[whatwg] Definition list and tables: what's the difference ?

David Latapie david at empyree.org
Tue Feb 13 06:40:13 PST 2007

Hello and thank you for your reply,

On Tue, 13 Feb 2007 14:35:15 +0100, Alexey Feldgendler wrote:
> The fundamental difference between tables and definition lists is 
> that a table 
> is a two-dimensional mapping of a pair of axes to one value, and a 
> definition 
> list is a uni-dimensional mapping of a term to one or more 
> definitions. While 
> there are some cases when either a table or a definition list can be 
> used at 
> author's choice, generally their use cases are different.
> The most notable case when a table is inappropriate to replace a 
> definition list 
> is when a definition list contains multiple definitions for each term 
> or group 
> of terms. While multiple definitions can be either stuffed into one 
> table cell 
> or laid out in a row, both solutions seem like a workaround. 

IMHO, most tables (particularly on the Web and of course discarding 
layout tables) really are one-dimensional (cross-tabs are the 
two-dimensional ones).

See below:

Simple (one key, one value)
• TH   TD

• DT

More common (one key, several values)
• TH   TD   TD

• DT

(Pure) Synonyms (several keys, one value)
•  TH   

• DT
(semantically broken, do-not-use)

•       TH
   TH   TD

•  <impossible>

Complex cross-tab
•       TH   TH   (colspan or rowspan)
  TH |     |
-----+     +------
  TH |     |
  TH |     |

• <impossible>

My humble point: <table> can do everything <dl> can, whilst the reverse 
is not true. He who can do more can do less.

Any thought on this?
</david_latapie>             U+0F00
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