Apply simple table formatting in Microsoft PowerPoint

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Tables are common elements in Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, and the more succinct and clear the better. You can create tables from scratch or copy the table from another program, and applying a built-in table style makes this route quick and easy. As a bonus, all of PowerPoint’s table styles are based on Office themes, so staying consistent is pretty easy.

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In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to quickly style table data copied from a Microsoft Excel table using PowerPoint’s built-in table styles. The easiest way to get a simple, clean design is to start with a PowerPoint table style and remove formatting you don’t want or add formatting you do want. Starting with an out-of-the-box style is quicker than starting from scratch and offers opportunities to explore.

I use Microsoft 365 Desktop on a 64-bit Windows 10 system, but can use older 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 Layout in PowerPoint

PowerPoint has several built-in table layouts 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 is show-ready in seconds. They’re great when you don’t have time or have little time to apply individual formats for a custom look.

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

Figure A

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

If you want to seriously reduce formatting, you can choose the No Style, No Grid table style as follows:

1. Select the table.

2. Click the Contextual Table Layout tab.

3. In the Table Styles group, click the thumbnail for the first style, 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 you can get to no style, but it might 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 original copied table in the example below.

When you apply a style, PowerPoint tries to match the data to the styles. For example, if PowerPoint thinks the copied data has a header row or header column, it will display styles with those elements. In our case, this did not happen, even though the Excel table has a header row. Fortunately, this is not a problem.

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

1. Select the table.

2. Click the Contextual Table Layout tab.

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

as you can see in Figure C, PowerPoint adds formatting to the header row to clarify its position. Subsequently, the Table Styles options now display row headers. Also, PowerPoint uses the formatting of the current style, Medium Style 2 – Emphasis 1, in the header row.

Figure C

Check the Header Row option to display styles with header rows.
Check the Header Row option to display styles with header rows.

Now that PowerPoint has default styles with header rows, click the More button in the gallery to see what PowerPoint has to offer. Simply hover over any thumbnail (Figure D), and Live Preview will display that style in the select table, making it much easier to make the first choice the right one. If you’re in a hurry, just pick a style and you’re good to go.

Figure D

Live Preview temporarily styles the table using Live Preview so you can compare styles before committing.
Live Preview temporarily styles the table using Live Preview so you can compare styles before committing.

Now let’s continue modifying a built-in style.

How to Modify a Built-in Table Style in PowerPoint

If you have time, you can use a built-in style and modify it. To demonstrate this, I applied Medium Style 3 — Accent 6 to the table in Figure E, which you can see is crisp, clean and ready to go in a pinch; however, you may prefer horizontal row lines to help viewers stay in the same line.

Figure E

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

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

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

2. Click the Contextual Table Layout 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 were to apply a shader format, you would see all the edges.

Figure F

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

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

Figure G

Pink might not be the band color you want.
Pink might not be the band color you want.

4. Click the More button in the gallery in the Table Styles group. The applied style is located in the third row of the Media section. There are two other banded styles that also have a header row 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, there was a row line format, although we drifted a bit before we found it. Once you’re familiar with all the ways to modify a built-in table style, you won’t make such a novice decision. On the other hand, it was just a click and that was my point of guiding you in that direction. It’s easy to see how adjusting a built-in style is quick and easy.

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