Center text in its respective row, not cell, of table?

This example document does a better job of explaining than I could here.

Align text in row not cell example.odt

My understanding is: you want a heading spanning several adjacent cells, i.e. one of the cell contains text, the others are empty.

Select the group of cells (whether horizontal, vertical or rectangular) and Table>Merge Cells.

This creates a single “big” cell. You can then apply any formatting in this aggregate cell.

EDIT after OP’s comments below

Alignment (left, center, right) is relative to the current cell only which defines the reference frame for that. Merge Cells allows to customise this scope, but you end up with a “synthesised” cell to apply the common rule.

Never try to tune text position with spaces because spaces can be expanded by the justification engine and you can’t predict their final width (apart from a minimum). Any editing in the text can change the space width and ruin your positionng (this is strictly valid for Justified but you may encounter variations in the other modes also).

I see rwo solutions to your problem with the “perturbating” right cell.

  • add a “ghost” cell to the left of the title cell

    This cell will have the same width as the right cell. Then centering in the title cell will be relative to the central axis of the table. Note this may mean to add a full “ghost” column and merge cells in the row below the title.

  • cheat in the title cell

    Modify the paragraph indents (specific linked style or direct formatting – this latter not recommended with long elaborate documents), adding the width of the right cell to Before Text.

    This second solution may be easier and more user-friendly than the first. I achieved the expected result with it.

A final remark: with borders enabled as in your sample file, centering text in the title cell relative to the whole table may not give the best aesthetic visual effect.

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Almost; I want the small cell to the right-hand side in the first row of the table to remain where it is, but I want the text within the first cell (to the left of it) to be centered in the middle of the entire row- as it would be if the right-hand side small cell didn’t exist and “centered” was selected- without removing the small cell in the first row.
Does that make sense?

In other words, I want to center the text within the whole first row, not within the first cell, as if the first row were a single cell. In this case that means the text would be slightly further right than when centering within its current cell.

I’m not sure if this is possible other than by adding spaces using the spacebar manually, until the text looks roughly centered within the row, but I thought it worth a try to ask here as I have many headings that I want formatted the same way if possible, so a workaround would save a lot of time.