Insert a Table

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Tables can be useful for a variety of content presentation on WikiDoc. Traditional HTML markup is often difficult to edit, especially for newcomers, and so a simpler approach that uses wiki syntax is generally preferable.

Converting from HTML tables to wiki table syntax

This can be done automatically with several of the tools listed at Help:Insert_a_Table#External links.

(These tools converts tables from HTML online: - - - pywikipediabot)

When tables are appropriate

Tables are perfect for organizing any information that is best presented in a row-and-column format. This might include:

  • Mathematical tables
    • Multiplication tables
    • Tables of divisors
    • Lookup tables
  • Lists of information
    • Equivalent words in two or more languages
    • Person, birthdate, occupation
    • Artist, album, year, and label

Many times, a list is best left as a list. Some articles include very long lists which might be difficult to edit if they were in table form. Before you format a list in table form, consider whether the information will be more clearly conveyed by virtue of having rows and columns. If so, then a table is probably a good choice. If there is no obvious benefit to having rows and columns, then a table is probably not the best choice.

Tables shouldn't be used simply for layout, either. If the information you're editing isn't tabular in nature, it probably doesn't belong in a table. Try not to use tables for putting a caption under a photograph, arranging a group of links, or other strictly visual features. It makes the article harder to edit for other Wikipedians, and isn't really what tables were designed to do.

When tables are inappropriate

Very long lists, or very simple lists

If a list is quite long, or is relatively simple, use one of the standard Wikipedia list formats. Long lists can be hard to maintain if they are inside a table, and simple lists do not need the row-and-column format that a table provides. Here are some examples of things that might be better done with lists instead of tables. An exception to this may be if the table would be an ideal candidate for having either column be sortable (see sorting tables below).

Table formatting (Don't do this)

1980Ultra Wave
1988What's Bootsy Doin'?
1994Blasters of the Universe
1994Fresh Outta 'P' University

Without tables (Do this instead)

  • 1980: Ultra Wave
  • 1988: What's Bootsy Doin'?
  • 1994: Blasters of the Universe
  • 1994: Fresh Outta 'P' University

Layout of images

Many times, images in an article are placed using a quirk of table rendering. Because a table can be floated to the left or right side of the screen, it has become common practice to utilize a simple one-celled table to place an image in a particular part of the screen. This was a necessary workaround for old browsers, since it generates a consistent rendering of images in browsers which do not adequately support Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). By far, the majority of browsers in use today, however, should do just fine with style sheets. The recommended practice now is to arrange images using an element called div.

Here's a brief example:

Table formatting (Don't do this)

<table align="right" border="0" cellpadding="0"><tr><td>[[Image:wikidoc.png]]</td></tr></table>

Without tables (Do this instead)


How it looks

In both of these cases, the result is essentially the same; the image is floated to the right-hand side of the screen, and the surrounding text wraps around it.

Possible problems

Tables may cause other difficulties, even when used appropriately. Here are some issues you may want to consider if you use tables in your articles:

  • Tables may be hard for other people to edit, especially for people who are new to Wikipedia. New editors may be daunted if they click "Edit this page" and see a large block of unintelligible (to them) HTML code. Try to keep your tables simple, and well-formatted in the code. You might also add a comment (which won't appear in the rendered page) like "<!-- To edit the text of this article, skip past the table. -->" in order to reassure editors.
  • It is tricky, even for experienced HTML authors, to make sure that tables render correctly on all (or even many) web browsers. Even the slightest typographical mistake can cause drastic visual problems with the table. You may be confident of your abilities to prevent this from happening, but future editors may not be. Again, keep tables simple and well-formatted, and this is less likely to be a problem.
  • Large tables, with lots of information, may run off the right side of the screen on lower resolutions. This is sometimes acceptable, especially if the user is warned beforehand. If you find it necessary to create a very large table for an article, you may want to consider creating a simpler, smaller version for users who cannot effectively use the larger version.
  • If you include fixed-width text inside a table (using the HTML code, pre, or tt elements, for example), it may force the page to be wider than necessary. Whenever possible, avoid using fixed-width text inside tables, so the text can flow naturally. A similar problem can happen if you include images inside tables (since images are usually constrained to be a fixed width).
  • Cells containing a great deal of information may cause rendering problems on some browsers. In particular, a cell containing a large paragraph may jumble the formatting on text-only browsers such as Lynx. This is often necessary, depending on what sort of table you're creating, but if at all possible, try to limit the amount of content you place in table cells.
  • In some browsers, tables which are right-aligned allow justified text to run right up to the edge of a border. This can look unsightly. One solution is to use style = "margin-left: 0.5em;" in the table header.

How to sort tables

Despite the present lack of support at Wikipedia for sorting tables (or querying them), one alternative would be to copy the javascript link from here (control-click the "sort table" link to copy the link) and once you have come back to this page, paste the javascript code you have copied into your URL window and run it. (The other table scripts there can also be used here: transposing columns and rows, and numbering rows.) Alternatively, instead of copying the link, you could drag it into your bookmarks toolbar, allowing the link to be accessible in the future from the toolbar. The script provides "a/d" (ascending/descending) links for each column, allowing one to sort (in either direction) for a given column. (This script is valid for any HTML page which includes a table element.)

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