Tabular content organized by row and then by cell. May have borders or many other
display properties specified.
What is it?
This is the top level containing element for HTML table structures. All
formatting information lies between the beginning and ending Table tags.
By default, tables have no borders. All attributes of the Table element apply
globally to each cell in the table unless overridden at a sub-element level
(row, cell, etc.) by other attributes.
SOME attributes to the TABLE element are only applicable when the
table is constructed using the Complex
Table Model which allows a finer level of control than the
Simple Table Model while maintaining
backward compatibility with the simpler model.
This attribute specifies a background image to be used as the backdrop
for the table. All cell contents will be displayed over this image.
If the referenced image is smaller than the table size, it will be tiled
to fit all of the table area.
Either an absolute or relative URL. All URLs should be URL encoded where required.
Deprecated in HTML 4.x and XHTML 1.0. Dropped in XHTML 1.1 in favor of CSS
Specifies the background color of all the table cells. This value can
also be overridden at the cell level.
This is an attribute that specifies the size of the border around the
table. If the value is 0 or absent, no border is rendered. An additional
value of Border can be specified [this is
a legacy value that is supported only for backward compatibility with
early Table specifications.]
Values: Integers indicating
pixel width of the border.
This attribute allows independent, 3-D color control over the lower and
right hand borders of the external border color for the current table.
To change the upper and left hand borders of the external cell border
color for the current table, use the BorderColorLight attribute (see
below.) Display of this attribute is dependent on the presence of the
BORDER attribute in the TABLE element.
This attribute allows independent, 3-D color control over the upper and
left hand borders of the external border color for the current table. To
change the lower and right hand borders of the external cell border color
for the current table, use the BorderColorDark attribute (see above.)
Display of this attribute is dependent on the presence of the BORDER
attribute in the TABLE element.
This attribute helps an author in situations with floating objects (images,
tables, etc.) produced through the Left and
Right ALIGN attributes. It allows content to stop being
flowed around the floated element.
[DEFAULT - No special line breaking
effects are applied relative to the floating element.] Left [breaks line after this element
and moves down vertically until the left margin is clear of floated objects.] Right [breaks line after this element
and moves down vertically until the right margin is clear of floated objects.] All [breaks line after this element
and moves down vertically until both margins are clear of floated objects.]
This Complex Table Model attribute explicitly specifies the number of
columns in the table. Using this attribute may allow the browser to
dynamically render the table as it is downloaded. If this attribute is
absent, it is necessary to receive all of the Table code structure to
determine the number of columns and their appropriate widths before
Positive integers representing the number of columns listed in the
Table HTML content.
This Complex Table Model attribute allows independent control over the
outer border display of the table. Using this attribute coupled with
the RULES attribute yields much greater border display control than the
older Simple Table Model. This attribute takes a single value
representing the sides of the outer table border for which to draw borders
Values: Void [Do not render any borders] Above [Border on top side only] Below [Border on bottom side only] HSides [Render horizontal borders only (top and bottom sides.)] VSides [Render vertical borders only (left and right sides.)] LHS [Border on left side only] RHS [Border on right side only] Box [Border on all four sides] Border [Border on all four sides - just like BOX -
This Complex Table Model attribute is similar to the FRAME attribute,
but where FRAME controls the outer borders around a table, RULES controls
the interior dividing line display in a table. Using this attribute
coupled with the FRAME attribute yields much greater border display
control than the older Simple Table Model.
Values: None [No interior borders are displayed] Groups [Horizontal
borders are displayed between all table groups
specified using the THEAD, TBODY,
TFOOT and COLGROUP tags.] Rows [Horizontal borders are
displayed between all table rows (TR)] Cols [Vertical borders are displayed
between all table columns] All [Borders displayed between all table cells]
If you are writing your HTML by hand, it is always highly recommended
to use an HTML validator, but when authoring tables, this holds doubly
true, as it is easy to make mistakes in this area.
Make sure that the only content of the top-level table tags are
legal structures (such as TR elements.) Also make
sure that the only content of your TRs are TH or TD
elements. Otherwise, some browsers may display table contents incorrectly.
The Table model (even the Simple Table Model) is easily the most
complex markup structure in HTML. If you have other general questions
about this structure see the Table Overview.
Centering a Table structure using any of the commonly available centering
methods in HTML can cause the entire contents of the table cells to be
centered in browsers that only support centering and not tables. This
can cause visual display problems in such cases.
To enable Table cell contents to display well on browsers that do not
support tables, it is common practice to put either an extra space at
the end of each table cell, or even better, put a
<br> element at the end of the last cell in
each table row (eg: <tr> <td>cell 1</td> <td>cell
2<br></td></tr>.) This is perfectly legal HTML and
should cause no display problems for browsers that support tables (as
there is an implied line break anyway at the end of every table cell)
and should greatly improve readability on older browsers. (notice that
I have not used this tip in these pages yet. I hope to at some point
in the future.)
If you are having problems with table layout and borders are turned
off, it can be helpful to temporarily turn them on - this can reveal
clues of why the layout is misbehaving.
Netscape does not render a table until the entire table structure
is received. This behavior is very noticeable with pages using
very large table structures - especially when using a slower
connection. Internet Explorer tries to render the table as it
receives it, which tends to affect user perception of the download time
as being faster. A way to combat this difference is to break tables up
into smaller chunks, if possible. (Opera behavior is not known here.)
Internet Explorer requires the THEAD, TBODY and TFOOT sections to
exist in order to use the RULES and FRAME attributes of the TABLE
element. This is counter to the statement in the specifications for
tables that the omission of THEAD, TBODY and TFOOT elements IMPLIES
that the table content is all one TBODY section.
Currently, when using only the simple table model the only way to
create complex borders for tables is to use nested tables. Nested
tables are entirely legal under the HTML Tables specifications, but
Mosaic versions below 3.0 do not support nested tables (all nested table content
appears as a solid square and content is lost.)
Internet Explorer seems to be generally more tolerant of invalid
HTML in the creation of table structures than Netscape or Mosaic is,
but do NOT rely on this robustness; check the display on
other browsers as well.
The Tables specification says the CAPTION element should always
come at the beginning of a table structure (this is to ensure proper
rendering in progressive table display.) I have yet to see a
browser misbehave if the CAPTION is placed in a position other than the
beginning of a table (as long as it is within a legal table row
The ALIGN attribute for the table element does not appear to work
very robustly in either Netscape or Internet Explorer.
Netscape now supports the BACKGROUND attribute for placement of
background images for the entire table. I have never found this
documented anywhere and it was a reader that alerted me to the fact.
When testing the behavior, an occasional glitch seemed apparent -
be sure to check display of this attribute in supporting Netscape
versions for proper behavior if you plan to use it.
The use of CENTER as a value for the ALIGN attribute in Internet
Explorer and Netscape does not work like the LEFT and RIGHT
floating behaviors. CENTER causes no floating behavior - it just
centers the table on the screen (like wrapping the table in the
DIV ALIGN=CENTER or CENTER elements.)
The COLS attribute in Netscape seems to attempt to make all the
columns of the table have equal width. If there is no WIDTH attribute
on the table, it will expand the table to fit the available space rather
than shrink-wrap the overall block size to the table content as usual.
If a WIDTH attribute is set, it still seems to try to set equal column
widths, except where allowing for non-breakable word regions alters this.
One reader reported that the COLS attribute does NOT allow
for immediate display of table content as it is downloaded. Be careful
if you intend to use this attribute for that purpose.
The BORDERCOLOR attribute affects a table differently in Internet
Explorer and Netscape - In Internet Explorer, both exterior and interior
borders are given the border color. In Netscape, only the outermost edge
of the exterior 'box' border of the table uses the border color.
The effects of the FONT element are generally not inherited by content
nested inside tables. If an author wishes to ensure that the effects
of the FONT element are applied everywhere, the element must also
be applied for every table cell in a table (in such a case CSS would be
a simpler answer.) These are the FONT attributes which apply to content
2.0: COLOR and FACE applied, SIZE ignored
3.0+: FACE applied, COLOR and SIZE ignored
None of the FONT element attributes has any effect on content nested in tables.
All FONT element attributes have an effect on content nested in tables.
Netscape and Opera: Both browsers ignore percentage values (pixel values
are fine) for the HEIGHT attribute for TABLE only if the table
it is being applied to is nested within another table. Internet Explorer,
on the other hand, honors percentage values for HEIGHT whether a table
is un-nested or nested.
I finally discovered the answer to a strange behavior that I
had seen for a long time in Netscape: occasionally, some text was
The answer: the content of tables in Netscape (text especially), is
not selectable by the reader if the table is floated (using the
ALIGN="left" or ALIGN="right".) This behavior has been the case ALL the
way back to Netscape 2.0.
An author with an eagle eye pointed this one out:
The scenario - In Netscape 4.x, if you use a background image on a
table, any nested tables will inherit the same background image and
not be transparent the way they should be. In other words, the
background image is re-started (overlaid) in the nested table. The
author who pointed this bug out also mentioned a useful fix which
does not appear to be at all harmful: specify an empty BACKGROUND
attribute (BACKGROUND="") in nested TABLE elements in this scenario.
Netscape 4.x error condition bug: if a BGCOLOR and BACKGROUND attribute
have been specified for the table, and the URL to the image fails to
load, the bgcolor should be used instead. Netscape 4.x does that for
a moment, but then this changes to a block only the size of the broken
image placeholder with the specified BGCOLOR in the upper, left corner
of each of the cells in the table.
Netscape 4.x has a strange rendering bug with checkbox and radio button
form fields. If a BGCOLOR attribute is declared for a table - or a cell
within a table - the rendering boxes of any checkboxes and radio
buttons (also INPUT FILE fields to a small extent) in that cell/table
will not use the indicated BGCOLOR - it will instead use the BGCOLOR
of the document itself. If you use Netscape 4.x, you will see this
bug apparent at almost every large-scale site you go to. Workaround: Using the CSS
[-->Index DOT Css] property on the
checkbox or radio element itself, set to the background color of the
cell/table that you are in, things will be correctly displayed.
The SUMMARY attribute is exposed in Netscape 6.1+ by invoking a
context menu on the table (PC: right clicking) and choosing "properties."