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I have a Word document (.doc) containing a table which spans across 150 pages or so. Table cells contain long text lines which are word-wrapped to fit into given column width, making them multi-line. My goal is to adjust the width so that text inside the cells takes fewer lines, to reduce the number of pages before printing.

The table occupies the whole page width, so I can only make a column wider if I make another one narrower. By resizing columns manually, I managed to get the table under 130 pages. I wonder it there's a way to do this automatically and further reduce the number of pages required. Manual procedure leading to near-optimum result in a finite number of steps would also do.

I have Microsoft Office 2013, but I'm willing to download a different tool if needed, as long as it can be installed without admin rights.

PS. I have seen this question which seems to ask for the same thing, but answers provided there ("AutoFit to Contents") don't seem to work.

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Unfortunately there is no ultimate tool / way exists to this problem.

However there are steps which can help:

  • while reasonable:
    • decrease page margins
    • decrease cell margins
    • decrease font size
    • select font (there are differences in average width of characters by font! Many fonts even have a "narrow" version)
  • generally "autofit to contents" give you an optimized width of columns
  • make sure "word wrap" is enabled in all cells
  • make sure there is no fixed minimum row height
  • to help Word deciding column width, you may add manual line-breaks and hyphenation where you think column width could be smaller.
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  • "AutoFit to Contents" resets my document back to 150 pages. – Dmitry Grigoryev Dec 15 '16 at 9:31
  • Yes, if you've already manually optimized and you just set that, then it'll change it back. It may help, when you follow the other suggestions too. – Máté Juhász Dec 15 '16 at 9:50
  • Sorry, but your other suggestions either are applied already, or make the document less readable, or are too time-consuming. I might as well go through the document and rephrase long sentences to make them shorter, but I don't have time for that. – Dmitry Grigoryev Dec 15 '16 at 9:57
  • You didn't mentioned what you've done so far, so I couldn't exclude them... Also, these are the steps which I also use, and it's the complete list which you can try according to my best knowledge. If you have 130 page long of text, then it'll take 130 pages whatever formatting you apply. – Máté Juhász Dec 15 '16 at 10:00
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    Are you using Portrait page orientation for the document? If so, try switching to Landscape orientation (on the Layout tab). I often use this approach (in addition to what Máté Juhász has suggested) to reduce page count when I have tables with long lines of text. It can make a huge difference. – cnread Dec 15 '16 at 19:57
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This is a really old post but I came across it when looking around (again) to see if anyone has come up with a generalized solution. Have you come up with a good (i.e., not manual) solution?

I regularly encounter the issue, and know exactly what you mean. To date, my only solution is to manually adjust the column widths based on a visual inspection of the table. I.e., this column seems to generally have the longest contents, leaving excessive extra space in other columns, therefore, I'll make it wider until it's no longer the one that is extending the overall length of the table.

For others not familiar with the problem, see the linked super-simplistic example. In this example, it's very clear that the optimal column layout is to give equal widths to both columns. If, however, the longer text was always in the first column, then making that column wider would lead to an overall shorter table.

It's easy with a table this simple, but the problem becomes a little more difficult when the table has many columns and rows, and if the distribution of cells with the most content is not uniform or predictable across columns.

Maybe I'll try a VB solution sometime. It's an interesting problem. Will be even more interesting if the solution has to handle embedded images in cells, etc.

Simplistic example of problem

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