TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: Table style From:"D. Margulis" <ampersandvirgule -at- WORLDNET -dot- ATT -dot- NET> Date:Sun, 7 Feb 1999 16:18:45 -0500
Jennifer Wrightsell wrote:
> I have to develop a simple style for tables within our PageMaker templates.
> Can anyone offer me insights on the best way to do this? Our user
> documentation is written by many different writers, so a table style with
> the templates is essential to ensuring consistency across all documentation.
> I don't want to create one in another program if I can help it.
I see that you posted this on Friday and here it is Sunday afternoon, but no one
else has replied. So I'll take a crack at it.
First of all, so you know where I'm coming from, I'm a table minimalist and
traditionalist. Chicago Manual of Style is my touchstone on this subject, and I
find that tables designed according to that standard are completely consistent
with the principles so well elucidated by Edward Tufte, too.
So, to the extent possible, I avoid vertical rules altogether and use horizontal
Below the table title
Within the table headings to indicate straddles
Below the headings
Between sections of the table if needed for clarity
At the bottom of the table (above the table notes, if any)
I grant that many people prefer jazzier, more distracting layouts, with cell
fills and vertical rules and all sorts of gewgaws, and for those people, the
method below will not work.
If the restrictions I've listed are satisfactory to you, though, then the way to
format tables in PageMaker is to use tabbed text. (In other words, avoid the
Table Editor, which does not work very well and is extremely limiting.)
The difficulty with using tabbed text, is that you cannot really set up standard
styles. The reason is that tabs must be calculated separately for each table you
The best you can do, really, is to devise a standard design (consisting of a set
of rules with some examples) and a few basic PageMaker styles that get modified
for each table. You'll want paragraph styles that incorporate or don't
incorporate rules below or above them, as needed, spaced in a consistent way
from the baseline, for table title, stub heading (the leftmost column heading),
column heading (all the other columns), straddle heading, stub entry, text
entry, numeric entry, table note. You'll need two versions of some of them (with
or without rules).
In actual use, as I said above, you'll need to set up the tabs for each of the
styles you use. This requires paper and pencil, because in some cases you'll
need to have a flush left column under a centered heading, and you'll have to
use the same tab stops for two or more different styles in almost every table.
Now then, I indicated above that the Adobe Table Editor is less than useful. Two
particular shortcomings that come to mind are:
1. You cannot change fonts within a cell.
2. When you are all done with the table, you use it by generating an EPS that
you paste into the PageMaker page, so you can't do quick edits to adjust
spacing, for example.
There are probably others, but I've used it so little I can't say what they are.
Finally, if you do need to generate more complicated tables than are possible in
PageMaker or Adobe Table Editor, epecially if you need to do a lot of them, the
real solution is to use Interleaf. Interleaf permits all sorts of complex
manipulation and table design and it allows you to save templates for tables,
table rows within tables, and table cells within table rows. And once you've
picked a template, you can adjust the number and width of columns quite easily;
so you can use the same style for any number of different tables. As with the
Adobe Table Editor, you would need to generate an EPS and paste it into your
PageMaker page, though, if you don't want to use Interleaf to publish the