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It seems that ^c ^c applies table formatting only when point is on the formatting line (the one beginning in #+tblfm:). Is it possible to have ^c ^c apply formatting even when point is in the table itself? Or is one supposed to do something else from within the table? It's a bit laborious every time to have to place point at the formatting line before pressing ^c ^c.

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The #+tblfm: line is for table formulas, not formatting.

Pressing M-Q anywhere on the table reformats the whole table, this is called table-align. The same happens when tabbing through cells, or when pressing C-C C-C anywhere on the table.

If, however, you want to recalculate all formulas (which is what happens when C-C C-C on the formula definitions), you can call C-c * and its variants.

References:

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