Apply simple table formatting in Microsoft PowerPoint

Image: Andreas Prott/Adobe Stock

Tables are common elements in Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, and the more succinct and clear they are, 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 PowerPoint table styles are based on Office themes, which makes maintaining consistency almost effortless.

SEE: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: A side-by-side analysis with checklist (TechRepublic Premium)

In this tutorial, I will 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 the formats you don’t want or add the ones you want. Starting with a ready-made style is faster than starting from scratch and offers opportunities to explore.

I use Microsoft 365 Desktop on a 64-bit Windows 10 system, but you can use older versions of PowerPoint. PowerPoint for the web supports built-in table styles. YesYou can download the demo file of this PowerPoint tutorial.

How to Apply an Embedded Table Design in PowerPoint

PowerPoint has several built-in table designs that you can apply with a single click. These styles contain combinations of formatting elements, such as shading, borders, font colors, and more. Applying a style requires two clicks: Click on the table to select it and click on the style to apply it. The result is a professional table ready for the show in seconds. They are perfect when you have little or no time to devote to applying individual sizes 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 manually creating a PowerPoint table. When you copy table data, PowerPoint applies the built-in style Medium Style 2 — Accent 1. In this case, the copied results are presentable as is and you cannot 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 significantly reduce formatting, you can choose the No Style, No Grid table style as follows:

1. Select the table.

2. Click the Table Design contextual tab.

3. In the Table Styles group, click the first style thumbnail, No Style, No Grid (Figure B).

Figure B

The No Style, No Grid style removes all spacing formatting.
The No Style, No Grid style removes all spacing formatting.

This style is the closest thing to no style, but it might also be 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 following example.

When applying a style, PowerPoint tries to match the data to the styles. For example, if PowerPoint thinks the copied data has a header row or a 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, that’s not a problem.

If PowerPoint fails to recognize a header row or column, do the following before applying a style:

1. Select the table.

2. Click the Table Design contextual tab.

3. In the Table Style Options group (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 show row headers. Additionally, PowerPoint uses the formatting of the current style, Medium Style 2 — Accent 1, on the header row.

Figure C

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

Now that PowerPoint defaults to Styles with Header Rows, click the Gallery’s More button to see what PowerPoint has to offer. Simply hover over any thumbnail (Figure D), and the live preview will display that style in the selection table, making it much easier to make the first choice the right choice. If you’re in a hurry, just pick a style and go.

Figure D

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

Now let’s continue by tweaking a built-in style.

How to Edit a Built-in Table Style in PowerPoint

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

Figure E

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

To add horizontal rows to the table in Figure Eproceed as follows:

1. Select the cells instead of selecting the whole table as you did in the previous examples.

2. Click the Table Design contextual 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 shading format, you would see all the borders.

Figure F

Add a horizontal line.
Add a horizontal line.

3. The fastest way to get the bottom line is to use no line at all, but strip rows. To do this, with the cells still selected, click the Banded Rows option in Table Style Options. Although PowerPoint applies a theme color, it is a pale pink (G-figure); fortunately, you can quickly change your choice.

G-figure

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

4. Click the Gallery More button in the Table Styles group. The applied style is in the third line of the Medium section. There are two other banded styles that also have a header row in the green column. However, you don’t want to apply anything.

5. Look in the Light section. Light Style 2 – Accent 6 is what you want, so click on it (H-figure).

H-figure

Choose a light green from the theme colors.
Choose a light green from the theme colors.

As you can see, a line-of-line format was there, although we took a slight detour before finding it. Once you’re familiar with all the ways to modify a built-in table style, you won’t be making such a beginner’s choice. On the other hand, it was just a click and it was my goal to steer you in that direction. It’s easy to see how quick and easy it is to tweak a built-in style.