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Tables, Divs, and what I think of the whole sordid affair...

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I've read pages and pages of posts, blogs, tutorials, and diatribe about "Tables vs. Divs", and I've noticed that, more often than not, the arguments from either side become less convincing the longer they go on. Arguing about a topic like this is like taking part in any heated discussion - the platform invariably takes on the shape of a polarised battlefield, with loud and sometimes obnoxious protagonists taking centre stage on either side, drowning out reason and rationale. Those of us who take a more moderate approach are often overshadowed or not even heard. Some of the most logical arguments I've seen are buried 5 or more pages down, even on sites that put "most voted" arguments at the top.

Table and divs are simply two different DOM element types. What you can achieve with tables you can achieve with divs, and vice versa. Misuse and/or abuse of either is bad. Whether it's tables nested 10 deep, or divs nested 10 deep, that points to there being underlying layout issues that are going to be difficult to resolve whichever way the original designer has approached the situation.

The reality is, even if something is technically "wrong", if it is the path of least resistance, we simple humans will take it. A good analogy is when you're stopped at traffic lights on a hill. There are quite a lot of people who will find the clutch point and ride the clutch, to overcome having to put on the handbrake and then do a hill start once the lights turn green. Riding the clutch is bad for the vehicle - it's cheaper to replace a stretched parking brake cable than it is to replace a gearbox, yet some of us still ride the clutch without a care. Not me though, I'm a fascist clutch purist, but that's a discussion for another time.

If your layout uses tables, or if it uses divs, it's still valid. If it wasn't valid, it wouldn't render. There are times when tables are best, times when divs are best - only experience will give you the right answer to the question "What do I use, and where?".

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August 2020

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