tables with Unicode box drawing characters?

Sherwood Botsford sgbotsford at
Wed Sep 9 09:32:47 EDT 2009

Once it gets to table in a table, or table elements that span rows and
columns, or tables that need varicoloured text, you end up with a mess that
can't be done in the markdown way of "Simple to read, simple to type."
The template Toolkit system uses Markedown as a plugin. So you have
sections of TT cookie dough, and embedded markdown raisins in it. This made
my web creation simple. TT handles the directory structure, the menu
system. Markdown handles the actual content. And now that I know that
Markdown treats DIV as just a word, and passes it through, I can have
markdown content inside my html elements in an easy way.
Markdown text is at the core a linear data format. Tables are at the core
two dimensional data. Fletch and others have stretched the markdown syntax
to encompass simple tables, and have done so in a way that doesn't beat the
goals of markdown too much. But full table support shouldn't be in the
Indeed I question the use of complex tables. At some point you end up with
a data set that people can't grasp. If your table is too complex or even
too large to make with the tools you have now, there is merit in going back
and seeing if there is a better way to present the data. Perhaps as
multiple tables. Perhaps as graphs or networks.
This is much on the lines of the programming dictum: If your program
indents are deep enough that you are making your window wider, it's time to
abstract some subroutines out of your program.
One of the big issues with HTML is there is no method of abstraction.

On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 10:54 PM, Waylan Limberg <waylan at> wrote:

> On Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 12:18 AM, Suraj Kurapati<sunaku at> wrote:

> > Hello,

> >

> > I read David Wheeler's table proposal[1] for Markdown and very much

> > agree with his conclusion and PostgreSQL-inspired proposed format. I

> > also read the mailing list archives for 2009 but did not find any

> > clear concesus on whether DW's format was officially accepted (I hope

> > it is soon!).


> I didn't go back and check but I think there was in a previous

> discussion with a similar proposal. In other words, you need to go

> back further in the archive.


> Basically, these proposals for more complex tables are outside the

> scope of Markdown and should be left to raw html. At least I seem to

> recall actual implementers leaning that direction. Of course, if

> someone wanted to implement David's proposal (or some variant) and

> users flocked to it, then the rest of us may follow suite. Until then,

> I'm sticking to the simple solution we have now.


> Hint (and shameless plug): Python-Markdown makes adding on something

> of the sort easy with it's extension API. Check it out here:




> > What if Markdown used Unicode characters to express tables in this

> manner?

> >

> > All we need are two essential subsets of the Unicode box drawing

> characters:

> > * thin ones for normal cells: ┌ ┐ └ ┘ ─ │

> > * thick ones for heading cells: ╔ ╗ ╚ ╝ ═ ║

> >


> The last few times someone proposed a syntax that didn't use commonly

> found keys on the keyboard, the proposal met with a *lot* of

> resistance. I suspect most users wouldn't even know how to type these

> characters.


> Another barrier is that not all implementations support Unicode (I

> think - at least not fully). Therefore, some implementations may never

> adopt such a proposal.


> Third, it seems like it would be an awful lot of work to build such a

> table. A lot more than some of the existing proposals out there.


> --

> ----

> \X/ /-\ `/ |_ /-\ |\|

> Waylan Limberg

> _______________________________________________

> Markdown-Discuss mailing list

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Sherwood of Sherwood's Forests

Sherwood Botsford
Sherwood's Forests --
50042 Range Rd 31
Warburg, Alberta T0C 2T0
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