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13.2. Introduction to Tables

Although there are no true classifications, tables can be used in the following general ways:

Data Table

This is a table at its most basic (and as the creators of HTML intended) -- rows and columns of textual data. Of course, data tables can be much larger and more complex than the one shown in this example.

Table usage


Figure 13.2

Text Alignment

Tables are often used to clean up the display of text by creating effects common to print, such as columns, hanging indents, and extra white space. They are also useful for lining up text and input elements in forms.

Figure 13.2

Page Template

Many web designers use a large table as a container to give structure to a page. One common configuration is to create narrow columns for navigational items, as shown in this example. A template for a two-column table follows in Section 13.7, "Standard Table Templates" in this chapter.

Figure 13.2

Multipart Image Container

Tables can be used to hold together a large graphic that has been divided into separate sections to accommodate animations, rollovers, etc. In the example at right, the border was turned on to reveal the individual sections. Holding images together with tables is discussed at the end of this chapter.

Figure 13.2

The HTML 4.01 specification proposal discourages the use of tables for page layout, favoring Cascading Style Sheets with absolute positioning instead. But until style sheets (particularly the positioning features) are more universally and consistently supported by the browsers in current use, tables remain a designer's most reliable tool for constructing complex page layouts.

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