Table layout issues, PDF/HTML

Subject: Table layout issues, PDF/HTML
From: "Carnall, Jane" <Jane -dot- Carnall -at- compaq -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 14 Feb 2001 12:13:30 -0000

The documentation I produce is worked on in Word (at the moment: next
project, we get to use Framemaker 6) and is provided in two versions for the
user, both identical as to content, HTML and PDF.

My problem is tables. The tables come out okay in PDF, but generally look
bad in HTML. Okay, it seems a reasonable assumption to make that anyone
wanting to study a table or constantly refer to it would print out a copy in
PDF. However, it strikes me as a bad idea (and looks sloppy) to have messy
tables in one version of the document, however clean they look in the other
version.(The senior technical writer whom I usually get to consult about
these issues is busy and has decided that providing a table is good in PDF,
it doesn't matter that it's messy in HTML.) That's a general issue: is
there any way to design tables in Word so that they will look at least
reasonably clear in HTML?

I can do a fair bit on the clean table issue by creating a draft version of
HTML and then tweaking the tables by hand until they end up looking at least
like something you can read, if not like something you'd want to.

The specific issue is a table with kind of double columns in the final
column - mostly. There are eight or nine rows with a single column (severity
of fault), and then 16 - 18 rows with a double column in the final column,
showing both the severity of the fault and the state indicated by the fault.
For example: Fault: Posting about other people's typos is Severity:
Critical.
But, Fault: Posting an ad to the list is Severity: Major and State: Posting
privileges denied.

I can't simply divide the last column into a double split cell, with
Severity in one half and State in the other: most of the rows have many
possible Severity/States, and each Severity must be clearly positioned
opposite its State. I don't want to create multiple cells because (this is
part of the HTML/PDF problem) the more little cells a table has, the worse
it looks in HTML.

At the last minute, three extra rows were added, and the State name in all
three was so long that it exceeds the width of the cell, which looks *very*
messy.

I wish I could table this problem... but it will only come back. There is no
urgency in this, as the document which raised all these problems is now out
fending for itself. I just wish I could have sent it looking better. (You
never know when you're going to be run over by a bus!)

Jane Carnall
Technical Writer, Compaq, UK
Unless stated otherwise, these opinions are mine, and mine alone.


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