Re: Where/how did you learn how to lay out and format tables?

Subject: Re: Where/how did you learn how to lay out and format tables?
From: John Garison <john -at- garisons -dot- com>
To: Paul Sholar <sholarpk -at- gmail -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com >> TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 18 Apr 2009 22:04:47 -0400

There's a significant difference between designing (laying out) a table
and formatting it. It's similar to the difference between designing a
document and choosing it's margins and fonts.

When I taught technical writing, I had an example that was best solved
by designing a table that required the information that the audience
knew or had at hand on the outside, and the information that they needed
to discover on the inside. While it's fairly obvious if it's something
like a train schedule, it's not always so obvious if it's about
determining what solution to use under varying constraints.

Here's the example. I didn't create it, and I don't know who did, but
I've been using it for over 25 years:

Design an easy and quick reference for the following data:

Cosmocars are great for short trips. If time is limited, take a
Satellite or an Astrobus. Shuttles are recommended for journeys shorter
than 10 parsecs if you're not limited by cost and time. Take a Cosmocar
if cost is an important factor, or you could use a Zephyr. If your
journey is over 10 parsecs, then you might want to consider using an
Astrobus. Capsules are the best way to travel for more than 10 parsecs
if time and money are available. The farthest you can go on a Satellite
is 10 parsecs, but Zephyrs can only travel farther.

The "best" solution is a table where the X and Y axes are identified as
Distance and Limits (Time, Cost, and None).

IMHO, table design is much more important than formatting. Not to
diminish formatting, but it's akin to font fondling as opposed to
information design. And a well laid out table will be much easier to format.

My 2¢,

John Garison

Paul Sholar said the following on 4/17/2009 4:47 PM:
> I'm looking for authoritative sources that present the principles of
> laying out tables and formatting cell contents.

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Where/how did you learn how to lay out and format tables?: From: Paul Sholar

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