Tables and CSS

For more sophisticated control over borders, spacing, and padding, you can use CSS. Note that support for this control is somewhat spotty in the “version 4″ browsers and non-existent in older browsers. One way to handle this problem is to set the borders, cellpadding, and cellspacing using the attributes above, and then refine the values further using CSS. (For most browsers that understand CSS, the CSS rules will override the table attributes.)

The CSS properties are as follows:

  • The padding CSS property corresponds to the cellpadding table attribute.
  • The border-spacing CSS property corresponds to the cellspacing table attribute.
  • The border CSS property corresponds to the border table attribute.

The CSS properties allow us to use any valid CSS length: px are okay, as are em, pt, and so on. We’ll stick with pixels for our example below.

Example 4.9. Table: CSS Borders
    table {
      background: #009900;
      border: 4px #ff00ff ridge;
      border-spacing: 5px;
    td {
      background: #ffff00;
      padding: 10px;
      border: 2px #0000ff dotted;
    td.middle {
      border: 2px #ff0000 solid;
      padding-right: 25px;
  <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" summary="Table with CSS borders">
    <td>Left Cell</td>
    <td class="middle">Middle Cell</td>
    <td>Right Cell</td>

The overall table has a green background and a ridged, lavender border. The result is garish to say the least… presumably your tables will be far more subdued and tasteful.

Ordinary table cells have a yellow background, ten pixels of padding, five pixels of border-spacing (i.e. cellspacing), and a blue, dotted border.

Table cells with class="middle" have an extra fifteen pixels of padding to the right and a red, solid border.

Note that some modern browsers still don’t support the border-spacing attribute. If you’re using one of these browsers, all three cells will be adjacent to each other, and you will not see the green background of the table itself. Again, the solution is to use CSS to do your primary styling, and the table attributes for backup.

See Also