colspan (HTML attribute)

Description

Just as the th element uses colspans, so can the td element to allow data to be shared across numerous columns in a table. The concept is best explained by comparing the example HTML above with the below table (where we indicate a person’s availability for Tuesday—when that person is free for the whole day—by spanning the cell across four time slots).

td-colspans

When you’re introducing a colspan attribute, take care to ensure that each row is equivalent to the number of cells that would ordinary appear in the row. Some tables can become quite complicated with a mixture of colspan and rowspan attributes, and this is not something that you’re advised to hand-code—that’s just asking for trouble! It’s much better to use a WYSIWYG editor, such as Dreamweaver, MS Expression, or something similar, which will allow you to merge and unmerge cells very easily, and takes care of these attributes for you.

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Note that when you use the rowspan attribute, you can’t span a cell beyond the boundary of its containing rowgroup (namely the thead, tfoot, or tbody elements). So if the tbody comprises ten rows, the rowspan of a cell that’s defined in the first row can’t have a value greater than “10”.

Example

This example shows an extract from a calendar, with a person’s availability apparently spanning the whole day, as shown in the above table:

<tr>
  <th scope="row">Tue</th>
  <td colspan="4">Free</td>
</tr>

Value

This attribute takes a number, which should equal the number of cells that this single td should replace. There’s also a special value of "0", which should inform the browser to span the cell to the end of the current group of columns.

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