back to article Ptable: It’s all about the interface

With no insult to El Reg’s skilled and resourceful interblag guru Murray Walker, I have recently run across potentially the coolest and most useful site currently available on the web. It’s called ptable. It is everything you ever wanted to know about the periodic table of elements presented in an easy to navigate format and it’ …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    "it’s done entirely in HTML and CSS"

    and javascript.

    1. Petrea Mitchell

      Not to mention the popups

      ...pop-up blocking is enabled by default in most recent browsers, isn't it?

    2. Michael 17

      And not cross browser, either

      In my browser, it nicely pops up detail windows, but then they can't be closed. They've committed the cardinal sin of not writing portable javascript.

  2. Code Monkey


    Not a path on the Periodic Tablecloth of Swearing

    (I've nothing to do with Modern Toss, I just appreciate a good swear.)

  3. TonyHoyle

    'How the web has to be?'

    Confusing interface.. text everywhere.. buttons that appear to do nothing at all (Wikipedia button?? Podcasts?? WTF??) Does not resize itself to the browser so has to be maximised to be usable, random gratuitous colour changes.

    Seriously, all that side needs is some <marquee> tags and it'd have the lot.

    As far as 'all in HTML and CSS'. It's not the HTML standards compliant baby you'd have us believe.. the use of javascript has been pointed out above. It's not using CSS layout - it's an old style HTML3 page...

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


      Yes, it uses JavaScript. I really should have mentionned that. As to "not using CSS layout" if you click on "about," the author actually does talk about it. Personally, I support his reasons. I never did buy into the "CSS layout fundementalism" that the hard-core purists get on about.

      In any case, take some time to troll around the "about" page...he does talk about this near the bottom.

    2. Captain Save-a-ho


      I'm sure someone is saying "I'm being repressed"...

    3. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Works for me

      Text everywhere--well yes, it's a periodic table, in contains text.

      Buttons everywhere--your inability to distinguish between a button and dropdown menu has been noted. The dropdown determines what happens when you click on an element.

      Resize--I resized my browser window, and the table resized itself.

      This does reveal the essential issue that usability, like art, is subjective, however. I think the UI is nifty, if slightly cluttered. I wouldn't want all this stuff jammed together for, say, a vital infrastructure application, but it's a great proof of concept, IMHO.

      In re the article itself, where did you find these guys? The Web is a glorified phonebook? People have been presenting complex data via the Web since the late '90s. Morans.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        "Where did you find these guys."

        All over. It's an interesting thing sometimes to walk away from our common cloud of friends and associates and realise that there is this whole huge world out there separate and distinct from the technorati. We don’t know how good we have it; understanding technology, it’s uses and applications. Many people still use manual input devices and dead tree ledgers to do their accounting. Even more use dead tree flyers as marketing…and shockingly millions of people read them!

        Ever now and again I actually disconnect from the Internet and all her various digital denizens and walk the streets of the world less connected. I meet interesting people from interesting places…periodically even some who own businesses. This is where I find these people. They own my favourite cheese shop, or are my barber. They run a ski hill or a church. They own a nightclub or a shoe-repair shop or that little café around the corner with the really good grilled cheese sandwiches. They are hundreds of thousands of people in my city alone, and millions across my continent.

        Every now and again I forget about them…it’s good to stop and remember.

      2. Petrea Mitchell

        Usability can be made objective

        "This does reveal the essential issue that usability, like art, is subjective, however."

        Aesthetics are subjective. Usability can be objectively measured-- give a series of users a task, and see how long it takes them to complete it. (Or, as is so depressingly often the case, whether they are able to figure out how to accomplish the task with the given interface at all.)

    4. jai

      missing the point? or just being pedantic?

      i think the point of the post is that ptable is created using simple web tech, and yet it looks flash and dynamic to the lay-person. and that's the point. to create a good looking website that delivers a lot of data easily, you don't need expensive solutions and you sure as hell don't need to build it in Flash. you just need html5, css3 and a bunch of jquery

  4. Syed

    Where is...

    ... Unobtanium? I looked in the periodic table thingy to no avail.

    Bah, useless piece of junk!

  5. Anonymous Coward


    With the entire internet at your disposal, this was the best interface you could find?

    1. gerdesj Silver badge

      Re: Really

      The author asked for your suggestions - where are they?

  6. Lucent

    Reply to Tony

    The Wikipedia/Podcast dropdown changes what happens when elements are clicked. That's certainly not obvious, but the colors do change to emulate the scheme of the sites the elements now link to.

    It's funny you should mention it not resizing itself to the browser. This is one of the only sites that dynamically changes layout entirely as you resize the browser. Information is actually removed from the table itself to fit to the width of the window. Try clicking the main header and then changing the width of your browser.

    As far as CSS, that's how the dynamic resizing works. It's actually choosing different style sheets as you resize.

  7. Merlin

    Are they looking at the same site?

    I read the article, resisting the temptation to link to ptable, then read the comments, then went back and clicked on the link. Great site, complicated because there's a lot of stuff on there and it's quite a complicated subject, if you think about it. That last phrase is very significant because it's clear that some of the posters of comments haven't put a lot of thought into them. The site clearly works so if it doesn't work for you then your browser or operating system are broken. If you can't understand it then perhaps it's because you don't really know very much about chemistry? There are bits of information on there that I don't understand because a) I only did chemistry to A-Level and b) that was a long time ago and they've just kept on researching all that time. I shall bookmark ptable and come back occasionally when I need mental stimulus.

  8. david 12 Silver badge

    PHP and MySQL

    The iritating thing for this old developer is that it's now easier for him to use PHP and mySQL for a mock-up than it is to use Access.

    Access was designed for data entry and things like invoices. Somehow it's been allowed to become so damaged, bound by restrictive security constraints, and out-of-date, that even "PHP and mySQL" are competition. That's pathetic.

  9. Mayhem

    I still like Theodore Gray for my periodic goodness

    He has a variety of physical samples of every element, in photogenic format, with additional details.

    And more relevant to El Reg, not only did he print out his pictures on a wooden table, he actually built the periodic table as a literal metaphor in wood to keep his samples in.

    Gotta love mad people doing projects in their sheds.

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