A table is a data structure that organizes information into rows and columns. It can be used to both store and display data in a structured format. For example, databases store data in tables so that information can be quickly accessed from specific rows. Websites often use tables to display multiple rows of data on page. Spreadsheets combine both purposes of a table by storing and displaying data in a structured format.

Databases often contain multiple tables, with each one designed for a specific purpose. For example, a company database may contain separate tables for employees, clients, and suppliers. Each table may include its own set of fields, based on what data the table needs to store. In database tables, each field is considered a column, while each entry (or record), is considered a row. A specific value can be accessed from the table by requesting data from an individual column and row.

Websites often use tables to display data in a structured format. In fact, HTML has a <table> tag, as well as <tr> (table row) and <td> (table data) tags for specifying rows and columns. Since many tables use the top row for header information, HTML also supports a <th> tag used to define the cells in the header row. By including tables in a webpage, large amounts of data can be displayed in a easy-to-read format. In the early days of HTML, tables were even used to construct the overall layout of webpages. However, cascading style sheets (CSS) are now the preferred means of designing webpage layouts.

Spreadsheets both store data and and display data in a table format. Programs like Microsoft Excel and Apple Numbers provide a grid, or matrix of cells in which users can enter data. Each cell is defined by a specific row/column pair, such A3, which refers to the cell in the first column and third row of the table. By formatting data in tables, spreadsheet applications provide a simple way to both enter data and share data with others.

Updated June 6, 2011 by Per C.

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