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Rediscovering HTML tables

I decided to write this post after several conversations I recently had with some of my readers about the use of HTML tables. In general, I noticed there is a preconceived hate about their use due to misleading information. In fact a lot of people say "I read tables should never be used", but this is absolutely false! This recommendation only regards the use of HTML tables to define the layout of HTML pages, but tables are perfect to arrange easily data into rows and columns and if you have to display tabular data within a web page you have to use them! Why not? So, in this situation, some people ignore the existence of some HTML tags for tables and how to use them properly.

HTML has ten table related tags. Here's the list with indicated if the element is defined in HTML 4.01 and/or HTML 5:

<caption> defines a table caption (4, 5)
<col> defines attributes for table columns (4, 5)
<colgroup> defines groups of table columns (4, 5)
<table> defines a table (4, 5)
<tbody> defines a table body (4, 5)
<td> defines a table cell (4, 5)
<tfoot> defines a table footer (4, 5)
<th> defines a table header (4, 5)
<thead> defines a table header (4, 5)
<tr> defines a table row (4, 5)

A basic table structure is the following:

It contains a caption, header, body and footer. The correct order of HTML elements is:

1. <table>
2. <caption>
3. <thead>
4. <tfoot>
5. <tbody>

According to definition and usage of w3schools, the element <tfoot> must appear before <tbody> within a table definition so that user agents can render the foot before receiving all of the (potentially numerous) rows of data (read more).

You can also use <col> and <colgroup> to define attributes for table columns or define group of table columns:

1. <table>
2. <caption>
3. <colgroup>
4. <col>
5. <thead>
6. <tfoot>
7. <tbody>

The following code is an example of a correct table structure:

<table border="1">
<caption>Table caption here</caption>

<colgroup span="1" style="background:#DEDEDE;"/>
<colgroup span="2" style="background:#EFEFEF;"/>

<!-- Table Header-->
<th>Head 1</th>
<th>Head 2</th>
<th>Head 3</th>

<!-- Table Footer-->
<td>Foot 1</td>
<td>Foot 2</td>
<td>Foot 3</td>

<!-- Table Body-->


The result on a browser is the following:

align and bgcolor attributes of the table are deprecated, so in HTML 5 no table attributes are supported. Obviously you can use style sheet to customize the style of each table element.

For a more detailed articles about HTML tables read this interesting post: w3 Introduction to tables

That's all. Do you have any suggestion about this topic? Please leave a comment, thanks.

HTML lists: what's new in HTML 5?HTML 5 Visual Cheat Sheet by WoorkCSS code structure for HTML 5: some useful guidelines

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