Hiding Table Gridlines

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How to hide table gridlines

With our increasing reliance on electronic communications, users frequently ask about ways to control the appearance of Word documents on the screen as well as in print. In many cases it is just not possible or practical to do this, but sometimes there is a workaround, as in the case of table gridlines.

The subject of table gridlines comes up most often in relation to résumés. The résumé templates that ship with Word are constructed using tables, and users who are emailing their résumés to prospective employers as attachments want to assure that they appear professional when opened. Leaving aside the question of whether it is appropriate to send a résumé as an attached Word document,1 there are several factors to be considered.

Remove borders

The first thing to do is to make sure that your “gridlines” are not actually borders. If you can see them in Print Preview, then they are borders. You can either remove them by pressing Ctrl+Alt+U anywhere in the table, or you can wait for the solution offered below.

Understand gridline display

You doubtless realize that you can hide gridlines on your own computer:

  • Word 2003 and earlier: Table | Hide Gridlines

  • Word 2007 and above: Table Tools | Layout | Table | Show Gridlines (turn it off).

This hides table gridlines in both Normal (Draft) and Print Layout views. If you have “Text boundaries” checked in Word's Options, however, the cell boundaries will still be outlined with a dotted line in Print Layout view.

What you need to understand is that these settings are machine-specific. They cannot be saved with the document, and you cannot control the settings on the recipient’s computer.2 If the recipient has table gridlines or text boundaries displayed, he or she will see the gridlines regardless of the settings on your computer. This will not disconcert the recipient, but it does not allow you to present your résumé the way you want it to be viewed.

Conceal the gridlines

There is, however, a way to cover up the gridlines. You do this by applying a border.

  1. Select the entire table:

  • Word 2003 and earlier: Table | Select | Table or click on the table handle in the top left corner.

  • Word 2007 and above: Table Tools | Layout | Table | Select | Select Table or click the table handle.

  1. Open the Borders and Shading dialog:

  • Word 2003 and earlier: Format | Borders and Shading.

  • Word 2007 and above: On the Design tab of Table Tools, in the Table Styles group, click the arrow next to the Borders button and choose Borders and Shading.

  1. On the Borders tab, select “All.” This will apply a border to every line in the table.

  2. Click the arrow button under “Color” and select the white square. This will change the border color to white.

  3. The default line width (half a point) is adequate.

The white border will completely cover the table gridlines and text boundaries provided the recipient is using the default white window color in Windows (which provides the “paper” color in Word). If the recipient has changed the window color, the white borders may show up; this is a chance you will have to take.
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1Many experts suggest that you not send your résumé as a file attachment unless specifically instructed to do so. Even if the recipient has Microsoft Word installed, he or she may be reluctant to open a Word document because of the risk of macro viruses. Word documents are also rather large files. The usual recommendation is to paste the résumé data into a plain-text email, but this is not very satisfactory if it is highly formatted. Another option might be to paste it into an HTML (Rich Text) email and hope for the best. A third option is to save the document as a PDF file and send that as an attachment. Often the best solution, if you have Web space available, is to save your résumé as a Web page and post it at your Web site; you can then refer prospective employers to that page.

2Although you could include in your document an AutoOpen macro to hide gridlines and text boundaries, (a) this would trigger a macro warning, which would make it even less likely that the recipient would open your document (certainly without disabling the macro), and (b) most recipients would be very unhappy about a document that changed their display settings, especially if it didn’t include an AutoClose macro to reset them to their preferences (which is much more complicated).

This article copyright © 2003, 2008, 2011, 2014 by Suzanne S. Barnhill.