axis (HTML attribute)

Spec
Depr. Version
No HTML 4
Browser support (more…)
IE8 FF3.5 SA4 OP10 CH2
None None None None None

Syntax

axis="string"

Description

The axis attribute provides a mechanism for grouping related columns or rows of information. In the example above, there are four pieces of information, but the email and phone details could be grouped together as actual points of contact. The intention of the axis attribute’s application in a th is that it allows the grouping of sections in tables which contain quite a lot of information, making it possible to extrapolate this information using some kind of query—particularly where assistive technology is concerned. It’s very easy for a sighted user to scan down those columns to find what’s required, but this may be difficult for non-visual browsers in the context of a larger table.

Example

In this example, four table headers are grouped into three categories—name, contact, and location—using axis:

<table border="1">
  <tr>
    <th colspan="4">Work Contact Points</th>
  </tr>
  <tr>
    <th axis="name">Name</th>
    <th axis="contact">Email</th>
    <th axis="contact">Phone</th>
    <th axis="location">Floor/Block</th>
  </tr>
  <tr>
    <td>Fred</td>
    <td>fred@megacorp.com</td>
    <td>123456</td>
    <td>1/A</td>
  </tr>
  ⋮
</table>

Value

This attribute takes as its value any name that the developer chooses, provided it doesn’t contain any spaces or special characters.

Compatibility

Internet Explorer Firefox Safari Opera Chrome
5.5 6.0 7.0 8.0 1.0 1.5 2.0 3.0 3.5 1.3 2.0 3.1 4.0 9.2 9.5 10.0 2.0
None None None None None None None None None None None None None None None None None

All the talk of intentions and possibilities in this attribute’s description should have alerted you to the fact that, despite the good intentions of axis, this is not an attribute that has enjoyed great success to date. It’s not supported in any of the current browsers, and questions surround its practical applications. For example, how would one actually query the table data?

To ensure that your table markup is as accessible as possible and provides the greatest amount of orientation for users of assistive devices, it’s best to use the scope attribute for simple tables that have no need of colspan and rowspan attributes, or a combination of headers and id attributes for more complex tables. Only apply the axis attribute if it creates minimal overhead, and if you’re sure that you can avoid a maintenance load in the future. Attributes that are invisible on the rendered page are the most likely to suffer from maintenance rot!

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