# How do I set a maximum column width?

My problem is that I have many tables in my document with the same layout, and I want to specify the maximum width of a specific column to be 5 cm. I tried with p{5cm} but it make the column fix 5 cm wide and it looks odd with only a short word in it. I want it to be as narrow as possible, and split it into two lines, if it's wider than 5 cm. Is there any solution for my problem?

• I changed your title to reflect what you are actually asking. Oct 30, 2010 at 11:55
• I reworded a sentence from your question to make it a little clearer. Feel free to revert if you prefer the previous version. Oct 31, 2010 at 12:07

## 3 Answers

You can do it with varwidth:

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{array} % for defining a new column type
\usepackage{varwidth} %for the varwidth minipage environment

\begin{document}

\newcolumntype{M}{>{\begin{varwidth}{4cm}}l<{\end{varwidth}}} %M is for Maximal column

Table with short rows:

\begin{tabular}{|M|}
hello hello hello
\end{tabular}

Same table, with long row:

\begin{tabular}{|M|}
hello hello hello hello hello hello
\end{tabular}
\end{document}


Which compiles to:

Thank-you for inspiring me to look for this answer. It is a nice question!

• Thank you, this is exactly what I was looking for! And thanks for the quick answer! Oct 30, 2010 at 12:47
• I'm really surprised that there isn't any of the tabular packages that supports maximum width columns out of the box. Jul 30, 2013 at 20:46
• Fails with multiple lines and cols. gives: Extra alignment tab has been changed to \cr. e.g. \begin{tabular}{MM} hello hello hellohello& hello hellohello hello hello\\ hello hello hello hello hello hellohello hello& hellohello hello hello hello &hello hello\\ \end{tabular} Jul 17, 2022 at 12:52

I suggest to use the column type V of varwidth. The output is slightly different from the ouput of Yossi Farjoun (see that question).

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{array}
\usepackage{varwidth} % must be loaded after array

\begin{document}

Table with short rows:

\begin{tabular}{|V{4cm}|}
hello hello hello
\end{tabular}

\bigskip
Same table, with long row:

\begin{tabular}{|V{4cm}|}
hello hello hello hello hello hello
\end{tabular}
\end{document}


you can also do:

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{array} % for defining a new column type

\begin{document}

Table with short rows:

\begin{tabular}{|p{4in}|}
hello hello hello
\end{tabular}

Same table, with long row:

\begin{tabular}{|p{2in}|}
hello hello hello hello hello hello
\end{tabular}
\end{document}

• I don't think that this answers the question. You specify a fixed column width, not a maximal one. Dec 10, 2010 at 15:30