[Wikipedia-l] Proposal for table syntax

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Thu Aug 1 17:28:43 UTC 2002

Jan.Hidders wrote

>As I also suggested on the talk page of
>why not something more WYSIWIG, like:
>* [| starts a table rule
>* |] ends a table rule
>* consecutive rules belong to the same table
>[| Name               || Bill Clinton  |]
>[| Musical instrument || Saxophone     |]
>-- Jan Hidders
I speak as a person who finds tables to be a struggle.  (My 12-year old 
son had it figured out on the first day of a one-week web design course, 
but that's another story.)    In the old days :-)   when typewriters 
were in fashion you could put something in table form by simply using 
the tab (or tabular)  key; an advanced typewriter user would even learn 
to set tabs.  Now, even though word processing programs (perhaps 
grudgingly) allow this use of the tab, I hesitate in other software 
because the results are often unpredictable.

In those tab days (even before that name was usurped by a certain 
soft-drink manufacturer) nobody even considered the possibility of 
having his data in neat little boxes.  The HTML community has made it a 
serious challenge for the user to get rid of them.  If you can't restore 
the old function of the tab key then I vote for the one line=one row 
approach as being more intuitive and more WYSIWIG.  

The example above gives me cause for concern because it really only has 
one data set.  What will it look like when you add Harry Truman's piano 
or some other president's fiddle?

I very much believe that with most non-technical users the need for 
tables of data will be on a very elementary level.  A person who wants 
to fill in a table of presidents and their musical instruments will be 
quite content to leave the complexities of the periodic table to someone 
else.  Those of us who have contributed to the "List of Novelists" since 
it has started to become an annotated list would probably find a table 
format less ragged than what we have now, but a contributor 
(particularly a newbie) may hesitate to do anything if he finds the code 
too complicated.  Exaggerated mathophobia was once a characteristic of 
English majors, and I would be surprised if that has changed.

Why can't we just bring back the tab?


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