Re: TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 42, Issue 17: TABLE LAYOUT AND FORMAT

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 42, Issue 17: TABLE LAYOUT AND FORMAT
From: wsfn <WSFN -at- rocketmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sun, 19 Apr 2009 09:53:09 -0700 (PDT)

I would recommend looking at accessibility and Section 508 design discussions realted to tables.  Although more specific than you are requesting, these provide excellent resources to how and why of design in tables.  Like with any other task, most users learn by trian and error and following provided guidelines.  As we progress we develop our own preferences and guidance we offer others.  I learned most of what I know thourgh college courses in technical writing and editing and experiece in the field for 18+ years.  I've found that different disciplines such as help authoring, website design, print form design, and process and procedure writing have all contributed to how I design everything now (respective of the fields).  Each POV provides something new and valuable.
 
~Faye Newsham
Sr Technical Writer
ActioNet Inc.

--- On Sun, 4/19/09, techwr-l-request -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com <techwr-l-request -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com> wrote:

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Message: 2
Date: Fri, 17 Apr 2009 13:47:41 -0700
From: Paul Sholar <sholarpk -at- gmail -dot- com>
Subject: Where/how did you learn how to lay out and format tables?
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
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    <e742d44f0904171347r5d409c41l4033dca5c871b641 -at- mail -dot- gmail -dot- com>
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I'm looking for authoritative sources that present the principles of
laying out tables and formatting cell contents. There doesn't seem to
be very much that exists across the WWW, except about implementing
HTML tables on web pages, so I'm thinking that there must exist
printed books of guidance to typesetters, scientific editors, graphic
designers, book designers, and so on.

I'm aware of what the Chicago Manual of Style has to say, as well as
the U.S. GPO Style Manual and a few others including British Standard
BS 7581. I'm aware of the work of the marketing scientist Andrew S.C.
Ehrenberg about tables. And on the WWW I've found a few other
relatively recently authored articles on the topic. There has been
some interest in the academic computer science community about using
programmatic means to inspect and transform the structures of tables,
even to extract the "meaning" of a table's contents.

So I'm interested in finding other sources, such as the texts you used
in college or art/design school. The stuff I'm looking for probably
didn't receive a book-length treatment and probably occupied only a
chapter in a textbook.

Many thanks in advance for any suggestions you have.

//Paul  ... sholarpk -at- gmail -dot- com


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Message: 5
Date: Sat, 18 Apr 2009 13:01:10 -0400
From: voxwoman <voxwoman -at- gmail -dot- com>
Subject: Re: Where/how did you learn how to lay out and format tables?
To: Paul Sholar <sholarpk -at- gmail -dot- com>
Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Message-ID:
    <310338340904181001w3bd229a5o70466cf4b72afec9 -at- mail -dot- gmail -dot- com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1

On Fri, Apr 17, 2009 at 4:47 PM, Paul Sholar <sholarpk -at- gmail -dot- com> wrote:
> I'm looking for authoritative sources that present the principles of
> laying out tables and formatting cell contents. There doesn't seem to
> be very much that exists across the WWW, except about implementing
> HTML tables on web pages, so I'm thinking that there must exist
> printed books of guidance to typesetters, scientific editors, graphic
> designers, book designers, and so on.

I've mostly done "seat of the pants" when I've not been constrained by
a corporate style guide. My degree is in Electrical Engineering - all
my design knowledge has been from independent research not associated
with a mentor or degree program.

Edward Tufte's books have been very useful in coming up with ways to
present various types of information.
http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/books_vdqi

I also like the magazine "Before & After" for practical design tips.
http://www.bamagazine.com/


-Wendy


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Message: 6
Date: Sat, 18 Apr 2009 22:04:47 -0400
From: John Garison <john -at- garisons -dot- com>
Subject: Re: Where/how did you learn how to lay out and format tables?
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>
Message-ID: <49EA86BF -dot- 6090606 -at- garisons -dot- com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed

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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