Zach’s ugly mug (his face) Zach Leatherman

YUI DataTable and You: Making the Marriage Work

April 30, 2007


This article is old and may contain information that is outdated, irrelevant, or—dare I say it—no longer accurate. Read with care!

The DataTable/Grid Component, the ball and chain of GUI components. It doesn’t let you go out and instantiate beers to create a inebriated subclass of yourself with your friends on Friday night. It makes you do household garbage collection during the last minute of your favorite sporting event. And you’d think it would die before it would ever encapsulate your private class member. Just to warn you, the previous sentence was not safe for work.

Earlier I published an article entitled Problems with the YUI DataTable. Now we’re going to work out those problems together, through better communication and more effective problem solving techniques. We’re going to save your marriage.

Earlier I had stated that there were a few problems with the DataTable, in its current form. Let’s review (but not play the blame game).

  • Bug #1: Table headers weren’t lining up correctly in Firefox (personal ignorance on Box Models)
  • Bug #2: Single Select bug where multiple rows were being selected when column was sorted (All browsers, Sortable and SingleSelect Tables)
  • Bug #3: Header displayed out of document flow when the window was resized (IE6, Scrollable Tables)
  • Bug #4: Content was being displayed approximately 60-70 pixels inside the bottom table boundary. (Firefox, Scrollable Tables) Note the position of the ‘Top’ links in the test document below.
  • Bug #5: More of a limitation than a bug, the DataTable does not allow a fixed width table with horizontal overflow. Say you have a table that you have fixed column widths for, but if the width of the real estate available for the table is less than this minimum, the table should overflow with a scroll bar, but at the same time showing the column headers if you scroll vertically. A picture is better:

See the following test document for relevant table tests. (Note that for the purposes of testing, I’ve decided to test all combinations of the Top 3 DataTable features: scrolling, nested table headers, and sorting)

Just like your favorite professor, now I’m going to post the Solutions:

Bug #1: What is your Box Model?

Use the following JavaScript code to tell if you’re in Standards Mode or Quirks Mode:

alert( document.compatMode=='CSS1Compat' ? 'Standards Mode' : 'Quirks Mode' );

Standards mode forces your document into using the W3C Box Model, which is currently the standard. The W3C Box Model means any width declarations you make in your CSS code will not include padding, border, or margins. So if you put padding on your table cells and headers, it will need to be added on separately to the total width of your table.

Bug #2: Someone has posted the solution on the Sourceforge Bug Tracker here. (This is included in the DataTable javascript file below)

Bug #3, #4, and #5: I have produced an alternate DataTable file that fixes these bugs using JavaScript code. All lines that were added or changed are commented with //ADDED or //CHANGED

Developed in and last tested with YUI version 2.2.2.

Download it here:
Full (169 KB): ymod-datatable-beta.js
Minimized using JSMIN (67 KB): ymod-datatable-beta-min.js

The original and minimized YUI DataTable files are 166 KB and 66 KB respectively.

See the fluid width DataTables in action here.

A few notes on doing a fixed width DataTable using the code provided above. The total width of the table body must be 16px less than the width of the header, if you have vertical scrolling (to account for the scrollbar). So, if the total width of your header is 800px, the total width of your body must be 784px (put the last table cell as 16px smaller).

Here’s the CSS to go along with a horizontal scrolling DataTable:

.yui-dt-table th, .yui-dt-table td { padding: 2px 0 2px 5px; vertical-align: top; }
.yui-dt-table th, .yui-dt-table tr.yui-dt-first td { width: 100px; } /* table header and only the first row (for drag and drop) /
.ymod-scrollingBody .yui-dt-table tr.yui-dt-first td.yui-dt-last { width: 84px; } /
last table cell (for crappy scrollbar problem) /
.yui-dt-table .yui-dt-even {background-color:#fff;}
.yui-dt-table .yui-dt-odd {background-color:#e0dfe0;}
.yui-dt-table .yui-dt-selected {background-color:#bdcede;}
.yui-dt-table thead {background-color:#933;color:#fff;}
.yui-dt-table th a {color:#fff ! important;}
.ymod-scrollingHeader {
width: 100%;
height: 20px;
overflow: hidden;
position: relative;
.ymod-nestedHeaders {
height: 40px; /
gotta set this manually, unfortunately /
.ymod-scrollingHeader table {
position: absolute;
top: 0;
left: 0;
.ymod-scrollingBody {
width: 100%;
overflow: auto;
height: 160px;
.ymod-scrollingHeader table { width: 800px; } /
Set your widths! */
.ymod-scrollingBody table { width: 784px; }

Zach Leatherman IndieWeb Avatar for a builder for the web at IndieWeb Avatar for He is the creator and maintainer of IndieWeb Avatar for https://www.11ty.devEleventy (11ty), an award-winning open source site generator. At one point he became entirely too fixated on web fonts. He has given 81 talks in nine different countries at events like Beyond Tellerrand, Smashing Conference, Jamstack Conf, CSSConf, and The White House. Formerly part of Netlify, Filament Group, NEJS CONF, and NebraskaJS. Learn more about Zach »

  1. Victor Disqus

    15 May 2007
    Very useful post!. Other interesting situation that you could add to your test suite is the combination of scrolling, nested table headers, and sorting when the datatable is *floated* (i.e. inside a YUI panel).Regards,
  2. Harlan Disqus

    15 May 2007
    whY NOT USE JAck SlOCum'S ext LibrArY THat inCludeS a faNTaSTIC dATAgrId COmpoNeNt?
  3. Zach Leatherman Disqus

    17 May 2007
    Great question, I have been following the Grid component in Jack Slocum's Ext library for awhile, and when I looked at it awhile ago (in the pre 1.0 release), it was a 500KB hit to use the Grid. Now, with the build your own Ext feature, he's knocked it down to 175KB with all of the stock features that are also in YUI's DataTable. That isn't bad, but the YUI DataTable is only 65KB and it is isn't going to have a different look and feel from the other YUI components in my application by default.Another thing I like about all the YUI code is that it's BSD, a no-nonsense license. There are 5 or 6 different licensing options on the Ext website, which is a bit confusing.But personally, I just like YUI's stuff because using it makes me feel like I'm not riding the bike with training wheels. I can learn about how the component works and customize it to my pleasure (with great CSS support built in) without having a drop and go stock application look and feel. If you see any of Jack's stuff out on the web, you instantly recognize that it's using Ext. I want people to see my stuff and think that I'm using my own hopes and dreams to run the application.
  4. Ted Disqus

    25 Jul 2007
    Firstly excellent post - really helped me out of a couple of weeks back.Having had a quick look at the yui 2.3.0 RC1 it looks like there is quite alot of change for the datatable function - but unfortunatley they don't appear to have taken resolved the issue with the datatable scrolling. Any chance of a 2.3.0 version of the ymod-datatable-beta.js ???
  5. Zach Leatherman Disqus

    26 Jul 2007
    Hey Ted, I don't see why I couldn't port it to 2.3.0. It wasn't a HUGE change to begin with. Of course any enterprising YUI developer out there could do it, I believe I logged all my changes in the unminimized file above with the comment "CHANGED". But if I have a bit of time after 2.3.0 comes out, I could probably do it.
  6. Zach Leatherman Disqus

    27 Oct 2007
    Just as an update to anyone reading the article. Unfortunately, I have no plans to keep updating this component to the new versions of YUI that keep coming out. It is a tiresome iterative process and I just don't have the time to keep up with it.On the other hand, do take some time to consider if having your DataTable scroll horizontally is really the best approach to your problem. Ideally, you want to minimize the amount of overflow on any page you're developing and a DataTable should be no exception.In a project at work, I removed horizontal scrolling from the DataTable to upgrade our component to the newest version, and let the column widths flow fluidly with the page and it looks and performs much nicer than before. Just remember kids, non-body overflow is the spawn of Satan.
  7. Queen Disqus

    20 May 2010
    Thanks this is great help, you are really good at explaining this sort of stuff in a dumbed down kind of way, great for people like me,
Shamelessly plug your related post

These are webmentions via the IndieWeb and

Sharing on social media?

This is what will show up when you share this post on Social Media:

How did you do this? I automated my Open Graph images. (Peer behind the curtain at the test page)