WordPerfect Tables, Part IV: Gridlines and Guidelines and Borders, Oh My!

January 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm

One of the most confusing aspects of working with tables in WordPerfect derives from the existence of two different types of non-printing table borders, in addition to regular table and/or cell borders that do print.[1] Worse, the non-printing borders have similar names. They work somewhat differently, however. This post will draw the major distinctions between the two.


Gridlines are faint gray dotted lines that show the outlines of tables and table cells. They do not print. Gridlines come in handy when you are working with a table that does not have printable borders. Without those borders, it can be difficult to determine the precise location of table cells so that you can enter text, formulas, dates, and so forth in the appropriate place. Gridlines give you a way of navigating through the table.

To turn gridlines on (or off), click the View menu, Table Gridlines, and click once to toggle between “on” and “off,” depending on whether a checkmark appears to the left of the command. (If the checkmark appears, gridlines are on; click to remove the checkmark, which will turn the gridlines off.)

So far, so good. But things get more complicated.


Like gridlines, guidelines are faint lines indicating the outlines of tables and table cells; also like gridlines, they do not print. They serve the same purpose as gridlines: to help you figure out where your cursor is within a borderless table (or, for that matter, a borderless cell).

To turn guidelines on or off, click the View menu, Guidelines…, and, when the Guidelines dialog appears, click to check or uncheck the “Tables” option, then click “OK” to save your settings. (Note that this dialog also provides the means of enabling or disabling guidelines for other document structures, including margins, columns, and headers/footers.)

Differences Between Gridlines and Guidelines

Up to this point, the two types of non-printing table borders sound alike. What are the major differences, and when should you use one or the other — or both?

If your table has no printable borders whatsoever, you won’t be able to see the table and/or cell outlines without enabling gridlines or guidelines. In this situation, it doesn’t particularly matter which of the two you choose to turn on. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to activate one or the other in order to view the outlines.

But if your table has at least some printable borders, enabling gridlines will have the effect of hiding those borders. In other words, the gridlines will display, but the printable borders will not. (The borders will print either way, however.) This “either-or” modality can be very confusing, especially since most people are accustomed to a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) view of their documents. My personal preference is to turn gridlines off so that I know what the printed document will look like.

Enabling guidelines, by contrast, retains the WYSIWYG view. That is, it does not affect the display of printable borders in your table. With guidelines on, you can see the printable borders and, in any portion of the table that lacks such borders, you can see the non-printing cell outlines. To me, this configuration — guidelines on, gridlines off — is the best of both worlds.

Of course, individual needs and preferences will vary. Only you can decide what works best for you.

This discussion should help, but if you’re still confused, create a table that has printable borders and experiment by turning gridlines and guidelines on and off in various permutations (be sure to test the effects when one type of non-printing outline is off and one is on).

Default Settings for Gridlines

Whether gridlines are on or off by default depends on a configuration option under the Tools menu, Settings, Display (Document tab, Show… Table gridlines). So if you disable gridlines via the View menu, Gridlines and you believe the gridlines are still on, take a look at the default setting. If the Table gridlines box is checked, click to uncheck it, click “OK” to save your settings, and then click “Close.”

Problems Displaying the Non-Printing Outlines / Further Information

As mentioned earlier in this post, if you have turned off both gridlines and guidelines, you won’t see either type of non-printing border. However, even if you have enabled one or the other, the table/cell outlines might not be visible (or they might be extremely faint). There are several possible causes of the problem: the screen resolution, the zoom (magnification) settings, the use of Draft view rather than Page view, or the use of an LCD monitor.

For further information about (and workarounds for) these issues, as well as for a much more detailed discussion of table gridlines, guidelines, and borders generally, see this lengthy post on Barry MacDonnell’s Toolbox for WordPerfect site.
[1] I don’t know why there are two such features. My guess is that table gridlines predated guidelines, probably going back all the way to WordPerfect for DOS. To my mind, it seems logical to assume that the ability to display and manipulate (drag) margin guidelines became increasingly important as WordPerfect evolved and the Windows versions became predominant. I would have to do a considerable amount of research to know for certain, however.


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