.

Watch this video to see the steps, and the written instructions are below the video

Show Totals in Excel Table

To show a total row, follow these steps:

  1. Select any cell in the table
  2. On the Ribbon, under the Table Tools tab, click the Design tab
  3. In the Table Style Options group, add a check mark for Total Row

    prepare data for excel table

  4. A Total row will be added at the bottom of the table, and one or more column of numbers might show a total.

Total Row Calculations

When you first add the Total Row, Excel automatically puts a Subtotal formula into the last column of the total row, to show a sum or count of the items in that column.

  • If the entries are all numbers, the first argument is 109 – SUM.
  • If there are non-numeric entries, the first argument is 103 – COUNTA

subtotal formula in  total row

Totals for Filtered Data

Excel uses the SUBTOTAL function in the total row, because that function only calculates the total for items that are visible after applying a filter.

You can replace the automatic formula in the Total Row, if you prefer, and you can add Total formulas in other columns.

For example, add an AGGREGATE formula in the Total row β€” it has more functions and options than SUBTOTAL.

aggregate formula in  total row

Change and Add Totals

In addition to the automatically created totals, you can select totals for other columns.

  1. Click in the Total cell for one of the columns.
  2. From the drop down list, select the function that you want to use in the current column.

    prepare data for excel table

A SUBTOTAL formula is added to the cell, and it shows the calculation based on the visible cells in the table's column.

prepare data for excel table

Turn Off the Total Row

After you create a formatted Excel table, it’s easy to turn the Total Row on or off.

  • Select a cell in the Excel table
  • On the Excel Ribbon, under Table Tools, click the Design tab
  • In the Table Style Options group, add or remove the check mark for Total Row

show or hide total row

Add Data to Table with Total Row

If the Total Row is showing in an Excel table, you do not need to hide the totals, when you want to add new data.

Use one of the following methods to add data to Excel Table when the Total Row showing. With both methods, the Total row moves down automatically.

Add One New Row

To add a single row of new data:

  • Select the last cell in the last row of data
  • Press the Tab key, to start a new row

Add Multiple Rows of New Data

To paste new data at the end of the table

  • Copy the data that you want to add (Ctrl+C)
  • Select the first cell in the Title row, even if there’s text or a formula there
  • Then, press Enter, or Ctrl+V, to paste the copied data

The Total row moves down automatically, as shown in the animated screen shot below.

Total row moves down automatically

Refer to Table Column in Formula

When a formula refers to part of a named Excel Table, a Structured Reference is created. The Structured Reference will show the table's column name, and might include the table name. For example, this reference is to the Product column in a table named OrderRef -- OrdersRef[Product]

Formula Outside the Table

In this example, a formula will be created outside of the table. The formula will use the COUNTBLANK function to count the blank cells in a table column. The table is named OrderRef and the column is named Product.

  1. To start the formula, select a blank cell and type: =COUNTBLANK(
  2. Then, click at the very top of the heading cell, for the column that you want to check -- the pointer will change to a down arrow.

    click top of table heading cell

    • Don't click on the column button where the column letter is.

      do not click column heading

    • And don't click in the middle of the heading cell

      do not click middle of table heading

  3. The structured reference should show the table name and the column name:
  4. =COUNTBLANK(OrdersRef[Product]

  5. Then, type a closing bracket, and press Enter, to complete the formula.

    formula with structured reference

Problem: Copy Formulas with Table References

If you create Excel formulas that include table references, and then try to copy those formulas, by dragging to the right, you might get incorrect results.

incorrect total in cell D5

That happens because table references are NOT locked, so the column references adjust automatically, as you drag to the right.

This video shows the problem when copying formulas with table references, and two ways to prevent it. There are notes and a timeline below the video.

Video Timeline

  • 00:00 Introduction
  • 00:46 SUBTOTAL Formula to Check Totals
  • 01:19 SUMIFS Formula with Table References
  • 01:42 Copy the Formula Down One Row
  • 02:13 Copy Across
  • 03:09 Copy With No Problems
  • 03:45 Get More Information

Fix: Copy Formula with Table References

To avoid problems, when you copy formulas with table references, DO NOT DRAG the fill handle to copy across.

Instead, use one of these methods to copy the formulas:

  • Fill to the right with a keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + R
  • Copy the formula (Ctrl + C), and paste it into other cells (Ctrl + V)

Both of these methods are shown in the video (above). For step-by-step written details on these methods, go to the Excel Sum Function Examples page.

Table Doesn't Expand For New Data

By default an Excel table should expand automatically, and fill formulas down to the last row. If Excel tables are NOT expanding automatically on your computer, the video below shows one of the most common fixes for this problem -- the AutoFormat settings.

There are written steps, and other solutions to this problem, on the Excel Table Auto Expand page.

NOTE: Changing these settings will affect all workbooks that you open in Excel, on your computer.

Turn These Settings On or Off With Macros

To change the Excel Table Autoformat settings with a macro, go to the Excel Table Macro page.

The macro code is shown on that page, and you can also download a sample Excel workbook that contains the macro code.

Data Validation Missing in New Rows

In some Excel tables, where there are data validation drop down lists, those lists might not appear when you add new rows at the bottom of the table.

Usually, that happens because the drop down lists have been removed from one or more of the existing rows in the Excel table.

  • Perhaps someone copied a cell, without a drop down list, from another part of the workbook.
  • Then, they pasted that cell into the Excel table, overwriting one of the drop down list cells.
  • The inconsistent formatting confuses Excel, so the new row does not get a drop down list.

Fix the Data Validation

To fix the problem, try these steps:

  • In the Excel Table, select one of the cells that has a drop down list
  • Press Ctrl + C, to copy the cell
  • Select all of the data cells in the column where you copied the cell (do not include the heading cell)
  • Right-click on one of the selected cells, and click Paste Special
  • In the Paste Special dialog box, in the Paste section, click Validation
  • Click OK, to apply the data validation settings to all the selected cells

paste special validation

Add a Counter Field

If you plan to use your Excel table as the source data for a pivot table, add a counter field, that can be used in calculated fields, or summary calculations.

This is very easy to create and maintain in an Excel table, if you use a simple formula, instead of typing the value.

  1. On the OrdersTable sheet, add a new heading in first blank column -- Sales
  2. In the cell below the heading, type a formula: =1
  3. Press Enter, to complete the formula

    counter field in excel table

Because the data is in a named Excel table, the formula will automatically fill down to all the rows. It will also be automatically entered when you add new rows.

The 1s will give us a value that can be summed in a pivot table, or used in a Calculated Field, to give correct results.

Print Excel Table Only

When you are working with lists in Excel, use the built-in Table feature, to make it easier to work with the data. Then, if you want to print just the table, without the other items on the worksheet, you can use a built-in command -- Print List.

The command is not on the Ribbon, so you can add it there, or put the command on the Quick Access Toolbar. Watch this short video to see the steps.

Excel Table Macros

For more Excel Table macros, go to the Excel Table Macro page.

On that page, you'll find macros to automate the following task:

  • List All Tables in a Workbook
  • Get Sheet Name for Specific Excel Table
  • Change Table AutoFormat Settings

Get the Sample File

  1. Basic: To download the sample file with the tables for this tutorial, click here: Table Sample File. The zipped file is in xlsx format, and does NOT contain macros.

Related Excel Tutorials

Excel Table Macros

Insert Table Rows

Excel Table Auto Expand

Table Name, Show on Worksheet

Excel Table Slicers

Excel Project Task Tracker

Create a Pivot Table

Macro - Copy Excel Table Rows


Last updated: March 14, 2024 12:19 PM