Thanks for coming to, the world's #1 resource for all things InDesign!

How to Fill in Empty Table Cells

I hate empty cells in a table because they often feel like something is missing… like maybe there’s been a mistake. For example, in this table, you can see that a bunch of the cells are empty, but are they supposed to be empty? Or is some data missing?

table with empty cells

So, when you’re designing a table, and you know you’re going to have empty cells, it’s often a good idea to fill them with something. For example, you could just type an em dash in there:

em dash in cell

Or instead, choose Table > Cell Options > Diagonal Lines, and then turn on one of these lines to indicate that this is empty on purpose:

fill with diagonal line

You can make it a bit prettier, like making it thicker and changing the style. Note that no matter how big it gets, it’s still cropped at the cell border:

pretty diagonal line

Or, instead, you can fill it with a different color or tint by switching to the Strokes and Fills tab:

fill cell color

Of course, once you go through the trouble of styling one of these, you want to create a cell style so you can use it again, right? So just put your cursor inside that cell, and then choose New Cell Style in the Cell Styles panel menu. In this case, I’m giving it the name EmptyCell.

create EmptyCell style


But you know, if I have a bunch of empty cells, it’s going to take too long to apply it manually to each one. So I’m happy to say that I found a free script that will do this for me. A scripter named Malcolm Thomson posted a free script to search for all empty table cells and apply this EmptyCell style. (You can download the script directly here. If you need help installing it, read this.)

Once installed, you can just double-click the script and all the empty cells get that style applied to them.

after running script

Note that this script only works if you named your cell style EmptyCell, just like I did.

David Blatner

David Blatner

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 are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
David Blatner

Latest posts by David Blatner (see all)

  • - November 30, -0001
Related Articles

2 Comments on “How to Fill in Empty Table Cells

  1. Sadly, you can not choose which tables, it does so for all tables present, whether you select a certain table or not…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *