Pages ’09 Tip: Fixing table row heights

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Pages
December 7th, 2010 • 3:59 pm

I have no idea why, but quite often when I am in the process of creating a table in Pages ’09, the application decides to have its own ideas about what the desirable row height is for each row in the table.

For example, I start by creating a table that looks like this:

New table with default row height

The table rows have a height that was determined by default when I inserted the table in the document. I applied my own paragraph styles (called “Table – Heading” and “Table – Body” respectively) to the table cells, but that didn’t affect their height.

The row height is enough to fit one line of text. But if I insert a new table row and then type text inside one of its cells that is too large to fit in a single line, Pages ’09 automatically adjusts the table height to accommodate the second line of text:

New table with different row height

So far so good. But now consider what happens when I tab out of the last cell of the second row to force Pages ’09 to add a third row to the table:

Different row height extended to next row

This third row now has the same row height as the previous row, even though it contains no text yet.

And sure enough, even I only type one line of text in the table cell and then tab out of it, the row height remains the same, i.e. a height that is excessive compared to the height of the cell’s contents:

Different row height extended to next row

In other words, instead of automatically adjusting the row height based on the height of the cell’s contents, Pages ’09 tries to outsmart me by assuming that, since the previous row needed more height, from now on I’ll need more height for all subsequent rows. It can be rather frustrating, especially when there are wild fluctuations in the length of text from row to row. Pages ’09 keeps making the row higher and never goes back to a smaller height by itself.

And all that, even though the “Automatically resize to fit content” option in the table inspector is checked.

I don’t know about you, but to me that is a strange way of automatically resizing to fit content.

Fortunately, there a fairly easy way to remedy this problem. Once your table is complete, you can just click somewhere outside of the table and then click once on the table to select it as a whole:

Selected table

And then you can go to the table inspector and, even though the “Automatically resize to fit content” option is checked, you can use your mouse to click once on the small arrow for adjusting the “Row Height” value (which is blank, since the row height is automatically adjusted and varies from row to row in the selected table) downwards:

Click to reduce row height

For some reason, a single click on this control forces to Pages ’09 to snap out of its attempt to outsmart the user and causes it to readjust the row height values based on the actual contents of the table cells in each row:

Adjusted height

Et voilà. Now the row height has been adjusted for each row and is more consistent with the use of the “Automatically resize to fit content” option in the table inspector.

The strange part is that I cannot reproduce this problem in a blank Pages ’09 document when I create it based on the blank template provided with Pages ’09. But if I create a document based on one of my own templates, which includes a full sheet of custom paragraph and character styles, for some reason all the tables behave the way that I describe above and I have to resort to this workaround to force Pages ’09 to readjust row heights after I have entered my text in the table cells.

I wish I knew what it is that causes Pages ’09 to do this with my own templates and not with its own default templates, but I don’t really have time to investigate this further and for now the workaround is good enough. If you ever encounter the same situation with Pages ’09 trying to outsmart you when it comes to table row heights, you might want to try it.

That said, the confusion about what the “Automatically resize to fit content” option actually means does not stop there. It’s actually possible to have this option checked and to enter specific values in the “Row Height” field for certain rows. When you do that, even though the option remains checked, obviously some rows have a predetermined height value and do not get automatically resized by Pages ’09. So who knows what this option actually means exactly?

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