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I mean big tables, and not just rows. Full blown cross tabulated tables (think about 20 rows and 30 columns, the sort of thing you generally do not see on websites, because they are difficult to present. There is not an opportunity to not display them in this size. I need examples where people have taken a large table and have presented so a user can navigate the table quickly.

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Um... Google docs spreadsheet? –  Vitaly Mijiritsky Apr 1 '11 at 13:37
    
Good point. It won't work for my users who are blocked from Google docs and we don't have the coding ability to replicate. But it really did kick off a few ideas for me. –  The Question Apr 1 '11 at 16:59
    
OK, I'll put it in as an answer then :) –  Vitaly Mijiritsky Apr 3 '11 at 11:45

4 Answers 4

up vote 0 down vote accepted

The google docs spreadsheet is a nice implementation.

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some features of DataTables library are vertical scrolling and freezing a column: http://datatables.net/extras/fixedcolumns/

Wordpress plugin: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-table-reloaded/

Updates:

  1. Static tables: I see NYTimes has a great example of improving usability of a large table: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/07/weekinreview/20101107-detailed-exitpolls.html
  2. "Elastic lists" from my comment below: I've noticed the author published them as an open-source library, see http://well-formed-data.net/archives/510/elastic-lists-revisit-open-source
  3. Complex filtering: Tableau Public has some nice examples:
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and I've just found an innovative example: well-formed-data.net/experiments/elastic_lists (and example in smashingmagazine.com/2007/08/02/…) –  Vera Apr 13 '11 at 15:36

I'm quite a fan of Sparklines for reducing large tables into easily readable formats.

An example is here (Source) :

enter image description here

Also check out the Wiki page for Sparklines

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I cannot give you examples in web, but spreadsheet programs have solved your issue with "freezing panes". You could add functionality to freeze columns and/or rows. This give users the choice of what to see from the table.

And if you are feeling Xtreme, you could add several layers of freezing panes so that your users could see rows 1, 35, 99, and 156 side by side, and columns 1, 56, and 178 side by side: a nice 4x3 matrix. :)

As to controls, it would be awesome if users could drag thick black lines from left/right and top/bottom page margins and drop them on a row/column separator to freeze columns to the left/right or rows above/below.

Good luck.

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Another tooooootally different approach would be to forget tables, use dynamic node nets. For instance, click on a category to expand all column titles, click on one of the titles to see its cell value, etc. –  Pablo Apr 1 '11 at 13:04

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