Real World Tables Overview

Real World Tables come in two flavors: fixed width and variable width (aka "Liquid"). Fixed width tables are set to a particular width (in pixels) using the WIDTH attribute of the TABLE tag (i.e. <table width="500">), and are the easiest to control. Variable width tables ("liquid" tables) are set to a percentage of the browser window width using the WIDTH attribute of the TABLE tag (i.e. <table width="95%">), and, though popular, are extremely difficult to control with precision and predictability.

In a fixed width table, it is possible to set the width of individual columns precisely, and to create layouts which have a consistent appearance cross-browser and cross-platform.

In a variable width table, ALL columns will vary in size, depending upon the size of the browser window. There is no way to create fixed width columns in a variable width table at this time; all columns in a variable width table are of variable width, regardless of how you manipulate attributes or play with the HTML.

This said, variable width tables, in recent years, have come into vogue with a vengeance. Everyone wants to create variable width table layouts these days, in order that HTML content on a page might flow to fill up all available browser window real estate.

Fixed width tables are also in very common usage. Most websites with multiple columns and complex graphical layouts require fixed width tables.

Most of the material in the following sections describes the manufacture of fixed width tables. Following this discussion, however, I will also describe what little there is to be said about variable width tables.

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