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We all organize data and information in varios ways, but the a table form proven to be one of the easiest to use.

For the simplest cases we can use Excel. However, I was wondering if there exists such a tool, where the tables itself can be nested, such as a data in a cell can be thought not as a numerical or textual value, but also "expanded" to be a table as well.

If you know about such software, or about a software which does something similar - can you please share a link.


Update 1:

Gruber has suggested the use the HTML and store data via nested TABLE tags.

Update 2:

Thanks for Kramii.

What would be the benefit of organising data like this? What kind of data do you want to store? Perhaps we can come up with an alternative for you based on a better understanding of your specific requirements.

I am trying to organize a graph like data. The reason why I have choose tables is to make edit mode easier. Because I think that for the tabular information it is natural to edit it in place.

Column names and row names would represent nodes (A,B,C,D, etc) and value in a cell (on the intersection of a column and a row) in a table would represent a edge (A-B, A-C, B-D, etc).

The information I would like to store in a cell will likely to be complex as well (that is not a single number, or a string value), this is why I would like it to be represented as a table too.

Most likely type of data to be stored in cells would be a list of text items, but I would like not to limit it to this particular case. Also the idea of nested tables gives me:

  • support for unlimited depth
  • simple navigation (as the navigation verbs will be limited to "go to cell", "expand cell", "go back")
  • simple addressing - e.g. the location name for the data in first column ("Index") of the second row (named "Action") of data in a cell which located in the intersection of the column "A" and row "C" (in the topmost table) would be: (A:C)("Index":"Action")
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What would be the benefit of organising data like this? What kind of data do you want to store? Perhaps we can come up with an alternative for you based on a better understanding of your specific requirements. – Kramii Mar 9 '13 at 7:44
@Kramii I updated the question - could you please have a look. Thank you. – user2686 Mar 10 '13 at 2:26
It would help us to understand your needs a little more. It does not seem like you are logging observational data manually. Are you recording textural information, for example notes on a hierarchy related topics or a more wide spread knowledge base? If so you will run into many limitations with this approach. Again, tell us more and you will get better answers. – Arbalest Sep 9 '13 at 1:41

The Xmind mind-mapping software has several different ways of laying out a mindmap or part of a mindmap. One of these is a matrix where you can view a two-level mindmap heirarchy as a grid/table. You can then select an entry at the second level and make that another matrix to get the effect you want. You can also have a traditional mindmap inside a grid cell, or a grid as the leaf of a larger mindmap.

Personally I find the matrix view a little clunky to create, but on the whole Xmind is the best mind-mapping software I have found. It has a free version and a pro version with some extra bells and whistles, and runs on Windows Mac and Linux, so give it a try and see if it fulfills your need.

Here is a screenshot of nested tables in xmind

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You can use any HTML editor to create documents with tables inside tables. For example, try Such programs will produce HTML output, which is a simple and portable standardized hypertext format.

If you need tables to collapse and expand, you can add some jQuery code to your tables to make this work.

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Interesting, but I was looking for something more ... "complete". The issue with the html is that I would have to built a website(?) using e.g. the editor you have suggested. I wonder if there are other alternatives out there, more desktop-oriented. – user2686 Mar 9 '13 at 2:24
@Andrew: You can also nest tables in Word 2010, OneNote 2010. But they don't seem able to expand/collapse. – Gruber Mar 11 '13 at 11:02

The only solution that I can think of that may solve your probliem is to create the illusion of nested workbooks in Excel, by hyperlinking one cell to another workbook, effectively navigating between workbooks via web-style hyperlinks.

I've not tried it myself, but seems like a reasonable solution to your needs.

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