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If you’ve ever had to use sites that have dense tabular data, you know the pain of squinting or using your mouse to see if you’re following the right row or column. There are many tricks people have used over the years to make alternating rows and highlight rows hovered over. Thanks to jQuery, it’s super easy to add both functions on the client side.

Take this table:

This is a lightweight table structure styled with some simple CSS2-compliant css:

Making two jQuery statements using the :odd and :even selectors is a simple way to do this:
$(“table.friendly tr:not(.header):odd”).css(“background-color”, “#CFF”);
$(“table.friendly tr:not(.header):even”).css(“background-color”:, “#CFC”);

But if you want to create a hovering effect, you’ll need to make it able to recall the previous state. For that, we’ll make some functions that hold the CSS changing code to avoid repetition & make for easy future alterations. So we’ll move to using .index() instead of :odd and :even.

We start by telling every row in table.friendly to be styled according to tablerow() function, which checks the index and styles as needed. Then we add the hook to hover() to highlight by setting the background to red, the text color to white, and the font to bold. Since we’re changing the text color & font weight, we need to make sure we change those back on the normal state.

With this code, we get:

Note how we have the third data row highlighted.

You now have the building blocks to make your own friendlier tables using jQuery.

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About the Author

  Ryan Macklin is freelance front-end developer, specializing in jQuery, JavaScript, PHP, HTML and CSS. He spends his off-hours as a freelance writer, editor and game designer, and maintains a blog revolving around game design and being a freelance writer & editor at

Tags: jQuery, spreadsheet-style tables, tables,


  1.  jQuery Tip: Even Friendlier Tables with jQuery « Safari Books Online's Official Blog