Proposed table specification (long!)

Simon Bull waysoftheearth at
Tue May 10 08:31:24 EDT 2011


I have been thinking on Markdown's lack of "proper" table support for a long
while now. Here's where I have arrived...

## I Don't Like HTML Tables

It is often argued that embedded HTML is the way to markdown rich tables.

Unfortunately, this contradicts the higher markdown ideal that a raw
markdown document (including tables!) should be good

1. Firstly for readers,
2. Secondly for authors,
3. Lastly for parsers which don't even rate a mention because markdown is
for Humans.

You have probably noticed already that HTML tables are *appalling* for
readers and a nightmare for authors. They are hardly "good" for markdown
parsers either, which (not being HTML parsers) treat HTML tables as
impenetrable blobs to be output "as is". Where does that leave us when we
want to go from markdown to PDF?

## I Do Like Monospaced Tables

It is the _visual alignment_ of terms into rows and columns that enables a
reader to recognise a table. Without any recognisable alignment, a reader
sees a jumbled "cloud" of terms -- which is exactly how we see tables with a
variable width font.

Additionally, a raw markdown document should

1. Be sharable, and,
2. Convey the same information to every reader.

A raw markdown document must therefore be rendered *equivalently* for every
reader. This can only be assumed if every reader has the same text spacing,
and a mono spaced is _a_ reasonable way of achieving this.

With all that in mind, I offer up my "Teardown" table specification for your
consideration (I realise it will be "torn down", but nothing ventured
nothing gained).

Teardown offers the following over and above MultiMarkDown's table support:

* Multi-line cell content,
* Additional "Arty" syntax for titles and footers (much nicer for authors
and readers),
* Colspan (without meta-chars in cell content),
* Rowspan,
* Cell alignment (without meta-characters in content)

*Please note* that I have _not_ implemented this specification. This is all
just hot air produced by an author trying contribute something toward better
table support for markdown.

(specification to follow...)
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