Use of Tables?

Subject: Use of Tables?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "Kapoor, Shelly" <SKapoor -at- imf -dot- org>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2007 10:34:46 -0500

Shelly Kapoor wondered: <<What is your view on using Tables to control text layout in the browser?>>

The first question to ask is whether it's truly necessary to control the text layout, or whether you're just "font fondling". The great advantage of online information in general and Web-based text in particular is that it's customizable: I don't have to put up with your fonts, window size, or layout if I don't like your design choices. We ignore that flexibility at our peril.

<<Is there a better alternative to using tables?>>

Depends entirely on your answer to my question about your goals. If the goal is to present hierarchically organized columns of information, just like in a classic printed table, then the table feature is your best choice. If the goal is complete control of the visual image down to the last pixel, then a graphic or PDF is your best choice.

Intermediate situations suggest that either a table or CSS may be appropriate, depending on your goals. I'm a big fan of the potential of CSS, but don't have any axes to grind about tables: they work just fine for many purposes, and CSS is often overkill. CSS provides much more layout flexibility, assuming you spend some time making sure the layout will work in a range of browsers (i.e., keep it simple). But my sense (not based on rigorous testing) is that tables work more consistently than CSS across a range of browsers, and that's a point in their favor.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca

(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)

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Use of Tables: From: Kapoor, Shelly

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