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Web Design in a Nutshell, 2nd Edition by Jennifer Niederst Robbins

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Table Troubleshooting

Despite the control they offer over page layout, tables are also notorious for causing major headaches and frustrations. This is partly due to the potential complexity of the code—it’s easy to miss one little character that will topple a table like a house of cards. Another source of chaos is that browsers are inconsistent and sometimes quirky in the way they interpret table code. It is not uncommon to spend several careful hours crafting a table that looks perfect in browsers X and Y but crumbles into a little heap in browser Z.

Although not every problem can be anticipated, there are a number of standard places tables tend to go wrong. HTML tables have some inherent peculiarities that can make them frustrating to work with, but knowing about the potential pitfalls up front can make the design process go more smoothly. As always, it is necessary to test your designs on as many browser and platform configurations as possible.

Calculating Table Size

In some instances, your design may require that the dimensions of a table stay fixed at a certain pixel size. Unfortunately, setting the width and height attributes in the <table> tag is not a guarantee that your table will appear at that size when finally rendered. These attributes merely specify a minimum size, but the table will expand as necessary to accommodate its contents.

Tables also expand according to the border, cellpadding, and cellspacing settings, as shown in Figure 13-10. In order to keep a table ...

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