Using Tables for
One of the major problems with HTML is that it makes
difficult to create margins, align text and the like. HTML 4.0 provides
an elegant solution through the use of style sheets. But it requires
more sophisticated Web design techniques. The solution to keep it
simple is to use tables to do page formatting. This tutorial was
created with a table with no borders and two columns only.
0. Before you begin
- The first thing you should know when thinking in page
design is that your page will be seen in different browsers, monitors
and screen resolutions. The "standard" (if there is one) for monitors
and resolution is a 17inches monitor running at 800 by 600 resolution,
256 colors. This is what is expected that the average user has, but in
reality you should prepare your pages to be seen from 15 to 19 inch
monitors, running 640 by 480 to 1,024 by 1024 resolution, 32-bit
- A beginners mistake is to define the tables in pixels
or inches, rather than in percentages. If you define in pixels your
page will be seen well in some monitor-resolution combination, but not
in others. Therefore always use percentages to define your columns in a
table. Your table will always fill the screen and your columns will
keep their relative sizes. In this tutorial I defined the left column
taking 15% of the screen and set a different background color to it.
- Another important consideration is how browsers treat
blank cells in a table. If you leave a cell blank (you do not type
anything) Internet Explorer fills it with a blank. Netscape and Firefox, however
doe not include a blank and the table looks unfinished as in this example. Therefore, do not
leave a cell blank include a non-blank space there using the code
Just pressing the space bar will not do it for HTML ignores white-space.
- When using tables for page formatting the table
should have no borders or borders equal to zero. You should also set
5-10 pixels cell spacing (space between cells) or 3-5 pixels cell
padding (space within cells). I tend to set 5 pixels cell padding, but
you should try to see what looks best in your case and then decide.
- Finally, you should use a tool to create tables that
you feel comfortable with. In this tutorial I will show how to use KompoZer
and Microsoft Word to develop tables for page
formating. A choice of editor is a question of
preference, not a technical decision.
1. Using KompoZer (Nvu)
To create a table for page formatting is similar to
using tables regularly. You start by clicking in the New icon in Nvu.
Of course if you are starting Nvu you are already placed in a blank
page with a HTML editing toolbar on the top. When you click on the
tables symbol the insert dialog opens and let you select the size of
your table, as shown below.
Let us work with an example and see how we would define
a table for page formating (we will use the same example later on).
Suppose we want to create a document with two columns of text and leave
a margin at the left side of the document, on which me may wish later
on to place a background image, or color. The left margin does not need
to be as large as the other columns, lets say 17%, while the others
would be 42 and 41% respectively.
- start by clicking on the table symbol in the toolbar
and you will see a dialog as shown above.
- make the number of rows equal to one
(the whole page) and the number of columns equal to three
in the example and you will see a small
- double-click the table and you will see the
dialog. Select the Table tab and
set the border
width to one,
cell padding to five,
select left as the table alignment, and select
(click) table width, equal to 100
%, finally click on Apply
and Ok and
the table will resize
to the new specifications.
- double-click in the first cell and you will see a dialog to modify cell
attributes. Set the cell width to 17% (the margin in our
example) and click Apply.
- click on Next
on select cell and you will
see the empty table with three columns now formatted for the
17% margin and a dark mark in the second cell and the cell dialog superimposed alowing
you to select 42% for the second cell width. Click Apply
formatting is done.
- You can now enter text in the second and third
columns as was the original intention. You have two separated
paralell columns of text as in a newspaper. Of course you could have
created more columns, and even nexted tables to create a very interesting
- When you are done entering text, double- click in
any cell, select the Table
tab, and make the border width to zero
pixels to remove the borders. Save your page and you are done.
- Note: Nvu will show the empty borders as double dotted red
lines around the cells, for your information only, that
will not display on the
2. Using Microsoft
To create a table for page formatting is similar to
using tables regularly. We will use the example discussed previously.
When you open Word you will see the basic toolbar as shown below:
- start by clicking on the table symbol in the
editing toolbar and selecting three cells in the first row while
holding the left button of the mouse and a blank
table will be inserted in your document..
- right-click on the blank table and select table properties. Check preferred width to
100 measured in
percent, and select left as the table alignment.
- In the same table properties dialog, click on Options
and select a space between cells, then click on
shading and select
and click Ok.
- right-click in the first cell and select
table properties again. Select the column tab
and check preferred width
to 17 measured in
percent. Finally, click on next
column and set the preferred width to
42 measured in
percent. Repeat the same operation to the last column and set the width
to 41%. You are done with formating.
- Enter the text as discussed in the Nvu example and
then save as
html. You can see the simple table here.
3. Advanced topic
You may wish to include a background image that will fit in the first
column (margin) of the example, to make the page look better. To do so:
This page is maintained by Al Bento
who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This page was last updated on May 17, 2007. Although we will
attempt to keep this information accurate, we can not guarantee the
accuracy of the information provided.