← 4.9 Tabular dataTable of contents4.9.2 The caption element →
      1. 4.9.1 The table element
        1. 4.9.1.1 Techniques for describing tables
        2. 4.9.1.2 Techniques for table layout

4.9.1 The table element

Categories:
Flow content.
Palpable content.
Contexts in which this element can be used:
Where flow content is expected.
Content model:
In this order: optionally a caption element, followed by zero or more colgroup elements, followed optionally by a thead element, followed optionally by a tfoot element, followed by either zero or more tbody elements or one or more tr elements, followed optionally by a tfoot element (but there can only be one tfoot element child in total).
Content attributes:
Global attributes
border
DOM interface:
interface HTMLTableElement : HTMLElement {
           attribute HTMLTableCaptionElement? caption;
  HTMLElement createCaption();
  void deleteCaption();
           attribute HTMLTableSectionElement? tHead;
  HTMLElement createTHead();
  void deleteTHead();
           attribute HTMLTableSectionElement? tFoot;
  HTMLElement createTFoot();
  void deleteTFoot();
  readonly attribute HTMLCollection tBodies;
  HTMLElement createTBody();
  readonly attribute HTMLCollection rows;
  HTMLElement insertRow(optional long index);
  void deleteRow(long index);
           attribute DOMString border;
};

The table element represents data with more than one dimension, in the form of a table.

The table element takes part in the table model. Tables have rows, columns, and cells given by their descendants. The rows and columns form a grid; a table's cells must completely cover that grid without overlap.

Precise rules for determining whether this conformance requirement is met are described in the description of the table model.

Authors are encouraged to provide information describing how to interpret complex tables. Guidance on how provide such information is given below.

If a table element has a (non-conforming) summary attribute, and the user agent has not classified the table as a layout table, the user agent may report the contents of that attribute to the user.

Tables should not be used as layout aids. Historically, many Web authors have tables in HTML as a way to control their page layout making it difficult to extract tabular data from such documents. In particular, users of accessibility tools, like screen readers, are likely to find it very difficult to navigate pages with tables used for layout. If a table is to be used for layout it must be marked with the attribute role="presentation" for a user agent to properly represent the table to an assistive technology and to properly convey the intent of the author to tools that wish to extract tabular data from the document.

There are a variety of alternatives to using HTML tables for layout, primarily using CSS positioning and the CSS table model.

The border attribute may be specified on a table element to explicitly indicate that the table element is not being used for layout purposes. If specified, the attribute's value must either be the empty string or the value "1". The attribute is used by certain user agents as an indication that borders should be drawn around cells of the table.


Tables can be complicated to understand and navigate. To help users with this, user agents should clearly delineate cells in a table from each other, unless the user agent has classified the table as a layout table.

Authors and implementors are encouraged to consider using some of the table layout techniques described below to make tables easier to navigate for users.

User agents, especially those that do table analysis on arbitrary content, are encouraged to find heuristics to determine which tables actually contain data and which are merely being used for layout. This specification does not define a precise heuristic, but the following are suggested as possible indicators:

Feature Indication
The use of the role attribute with the value presentation Probably a layout table
The use of the border attribute with the non-conforming value 0 Probably a layout table
The use of the non-conforming cellspacing and cellpadding attributes with the value 0 Probably a layout table
The use of caption, thead, or th elements Probably a non-layout table
The use of the headers and scope attributes Probably a non-layout table
The use of the border attribute with a value other than 0 Probably a non-layout table
Explicit visible borders set using CSS Probably a non-layout table
The use of the summary attribute Not a good indicator (both layout and non-layout tables have historically been given this attribute)

It is quite possible that the above suggestions are wrong. Implementors are urged to provide feedback elaborating on their experiences with trying to create a layout table detection heuristic.


table . caption [ = value ]

Returns the table's caption element.

Can be set, to replace the caption element. If the new value is not a caption element, throws a HierarchyRequestError exception.

caption = table . createCaption()

Ensures the table has a caption element, and returns it.

table . deleteCaption()

Ensures the table does not have a caption element.

table . tHead [ = value ]

Returns the table's thead element.

Can be set, to replace the thead element. If the new value is not a thead element, throws a HierarchyRequestError exception.

thead = table . createTHead()

Ensures the table has a thead element, and returns it.

table . deleteTHead()

Ensures the table does not have a thead element.

table . tFoot [ = value ]

Returns the table's tfoot element.

Can be set, to replace the tfoot element. If the new value is not a tfoot element, throws a HierarchyRequestError exception.

tfoot = table . createTFoot()

Ensures the table has a tfoot element, and returns it.

table . deleteTFoot()

Ensures the table does not have a tfoot element.

table . tBodies

Returns an HTMLCollection of the tbody elements of the table.

tbody = table . createTBody()

Creates a tbody element, inserts it into the table, and returns it.

table . rows

Returns an HTMLCollection of the tr elements of the table.

tr = table . insertRow(index)

Creates a tr element, along with a tbody if required, inserts them into the table at the position given by the argument, and returns the tr.

The position is relative to the rows in the table. The index −1 is equivalent to inserting at the end of the table.

If the given position is less than −1 or greater than the number of rows, throws an IndexSizeError exception.

table . deleteRow(index)

Removes the tr element with the given position in the table.

The position is relative to the rows in the table. The index −1 is equivalent to deleting the last row of the table.

If the given position is less than −1 or greater than the index of the last row, or if there are no rows, throws an IndexSizeError exception.

The caption IDL attribute must return, on getting, the first caption element child of the table element, if any, or null otherwise. On setting, if the new value is a caption element, the first caption element child of the table element, if any, must be removed, and the new value must be inserted as the first node of the table element. If the new value is not a caption element, then a HierarchyRequestError DOM exception must be thrown instead.

The createCaption() method must return the first caption element child of the table element, if any; otherwise a new caption element must be created, inserted as the first node of the table element, and then returned.

The deleteCaption() method must remove the first caption element child of the table element, if any.

The tHead IDL attribute must return, on getting, the first thead element child of the table element, if any, or null otherwise. On setting, if the new value is a thead element, the first thead element child of the table element, if any, must be removed, and the new value must be inserted immediately before the first element in the table element that is neither a caption element nor a colgroup element, if any, or at the end of the table if there are no such elements. If the new value is not a thead element, then a HierarchyRequestError DOM exception must be thrown instead.

The createTHead() method must return the first thead element child of the table element, if any; otherwise a new thead element must be created and inserted immediately before the first element in the table element that is neither a caption element nor a colgroup element, if any, or at the end of the table if there are no such elements, and then that new element must be returned.

The deleteTHead() method must remove the first thead element child of the table element, if any.

The tFoot IDL attribute must return, on getting, the first tfoot element child of the table element, if any, or null otherwise. On setting, if the new value is a tfoot element, the first tfoot element child of the table element, if any, must be removed, and the new value must be inserted immediately before the first element in the table element that is neither a caption element, a colgroup element, nor a thead element, if any, or at the end of the table if there are no such elements. If the new value is not a tfoot element, then a HierarchyRequestError DOM exception must be thrown instead.

The createTFoot() method must return the first tfoot element child of the table element, if any; otherwise a new tfoot element must be created and inserted immediately before the first element in the table element that is neither a caption element, a colgroup element, nor a thead element, if any, or at the end of the table if there are no such elements, and then that new element must be returned.

The deleteTFoot() method must remove the first tfoot element child of the table element, if any.

The tBodies attribute must return an HTMLCollection rooted at the table node, whose filter matches only tbody elements that are children of the table element.

The createTBody() method must create a new tbody element, insert it immediately after the last tbody element in the table element, if any, or at the end of the table element if the table element has no tbody element children, and then must return the new tbody element.

The rows attribute must return an HTMLCollection rooted at the table node, whose filter matches only tr elements that are either children of the table element, or children of thead, tbody, or tfoot elements that are themselves children of the table element. The elements in the collection must be ordered such that those elements whose parent is a thead are included first, in tree order, followed by those elements whose parent is either a table or tbody element, again in tree order, followed finally by those elements whose parent is a tfoot element, still in tree order.

The behavior of the insertRow(index) method depends on the state of the table. When it is called, the method must act as required by the first item in the following list of conditions that describes the state of the table and the index argument:

If index is less than −1 or greater than the number of elements in rows collection:
The method must throw an IndexSizeError exception.
If the rows collection has zero elements in it, and the table has no tbody elements in it:
The method must create a tbody element, then create a tr element, then append the tr element to the tbody element, then append the tbody element to the table element, and finally return the tr element.
If the rows collection has zero elements in it:
The method must create a tr element, append it to the last tbody element in the table, and return the tr element.
If index is missing, equal to −1, or equal to the number of items in rows collection:
The method must create a tr element, and append it to the parent of the last tr element in the rows collection. Then, the newly created tr element must be returned.
Otherwise:
The method must create a tr element, insert it immediately before the indexth tr element in the rows collection, in the same parent, and finally must return the newly created tr element.

When the deleteRow(index) method is called, the user agent must run the following steps:

  1. If index is equal to −1, then index must be set to the number if items in the rows collection, minus one.

  2. Now, if index is less than zero, or greater than or equal to the number of elements in the rows collection, the method must instead throw an IndexSizeError exception, and these steps must be aborted.

  3. Otherwise, the method must remove the indexth element in the rows collection from its parent.

The border IDL attribute must reflect the content attribute of the same name.

Here is an example of a table being used to mark up a Sudoku puzzle. Observe the lack of headers, which are not necessary in such a table.

<section>
 <style scoped>
  table { border-collapse: collapse; border: solid thick; }
  colgroup, tbody { border: solid medium; }
  td { border: solid thin; height: 1.4em; width: 1.4em; text-align: center; padding: 0; }
 </style>
 <h1>Today's Sudoku</h1>
 <table>
  <colgroup><col><col><col>
  <colgroup><col><col><col>
  <colgroup><col><col><col>
  <tbody>
   <tr> <td> 1 <td>   <td> 3 <td> 6 <td>   <td> 4 <td> 7 <td>   <td> 9
   <tr> <td>   <td> 2 <td>   <td>   <td> 9 <td>   <td>   <td> 1 <td>
   <tr> <td> 7 <td>   <td>   <td>   <td>   <td>   <td>   <td>   <td> 6
  <tbody>
   <tr> <td> 2 <td>   <td> 4 <td>   <td> 3 <td>   <td> 9 <td>   <td> 8
   <tr> <td>   <td>   <td>   <td>   <td>   <td>   <td>   <td>   <td>
   <tr> <td> 5 <td>   <td>   <td> 9 <td>   <td> 7 <td>   <td>   <td> 1
  <tbody>
   <tr> <td> 6 <td>   <td>   <td>   <td> 5 <td>   <td>   <td>   <td> 2
   <tr> <td>   <td>   <td>   <td>   <td> 7 <td>   <td>   <td>   <td>
   <tr> <td> 9 <td>   <td>   <td> 8 <td>   <td> 2 <td>   <td>   <td> 5
 </table>
</section>
4.9.1.1 Techniques for describing tables

For tables that consist of more than just a grid of cells with headers in the first row and headers in the first column, and for any table in general where the reader might have difficulty understanding the content, authors should include explanatory information introducing the table. This information is useful for all users, but is especially useful for users who cannot see the table, e.g. users of screen readers.

Such explanatory information should introduce the purpose of the table, outline its basic cell structure, highlight any trends or patterns, and generally teach the user how to use the table.

For instance, the following table:

Characteristics with positive and negative sides
Negative Characteristic Positive
Sad Mood Happy
Failing Grade Passing

...might benefit from a description explaining the way the table is laid out, something like "Characteristics are given in the second column, with the negative side in the left column and the positive side in the right column".

There are a variety of ways to include this information, such as:

In prose, surrounding the table
<p>In the following table, characteristics are given in the second
column, with the negative side in the left column and the positive
side in the right column.</p>
<table>
 <caption>Characteristics with positive and negative sides</caption>
 <thead>
  <tr>
   <th id="n"> Negative
   <th> Characteristic
   <th> Positive
 <tbody>
  <tr>
   <td headers="n r1"> Sad
   <th id="r1"> Mood
   <td> Happy
  <tr>
   <td headers="n r2"> Failing
   <th id="r2"> Grade
   <td> Passing
</table>
In the table's caption
<table>
 <caption>
  <strong>Characteristics with positive and negative sides.</strong>
  <p>Characteristics are given in the second column, with the
  negative side in the left column and the positive side in the right
  column.</p>
 </caption>
 <thead>
  <tr>
   <th id="n"> Negative
   <th> Characteristic
   <th> Positive
 <tbody>
  <tr>
   <td headers="n r1"> Sad
   <th id="r1"> Mood
   <td> Happy
  <tr>
   <td headers="n r2"> Failing
   <th id="r2"> Grade
   <td> Passing
</table>
In the table's caption, in a details element
<table>
 <caption>
  <strong>Characteristics with positive and negative sides.</strong>
  <details>
   <summary>Help</summary>
   <p>Characteristics are given in the second column, with the
   negative side in the left column and the positive side in the right
   column.</p>
  </details>
 </caption>
 <thead>
  <tr>
   <th id="n"> Negative
   <th> Characteristic
   <th> Positive
 <tbody>
  <tr>
   <td headers="n r1"> Sad
   <th id="r1"> Mood
   <td> Happy
  <tr>
   <td headers="n r2"> Failing
   <th id="r2"> Grade
   <td> Passing
</table>
Next to the table, in the same figure
<figure>
 <figcaption>Characteristics with positive and negative sides</figcaption>
 <p>Characteristics are given in the second column, with the
 negative side in the left column and the positive side in the right
 column.</p>
 <table>
  <thead>
   <tr>
    <th id="n"> Negative
    <th> Characteristic
    <th> Positive
  <tbody>
   <tr>
    <td headers="n r1"> Sad
    <th id="r1"> Mood
    <td> Happy
   <tr>
    <td headers="n r2"> Failing
    <th id="r2"> Grade
    <td> Passing
 </table>
</figure>
Next to the table, in a figure's figcaption
<figure>
 <figcaption>
  <strong>Characteristics with positive and negative sides</strong>
  <p>Characteristics are given in the second column, with the
  negative side in the left column and the positive side in the right
  column.</p>
 </figcaption>
 <table>
  <thead>
   <tr>
    <th id="n"> Negative
    <th> Characteristic
    <th> Positive
  <tbody>
   <tr>
    <td headers="n r1"> Sad
    <th id="r1"> Mood
    <td> Happy
   <tr>
    <td headers="n r2"> Failing
    <th id="r2"> Grade
    <td> Passing
 </table>
</figure>

Authors may also use other techniques, or combinations of the above techniques, as appropriate.

The best option, of course, rather than writing a description explaining the way the table is laid out, is to adjust the table such that no explanation is needed.

In the case of the table used in the examples above, a simple rearrangement of the table so that the headers are on the top and left sides removes the need for an explanation as well as removing the need for the use of headers attributes:

<table>
 <caption>Characteristics with positive and negative sides</caption>
 <thead>
  <tr>
   <th> Characteristic
   <th> Negative
   <th> Positive
 <tbody>
  <tr>
   <th> Mood
   <td> Sad
   <td> Happy
  <tr>
   <th> Grade
   <td> Failing
   <td> Passing
</table>
4.9.1.2 Techniques for table layout

Good table layout is key to making tables more readable and usable.

In visual media, providing column and row borders and alternating row backgrounds can be very effective to make complicated tables more readable.

For tables with large volumes of numeric content, using monospaced fonts can help users see patterns, especially in situations where a user agent does not render the borders. (Unfortunately, for historical reasons, not rendering borders on tables is a common default.)

In speech media, table cells can be distinguished by reporting the corresponding headers before reading the cell's contents, and by allowing users to navigate the table in a grid fashion, rather than serializing the entire contents of the table in source order.

Authors are encouraged to use CSS to achieve these effects.

User agents are encouraged to render tables using these techniques whenever the page does not use CSS and the table is not classified as a layout table.