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Hidden Limits of Table Cell Heights

Susie wrote:

Can I do a full depth table in A4? It seems to be limiting me to 21.1 cms

Susie, it’s easy to do a table as long as an A4 page… as long as there are more than one row. But I’m guessing you’re wanting a single row to be taller than 21.1 cms or 50 picas. That’s the maximum height of a table cell by default.

Fortunately, you can change this if you know where to look. Select the cells you want to edit with the Text tool, then choose Table > Cell Options > Text (or press Command-Option-B/Ctrl-Alt-B). Now click on the Rows and Columns tab.
cellheight

Notice the Maximum value? If you increase that, your cells can be taller. Like so much in InDesign, it’s frustrating until you see it done once!

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at LinkedIn Learning (Lynda.com) are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at 63p.com.
  • Once you find out about this feature, you find yourself wondering: why did they do that? Why have a maximum height for a cell?

    The reason, it seems to me, is to provide a trade-off for where overset text might occur. Because cells can’t split at a frame boundary, if you try to pour too much text into a cell with a height set to “at least”, the cell will grow and grow until it doesn’t fit on a page (or, more accurately, doesn’t fit in a frame on a page).

    At that point, the whole story containing the table from that point on would become overset. And dealing with it would be tres nasty. Unless you were quick-witted enough to realize what you’d done and so used undo, you’d be really stuck.

    The story editor doesn’t help (although it might provide the necessary clue) because you can’t edit text in a cell by using the story editor — great pity of course, but them’s the breaks.

    The only way out of this situation would be first to recognize you were in it — the way I described it above ought to be easy to deal with because you would at least know you were pouring text into a cell when the light went out on your story. But what if you were placing text from an outside source? And that text included a table with a cell that was too tall. That would be harder to diagnose.

    Once you diagnose it — the story editor ought to be a big clue because the last thing not overset is the table symbol — how do you escape? You can’t see the cell, so even if you could maneuver your insertion point into it, it would be a crap shoot what you would be deleting to try to make it smaller.

    The only way out is to realize what has happened and make the frame taller until the cell can be accommodated. Then you can edit it or split it or whatever is needed to make it a reasonable size again.

    So, that’s why this odd-ball maximum height is a good thing, even though most people encountering it think it a blasted nuisance.

    Dave

  • […] Is this Cell Height season or something? Suddenly I’m receiving lots of requests for help in dealing with overset table cells. David is as well, as you can see from his recent post, “Hidden Limits of Table Cell Heights.” […]

  • Howard Latimer says:

    Gracias – not sure if it was a default, but I had a 1″ max cell height that was driving me bonkers. Thanks to you (and Google for pointing the way), I kept my sanity for one more day.

  • Lauren Scanlon says:

    This is great!!! I was having this problem just the other day when I was in Table Hell with a client! How simple, yet how sneaky.

  • Great David, needed this one several times ! Great tip ! Just as sneaky like the ‘keep’ option in this dialog window.

  • Sean Orsmond says:

    I’ve struggled with this for ages. Moving over from Quark has been stressful!

  • Lana says:

    You Rock! So quick and easy. Good concise instructions… would never have looked there :)

  • Height Smith says:

    Thank you for sharing this info,, just a whle ago i encountered this diffuculty. Thank you so much

  • Shaun R. says:

    Question to ya’ll:

    Is there a key command to increase the maximum height for the table cell? I have about 400 table cells that were set to this default max and now we have to add one more line of copy into them and its driving me nuts!

  • Jak says:

    Much appreciation for answering this and keeping it archived for me to find.

  • Susan says:

    Thank you! I have been trying to find a solution to this for days!! Yay!

  • David Seymour says:

    Is there a way to reset this as an app wide default? The option is greyed out unless a table is selected.

  • Jeff Hoffman says:

    Was driving me crazy too. But why can’t the Row and Columns option be part of the Cell Styles?

  • elin says:

    ARGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!! is this only reasonable response. Why are tables so crap in ID?

  • Ivan Berka says:

    Thanks David, before I googled for help I triple-checked everything I knew. But this was new for me. Your article helped me.

  • Goh says:

    They haven’t fixed this problem even in Adobe Indesign CC 2015!!! Malaysia have 3 language, so I need bigger column heights setting~How to fix this?

  • Lucie Ondrušková says:

    That’s odd, if I try to increase the maximum value, I get a pop up window saying that input value must be between 1,058 – 211,667. Am I doing something wrong? It’s frustrating me :(

  • Bengt Carlsson says:

    THANKS. You save my day! Again.

  • Edd Grinham says:

    Most helpful, didn’t know there was a default max on cell heights.
    Once again IndesignSecrets saves the day!

  • Olaf Mueller says:

    Thanks, David, this is a true bummer for beginners working with tables to puzzle out. But what can it possibly be, that sets a limit to cell height that I cannot go above although the amount of text would require it? The frame is big enough in any case…

  • Mikael says:

    Thanks David, you’ve made my day better :-)

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  • Olivier Murith says:

    13 years later it is still relevant. Thank you.

  • Ken Turnbull says:

    I knew about the cell height, but my cell still does not expand to fit the entered text when used in a new style
    I noticed that when the style was set to Basic Paragraph it did. I little investigation showed that the hyphenation makes a difference…in my case.
    I then made a style based on Basic Paragraph with the font I need and all is working. I still don’t like hyphenation so I ask what is really happening here.
    By the way my height limit for the cell is 8.33 inches.

    thanks in advance

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