Tutorial :Forms with multiple columns, no tables


How to position a complex form with multiple fields in line across the screen?


Why are people so hell-bent on avoiding tables?

Tables are not deprecated and should be used when displaying content which logically belongs in a table.

If your form is logically grouped such that a table would be intuitive, please use a table.

Always be thinking: "What's the cleanest, simplest, most maintainable way to achieve this result."

If you want a fluid form with a variable number columns, then disregard this.


I prefer the slightly-more-semantic way, using a definition list:

<dl class="form">      <dt><label for="input1">One:</label></dt>      <dd><input type="text" name="input1" id="input1"></dd>      <dt><label for="input2">Two:</label></dt>      <dd><input type="text" name="input2" id="input2"></dd>  </dl>  

Then your CSS:

dl.form {      width:100%;      float:left;      clear:both;  }  dl.form dt {      width:50%;      float:left;      clear:left;      text-align:right;  }  dl.form dd {      width:50%;      float:left;      clear:right;      text-align:left;  }  

This should produce a form centered in the page, with the labels in the left column and the inputs in the right


There are many different ways to do this. It's all a matter of preference. What I typically do is have a wrapper div that contains all of the rows, and then a div block per row that contains the label, input, and validator. You can use the line-height CSS property to help you with vertical alignment. Example:

<div class="formWrapper">  <form>     <div class="formItem">        <label for="firstName">First Name:</label>        <input name="firstName" id="firstName" class="required" type="text" />        <span class="validator" style="display: none;">*</>     </div>     ... <!-- Rinse repeat -->  </form>  </div>    <style type="text/css">     .formWrapper { width: 400px }     .formWrapper .formItem { line-height: 35px; height: 35px; }     .formWrapper label { width: 50px; }     .formWrapper input { width: 100px; border: 1px solid #000; }     .formWrapper .validator { padding-left: 10px; color: #FF0000; }  </style>  

Hope that helps.


After looking at many many different solutions, I found the examples on this page (particularly the one from 'Fatal'?) some of the most helpful. But the extensive

and tags did bother me a bit. So here is a little bit of a modification that some may like. Also, you find some sort of 'wrapper' or 'fieldset' style very necessary to keep the float from affecting other HTML. Refer to examples above.

<style>  .formcol{  float: left;  padding: 2px;  }   .formcol label {  font-weight: bold;  display:block;}   </style>    <div class="formcol">      <label for="org">organization</label>      <input type="text" id="org" size="24" name="org" />    </div>   <div class="formcol">      <label for="fax">fax</label>      <input type="text" id="fax" name="fax" size="2" />    </div>    <div class="formcol">      <label for="3">three</label>      <input type="text" id="3" name="3" />      <label for="4">four</label>      <input type="text" id="4" name="4" />        <label for="5">five</label>      <input type="text" id="5" name="5" />    </div>   <div class="formcol">      <label for="6">six</label>      <input type="text" id="6" name="6" />    </div>  


Do a search for "layouts without tables". Many sites describe formatting with CSS. Here is a simple intro: http://www.htmlgoodies.com/beyond/css/article.php/3642151


I suggest you blueprint CSS framework. Have a quick look at the demo page.


This is what I usually use when I need to design pretty complex forms.


<legend>Consent group</legend>
<fieldset class="nolegend">
<p><label><span>Title</span> <input type="text" name="title" size="40" value="" /></label></p>
<p><label><span>Short name</span> <input type="text" name="sname" size="20" value="" /></label></p>
<p><label><br /><input type="checkbox" name="approval"> This consent group requires approval</label></p>
<fieldset class="nolegend">
<p><label><span>Data use limitations</span> <textarea name="dul" cols="64" rows="4"></textarea></label></p>
<input type="submit" value="Submit" />


body, input, textarea, select {
font: 1em Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
input, textarea, select { font-size: .8em }
fieldset legend {
background-color: #EEE;
fieldset {
border: none;
margin: 0;
padding: 0 0 .5em .01em;
top: 1.25em;
position: relative;
margin-bottom: 2em;
fieldset fieldset {
margin: 0 0 1em 0;
fieldset legend {
padding: .25em .5em 0 .5em;
border-bottom: none;
font-weight: bold;
margin-top: -1.25em;
position: relative;
*left: -.5em;
color: #666;
}fieldset form,
fieldset .fieldset {
margin: 0;
padding: 1em .5em 0 .5em;
overflow: hidden;
fieldset.nolegend {
position: static;
margin-bottom: 1em;
background-color: transparent;
padding: 0;
overflow: hidden;
fieldset.nolegend p,
fieldset.nolegend div {
float: left;
margin: 0 1em 0 0;
fieldset.nolegend p:last-child,
fieldset.nolegend div:last-child {
margin-right: 0;
fieldset.nolegend label>span {
display: block;
fieldset.nolegend label span {
_display: block;

I omitted couple lines of CSS with Safari hacks. You can check out live version of this code.


Pace KyleFarris but I just had to give Ben S a vote for having the guts to mention tables. Just look at the variety of CSS solutions on this page and around the internet for a ridiculously simple problem. CSS may one day become a good solution, but for the time being replicating the simple row and column grid that the table tag provides is extremely complex. I have spent countless fruitless hours with this prejudice against tables for things like a form. Why do we do this to ourselves?


That would be done using CSS by setting the "display" property to "inline" (since form elements are, by default, block level elements).


input fields, by default, are inline. Therefore, you can simply use line them up without
Another option if you want them lined up correctly is as follows:

<div id="col1" style="float: left;>      <input type="text" name="field1" />      <br />      <input type="text" name="field3" />  </div>    <div id="col2" style="float: left;>      <input type="text" name="field2" />      <br />      <input type="text" name="field4" />  </div>  


I prefer to use fieldset to group all elements and p for each form field.

<html>  <head>  <style type="text/css">      fieldset {          width: 500px;          background-color: lightblue;      }        fieldset legend {          font-weight: bold;      }        fieldset p {          clear:both;          padding: 5px;      }        fieldset label {          text-align: left;          width: 100px;          float: left;          font-weight: bold;      }        fieldset .Validator {          color: red !important;          font-weight: bold;      }     </style>  <head>  <body>      <form>          <fieldset>              <legend>Data</legend>              <p>                  <label for="firstName">First Name:</label>                  <input name="firstName" id="firstName" class="required" type="text" />                  <span class="Validator" style="display: none;">*</span>              </p>              <p>                  <label for="lastName">Last Name:</label>                  <input name="lastName" id="lastName" class="required" type="text" />                  <span class="Validator">*</span>              </p>          </fieldset>      </form>  </body>  </html>  

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