AskDefine | Define tabulation

Dictionary Definition



1 information set out in tabular form [syn: tabular matter]
2 the act of putting into tabular form; "the tabulation of the results"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The act or process of tabulating
  2. A table displaying data in compact form.
    Here is a tabulation of baseless claims made in the last month.
  3. A printout

Extensive Definition

A table is both a mode of visual communication and a means of arranging data. The use of tables is pervasive throughout all communication, research and data analysis. Tables appear in print media, handwritten notes, computer software, architectural ornamentation, traffic signs and many other places. The precise conventions and terminology for describing tables varies depending on the context. Moreover, tables differ significantly in variety, structure, flexibility, notation, representation and use.

Basic description

A table consists an ordered arrangement of rows and columns. This is a simplified description of the most basic kind of table. Certain considerations follow from this simplified description:
  • the term row has several common synonyms (e.g., record, k-tuple, n-tuple, vector);
  • the term column has several common synonyms (e.g., field, parameter, property, attribute);
  • a column is usually identified by a name;
  • a column name can consist of a word, phrase or a numerical index;
The elements of a table may be grouped, segmented, or arranged in many different ways, and even nested recursively. Additionally, a table may include metadata, annotations, header, footer or other ancillary features. Any "simple" table can be represented as a "multi-dimensional" table by normalizing the data values into ordered hierarchies. A common example of such a table is a multiplication table.
Multiplication table: NOTE: Multidimensional tables, 2-dimensional as in the example, are created under the condition the coordinates or combination of the basic headers (margins) give an unique value attached. This is a injective relation: each combination of the values of the headers row (row 0, for lack of a better term) and the headers column (column O for lack of a better term) is related to a unique value represented on the table:
-column 1 and row 1 will only correspond to the value 1 (and no other)
-column 1 and row 2 will only correspond to the value 2(and no other), etc
If the said condition is not present, it is required to insert extra columns or rows which increases the size of table with plenty of empty cells.
To illustrate how a simple table can be transformed into a multi-dimensional table, consider the following transformation of the Age table.
Modified Age Table (names only): This is structurally identical to the multiplication table, except it uses concatenation instead of multiplication as the operator; and first name and last name instead of integers as the operands.

Generic representation

As a communication tool, a table allows a form of generalization of information from an unlimited number of different social or scientific contexts. It provides a familiar way to convey information that might otherwise not be obvious or readily understood.
For example, in the following diagram, two alternate representations of the same information are presented side by side. On the left is the NFPA 704 standard "fire diamond" with example values indicated and on the right is a simple table displaying the same values, along with additional information. Both representations convey essentially the same information, but the tabular representation is arguably more comprehensible to someone who is not familiar with the NFPA 704 standard. The tabular representation may not, however, be ideal for every circumstance (for example because of space limitations, or safety reasons).

Specific uses

There are several specific situations in which tables are routinely used as a matter of custom or formal convention.



Natural sciences

Information technology

Computer programming

Data tables are used extensively in computers in many diverse forms, each form representing a distinct data structure or format. Tables are used to control software and minimize load on hardware, by memoizing results that would otherwise require direct computation.
Examples include:

Software applications

Modern software applications give users the ability to generate, format, and edit tables and tabular data for a wide variety of uses.
Such applications include:

Historical relationship to furniture

In medieval counting houses, the tables were covered with a piece of chequered cloth, to count money. Exchequer is an archaic term for the English institution which accounted for money owed to the monarch. Thus the checkerboard tables of stacks of coins are a concrete realization of this information.

Notes and references

See also

tabulation in German: Tabelle
tabulation in Estonian: Tabel
tabulation in Spanish: Tabla (matemáticas)
tabulation in Esperanto: Tabelo
tabulation in Hebrew: טבלה
tabulation in Dutch: Tabel
tabulation in Japanese: テーブル (情報)
tabulation in Polish: Tabela
tabulation in Portuguese: Tabela
tabulation in Swedish: Tabell
tabulation in Thai: ตาราง

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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