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On this particular SE site, we'll occasionally have to post lists of items with multiple, ordered pieces of information in each list entry. I.e. what would normally be formatted into a table. But SE doesn't support tables via markdown or HTML, so we work around this limitation.

Examples:

I request that support for tables be added to the site.

  • Feel free to edit in other example posts which would benefit from this feature.
  • While I support your request, I still feel that the most common use case for such a feature would be for open-ended list questions, which are generally discouraged. Still, I support, for questions like the ones you linked to, which aren't. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Feb 10 '13 at 6:29
  • Also my table in the middle of a Fringe answer. Took me a good 10 minutes to figure out how I could nicely format that one part alone... (Original intent was to put the description beside each one, rather than label them A/B/C/D, but that created a horrid horizontal scrollbar) – Izkata Feb 10 '13 at 7:24
  • @AvnerShahar-Kashtan Bulleted lists (as used in this question) have no length limitations. So I don't see any problem there. – Izkata Feb 10 '13 at 7:25
  • There are plenty of closed-ended list questions that could use this. I'd like a row/column limit on them, though. – Solemnity Feb 21 '13 at 5:36
  • Folks, if you have arguments for or against, you should post answers, and let the community vote on them. – user1027 Feb 21 '13 at 15:34
  • 1
    Rejected on meta.so: meta.stackexchange.com/q/5255/172958 – Kevin Feb 21 '13 at 17:31
  • 1
    Re-requested on meta.SO: meta.stackexchange.com/q/138946/158781 – user1027 Feb 21 '13 at 17:49
8

The reason why code-embedded tables are awful is that you cannot use normal formatting like boldness, italics, links and so forth. Everything will be interpreted as code.

IMO, Stack Exchange is one of leading family of sites when it comes to not getting in the way of users when they want to provide content. The fact that tables are missing is a big setback in terms of usability. Of course one can always hack something together with monospace fonts and tons of spaces but seriously, I think we are decades past that sort of stuff.

Tables have a smell on them as they have been misused in the dark ages of the Web, but when used what they are intended for tables are a good thing.

  • Mm, I disagree with that part about being unable to use formatting. We just need a good way to edit the tables. As a quick just-pulled-out-of-nowhere example: {**Header 1**}{**Header 2**}\n{Row 1 Col 1}{Row 1 Col 2}\n{Row 2 Col 1}{Row 3 Col 2}. Bold, italic, links, and even bullet points should all work inside tables with this formatting, provided what's between { and } can be multi-line. – Izkata Mar 14 '13 at 1:44
  • 1
    @Izkata: I was referring to the practice of using the <pre>formatted markdown feature (the one where each line is preceded by four spaces) to fake proper tables. I have no idea how your example is intended to work; Could you post an answer which includes your example? – bitmask Mar 14 '13 at 1:58
  • Oh, that I agree with (and used in one of the examples in the question). And sure; I hope it's straightforward. – Izkata Mar 14 '13 at 2:13
3

Posting an example at @bitmasks's request - this is the basic format I was thinking of:

{Row 1 Col 1}{Row 1 Col 2}
{Row 2 Col 1}{Row 2 Col 2}

The names should make it obvious what the groupings mean. For headers, insert bolding markup:

{ **Header 1** }{ **Header 2** }
{Row 1 Col 1}{Row 1 Col 2}
{Row 2 Col 1}{Row 2 Col 2}

The idea is whenever } is followed by { without a new line between them, treat them as the same row, a new line creating the next row. That makes bulleted lists possible, if a bit messy:

{ **Dialogue** }{ **Notes** }
{ _Hamlet_: "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio" }{
* Holds skull
  * Human, not monkey
}

(If that's a bit difficult to envision, this is what I imagine:) Example with bulleted list

Not to mention spoiler'd text:

{
>! _Skull_: "Why're ya talkin' ta me?"
}
  • Ooh! You were suggesting a syntax for tables. See, I thought you were trying to tell me I missed an existing feature (egg to my face). Thanks for clarifying it. – bitmask Mar 14 '13 at 12:39
  • How would your suggested syntax be adjusted for row and column spans? – Anthony Grist Jul 17 '13 at 12:41
  • @AnthonyGrist I'd call that an advanced feature that none of our examples in the question use - it can be skipped. – Izkata Jul 17 '13 at 13:23
  • @AnthonyGrist However, if implemented carefully, it could be done as a table-within-a-table: { this is row1, colspan=2 }<newline>{ { row2-col1 }{ row2-col2 }<newline>{ row3-col1 }{ row3-col2 } } – Izkata Jul 17 '13 at 13:23
  • @AnthonyGrist Just reread you comment, rows: { Col1, rowspan=2 }{ { col2-row1}{ col3-row1}<newline>{ col2-row2}{ col3-row2 } } – Izkata Jul 17 '13 at 13:37

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