Two-page tables in Word?

Subject: Two-page tables in Word?
From: Geoff Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Tue, 4 May 1999 09:09:49 -0400

Jeff Johnson has <<...some really wide and long tables to put
in 8-1/2 x 11 pages. Landscape isn't wide enough to hold
them. Foldouts are beyond our printing ability. Has someone
cleverer than I am with Word 97 come up with a low
maintenance way to make tables spread across two portrait

I can't comment on the tool aspects of the question, since I'm
not a Word w(h)iz, but I can comment on the technical
communication aspect of the question: just how usable are
these tables from the perspective of your audience? In my
experience as an information designer, a table that expands
across two pages usually contains far too much information
and is a serious candidate for a redesign.

One useful information design principle you might apply to
your problem is to ask yourself just what data readers
absolutely need to compare within a single table. In most
cases, you'll find that if you really need a 17-inch-wide table,
then a table isn't the most appropriate way to present the data.
Replacing each row in the table with a single, well-formatted,
descriptive paragraph or chapter might be far more effective
if readers won't generally be comparing two adjacent rows in
the table. Conversely, if the goal of the table is to permit
comparisons between rows, it's unlikely that readers will want
to compare all 17 inches of columns simultaneously. Careful
consideration of the nature of the information in the table, and
how readers will use it, can tell you how to split the single
large table into two or more smaller, more manageable tables,
each of which focuses on a specific set of comparisons. And
in many cases, the resulting comparisons become far more
efficient for readers as a result.

If you're seriously stuck on this, why not send us specific
examples of the contents of the table? We can have a whack
at redesigning it for you if we have specifics to work with.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Patience comes to those who wait."--Anon.

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