Proposed table specification (long!)

Dr. Drang drdrang at
Thu May 12 12:33:05 EDT 2011

I'm late to the party, but I do use tables in Markdown quite often, so…

Apart from the complexity of implementation, Fletcher's point about
monospaced and proportional fonts is the main objection to the
proposed syntax. I always use monospaced fonts, but not everyone does,
and Markdown is meant to accommodate everyone.

Michel's point about editing tables is also spot-on and ties into the
monospaced/proportional problem. Frankly, getting the proper alignment
when writing a table for the first time, even when using a monospaced
font, is a pain in the ass. Maintaining alignment when editing is even
harder—your example of adding a full line to one of the columns covers
only the simplest case.

The great thing about Michel's table syntax is that it allows you to
avoid these annoyances. You can align the columns if you want, but
you're not forced to. I happen to prefer aligned columns, which is why
I wrote this little script,

to do the alignment for me. But that's done outside of Markdown
itself; it's just a way of satisfying my anal retentiveness, not a
prescription for others.

Also, I'd like to address your use of rules within the table. Markdown
generates straight HTML—styles are left to the user's CSS. By adding
features that put borders in the table, you're inserting styles into
Markdown itself, which I think is a mistake.

Let me end by saying that I've always thought John was wrong not to
include a provision for tables in Markdown, and Michel's syntax
probably can be improved, so I welcome this discussion. But if tables
are to be included they should be simple, in keeping with Markdown's
overall approach. Markdown is not intended to handle every situation,
just the most common ones. The table formatting you've presented is
far more complex than the formatting Markdown does in other areas and,
I would argue, is beyond what Markdown should do.

Dr. Drang

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