Proposed table specification (long!)

Simon Bull waysoftheearth at
Tue May 10 23:54:14 EDT 2011

Thanks for your additional comments Fletcher.

If the proposed syntax overly complicated, I am very happy to simplify it.
The question is whether or not the following is really complicated?



People Homeland Tongue
Elves Rivendell, Quenya,
Mirkwood, Sindarin,
Lorien Nandorin

Dwarves Erebor Khuzdul

Hobbits The Shire, Westron


Sure, if you want the rowspan and/or colspan features you will have to use
the ruled cols and/or ruled rows form. But those are optional features that
many authors might use only rarely. Likewise, a particular implementation
could choose to either support/not support those optional features. But at
least there would be a potential upgrade path from the most basic table
support to the fullest table support.

The proposed specification is only verbose because I decided to illustrate
every feature individually with an explicit example. If you prefer I could
give the entire proposal in one or two examples instead.

The issues around editors and mon-spacing are bigger than this proposal, so
I won't attempt to address those here.

Thanks again for your ever insightful comments Fletcher ,


On Wed, May 11, 2011 at 11:47 AM, Fletcher T. Penney <
fletcher at> wrote:

> Since you asked, here are my own personal thoughts - others most

> likely disagree....



> The syntax seems a bit complicated - I didn't compare, but I suspect

> the length of your explanation approaches or exceeds the entire

> Markdown syntax guide. I realize that you are trying to offer some

> flexibility, but that can get tricky.


> The other challenge is "editability" - with most of the complex table

> formats out there, it would be very tedious to actually create and

> subsequently modify a table by hand. I will grant you that this as

> much (or more) a problem with editors than the syntax. And one could

> create plugins for certain editors (e.g. TextMate) that could do the

> formatting for you. But this seems to be straying outside the bounds

> of what makes Markdown so great. (Again --- just my opinion)


> But I think the biggest issue is the monospace vs proportional font

> problem. This plagues every proposed table syntax out there (to my

> knowledge) --- tables just aren't going to look right in both font

> types in plain text files. Proper alignment is a key feature of

> tables, and it's frustrating when this is destroyed by changing the

> font.


> That said, the elastic tabstop idea proposed by Nick Gravgaard offers

> a tantalizing solution to this problem. In text editors that

> supported this concept, it would be trivially easy to align columns of

> text that worked for both monospace and proportional fonts. Columns

> would automatically realign when you changed the length of a given

> cell.


> In general, I believe there is a trade-off between simplicity and

> functionality. My preference is not to sacrifice (much) simplicity

> for the sake of functionality --- I believe MMD's table syntax is

> about as far down that curve as I am willing to go. Others may be on

> the other end of the spectrum.


> Where true genius comes is being able to merge simplicity with

> functionality (e.g. the iphone). I'm not saying a great solution for

> the Markdown/Table dilemma doesn't exist. I just don't think I've

> seen it yet. But I agree with you that continuing to generate new

> proposals is a good idea.


> F-




> On Tue, May 10, 2011 at 9:22 PM, Simon Bull <waysoftheearth at>

> wrote:

> > Hi Fletcher,

> >

> > Should I assume that you mean the proposed syntax falls short in one or

> more

> > of the four categories you identified?

> >

> > If you care to elaborate on some of these short-comings I would be very

> > happy to alter my proposal in order to meet the needs of a wider

> audience.

> > That was in fact the purpose of proposing it at all.

> >

> > Thanks for your comments,

> >

> > Simon

> >


> --

> Fletcher T. Penney

> fletcher at

> _______________________________________________

> Markdown-Discuss mailing list

> Markdown-Discuss at



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