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Re: RFC: output as tables

From: John Darrington
Subject: Re: RFC: output as tables
Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2008 18:00:32 +0800
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.13 (2006-08-11)

On Mon, Jun 02, 2008 at 10:43:09PM -0700, Ben Pfaff wrote:

     PSPP procedures will write out the bulk of their data output as cases
     in tables.  In this case, "tables" means in PSPP terms casewriters and
     casereaders, analogous to tables in relational databases, not tables
     drawn for presentational reasons.
     Tables may be accompanied by metadata that annotates rows, columns,
     and other properties, analogous to the way that variables can be
     annotated with variable labels and value labels.  Typically, each
     column or row could be annotated with an English description of the
     column's purpose, suitable for use in a presentational table.
Three comments:

1.  One thing the current system can't do is footnotes.  The system
you describe could do this if it allows a metadatum to be attached to
an individual cell.  The sub/superscript style should of course be
handled by the output engine.

2.  More complex tables will need some way of having headings which
span more than one row/column.  There are two ways that I can see of
doing this:

 a) Some kind of "multicolumn" attribute a la LaTeX or xhtml.

 b) Allow a table to be used as the contents of a row/column of
 another table.

I prefer the latter.  I think it'll be simpler for users.

3.  In a few obscure cases, the number of columns in a table is
unknown rather late in the procedure (ie after all the data have been
read).   So I'd rather that the new system didn't require the
dimensions of the table to be declared up front.


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