Keeping a Table Together

Home Tutorials My MVP FAQs Useful Links


Keeping a table together on one page

This article answers the following question:

I’m starting a table near the bottom of a page, so I’d rather have the entire table on the next page instead of being broken over two pages (it’s not too long to all fit on one page). Is there any way to do that without inserting a manual page break?

After reading this article, you may want to read its sequel, “Controlling Page Breaks in Tables.”

General principles of controlling text flow

It’s best to avoid manual page breaks in documents wherever possible, and luckily this is usually easy to do with paragraph formatting. The relevant settings are found in the Paragraph dialog.

  • Word 2003 and earlier: On the Format menu, select Paragraph. In the Paragraph dialog, select the Line and Page Breaks tab.

  • Word 2007 and later: On the Home tab, in the Paragraph group, click the dialog launcher (small arrow) in the bottom right corner to open the Paragraph dialog. Select the Line and Page Breaks tab.

  • Any version: Right-click in the paragraph. On the context menu, click Paragraph… to open the Paragraph dialog. Select the Line and Page Breaks tab.

On the Line and Page Breaks tab of the Paragraph dialog are several options that control text flow:

  • “Widow/Orphan control” prevents a single line of a paragraph from being left alone at the top or bottom of a page. This property is enabled by default for all styles in Word.

  • “Keep lines together,” as the name implies, keeps all the lines of a paragraph together. That is, it keeps a single paragraph from being split across two pages.

  • “Keep with next” keeps a given paragraph with the following one. That is, it prevents the two paragraphs from being separated across two pages. This property is assigned by default to Word's built-in Heading 1–Heading 4 styles to ensure that headings stay with following text. (It really should logically be applied to all heading styles if they’re actually being used for headings.)

Important Note: You might expect that “Keep with next” would ensure that at least two lines of a paragraph would “stick to” the following paragraph over a page break. After all, there is no reason to keep the whole paragraph together unless “Keep lines together” is also enabled. This is not always the case: When two paragraphs are “glued together” this way, the second paragraph is allowed to span a page break provided at least two lines remain on the first page, and the first paragraph can remain split if it is already split, but if the first paragraph is entirely on the first page, it is not allowed to split: the entire paragraph will move to the next page, often leaving a large blank space at the bottom of the first page.

  • “Page break before” causes a page break before the paragraph. Unlike a manual page break inserted using Ctrl+Enter, however, it is not represented visually in the document and does not inherit the properties of the following paragraph.

By judicious application of the first three properties, you can usually maneuver Word into putting a page break where you want it without having to insert a manual page break or use “Page break before.”

Helpful Tip: Whenever you have “Keep with next,” “Keep lines together,” “Page break before,” or “Suppress line numbering” enabled for a given paragraph, you will see a small black square bullet in the left margin. If you double-click on this bullet, you will open the Paragraph dialog with the Line and Page Breaks tab displayed.*

Controlling text flow in tables

Things work a little differently in tables, however. In a table, the “Keep lines together” and “Widow/Orphan control” properties have no effect at all. To keep a table together on one page, you must perform two actions:

  1. Prevent rows from breaking internally. The relevant setting (“Allow row to break across pages”) is found on the Row tab of the Table Properties dialog. [image]

To open this dialog:

  • Word 2003 and earlier: On the Table menu, click Table Properties.

  • Word 2007 and above: On the Table Tools | Layout tab of the Ribbon, in the Table group, click Properties.

  • Any version: Right-click on the table handle (see below) and select Table Properties… from the context menu.

Important Note: The choice of whether rows are allowed to break is strictly an either/or proposition. If you do allow a row to break, it can break anywhere; as mentioned, “Widow/Orphan control” and “Keep lines together” are ignored, so the only way to force a table to break only between paragraphs is to make sure each paragraph is in a separate row.

  1. Keep rows together. Select the entire row and enable the “Keep with next” property. Do this for every row of the table except the last.

Although it is not relevant to a one-page table, note that “Page break before,” when applied to a table row, does not split a table as a manual page break (inserted with Ctrl+Enter) does. This means that repeating heading rows will continue to be repeated and the table can continue to be treated as a single table. For information on controlling page breaks in tables longer than a page, see “How do I control where the page breaks will fall in a table that extends over several pages?


*For an easier way to apply these properties to paragraphs, you can (in Word 2003 and earlier) add toolbar buttons for them. Unfortunately, these buttons by default have no button icon. For an add-in that contains these buttons with attractive icons, see “Custom Toolbar Buttons.” These buttons have the advantage that they are toggles, so you can easily tell whether a property is ON or OFF when you click in a given paragraph.

There is no way to change the button images in Word 2007 and above, though you can import custom toolbars you have created in earlier versions; see “Use Word 2000/3 Toolbars in Word 2007 and later versions.” These versions do have an icon (if you can call it that) for “Keep with next”—a checkbox that is checked when you apply the property; the problem is that the button includes a text label, consuming valuable toolbar real estate. If you want to use this button, find it under “Commands Not in the Ribbon” as ParaKeepWithNext.

As an alternative, you can assign keyboard shortcuts to these commands, which you can find under All Commands as ParaKeepLinesTogether, ParaKeepWithNext, and ParaPageBreakBefore.

This article copyright © 2000, 2018 by Suzanne S. Barnhill.