What is a data table?

A data table is a standard table that has different layouts. It helps to organize information in a tabular format. Like regular tables, a data table consists of a header, data columns, and rows. Each data table contains specific information. Multiple data tables can be connected using primary key-foreign key relationships.

For instance, a company’s data table will include the following information: company name, company address, company website, company contact, department name, sales information, product information, and employee details. Here, each information will be a field, and each row in the data table will be a record. The records when grouped will form the company's data table.

Difference between a data table and a spreadsheet

Like spreadsheets, data tables also consist of rows and columns. However, they work differently. The major difference between spreadsheets and data tables is the way they connect with multiple tables.

It is possible to connect the records within one data table to another using common fields in the data tables. Due to the ability to connect data, getting the needed information from data tables becomes faster and easier. Spreadsheets lack this functionality, which is why database applications are becoming more popular amongst businesses.

Types of data table processing modes

There are two different types of data table processing modes.

Types of data table processing modes
  • Client-side processing: In this processing mode, the entire data set is loaded upfront, and the data is processed within the browser.
  • Server-side processing: In this mode, an Ajax request is made to redraw the table and display only the data that is required. This processing is done on the server.

Both the processing modes have their own pros and cons. Generally, client-side processing is recommended for data tables having fewer table rows. Besides that, it is worth noting that only one processing mode can be used at a time.

Data table content

Ideally, a data table structure is created using the following components:

  • Title
  • Table description
  • Column header
  • Column
  • Row


Every data table should have a title. The title should specify the information stored in the data table. For example, a company’s data table containing its employees' details can be named as employee_information_table.

Table description

The description of a data table can be added below the table title. This description will include an overview of the information stored in the table.

Column header

The column header identifies the data that will be stored in the column. They generally have one or two words. Country_name, student_name, student_id, and department_name are examples of column headers.


Columns in a data table hold specific information. For example, in a school database, a student_name column will hold the names of students studying in the school. The content in the columns can be edited and formatted. If necessary restrictions such as only numeric values, only dates, or other types of formatting can be applied to columns.


Rows or tuples in a database display a set of related data. Each row in a data table is known as a record. For instance, in a school database, every row will represent a student’s record. The first row in a data table is the header row.

When to use a data table?

Data tables help organize and represent the table data effectively in a visual format. They can be used for the following purposes:

  • To organize detailed or complicated data content into an easily readable format.
  • To give an overview of a particular trend or pattern of the numerical data.
  • To group or summarize the data stored in data table columns.
  • To filter or sort the data stored in the table, so that only the required information can be viewed. For example, a query can be executed on a school database table to fetch the records of students having scored grade A and hide the remaining data.
  • To format, and edit columns that contain specific data, so that they can be noticed easily.

Advantages and disadvantages of using a data table

A data table makes it easy to analyze the data stored in a database, but it also has some advantages and limitations.

  • Data table makes it easier to store a large number of records. The records stored in the data table can be saved for a long time.
  • With data tables, the construction of data summaries is simpler. The data table can generate the summary in the form of a cross-tab report with the analysis tool.
  • Data tables are capable of performing various tasks like sorting, adding, and removing data. This capability makes data tables a more powerful way of representing data.
  • Since data tables represent the data in tabular format, the end-user will have to put in more effort to interpret the data and use it for business purposes.

Context and Applications

Data tables concept is a part of courses related to database and business intelligence. This includes:

  • Bachelors in Science in Information Technology
  • Bachelors in Computer Applications
  • Masters in Computer Applications

Practice Problems

Q1. In the data table, what is each category of information named as?

  1. Input cell
  2. Record data type
  3. Field
  4. Conditional formats

Answer: Option c

Explanation- Every information in a data table is stored in a row and is called a field.

Q2. What is used to view or retrieve data from a database?

  1. First column
  2. Drop-down menu
  3. Column names
  4. Query

Answer: Option d

Explanation- To view data in a database, the end-user must type the relevant query/ SQL command. Based on the command, the database will display the information to the user.

Q3. What does a data table consist of?

  1. Statements
  2. Data type
  3. Information
  4. Input cell

Answer: Option c

Explanation: A data table is made up of rows and columns and stores information. For example, the data table of a school student will contain the student’s information like name, enrolment number, class, contact number, and address.

Q4. In a data table, how can we refer to a single row?

  1. Attribute input values
  2. What-if analysis
  3. Object input cell
  4. Tuple

Answer: Option d

Explanation- In a table, a tuple is a single entry that represents the attributes related to a specific entry.

Q5. How can two or more data tables be linked together?

  1. Using row headers
  2. Using screen readers
  3. Using a foreign key
  4. Using column headers

Answer: Option c

Explanation- To connect multiple data tables in a database, primary and foreign keys are used.

Common Mistakes

Students need to keep in mind that database tables and data tables are two different concepts in SQL and relational databases.

  • Introduction to database
  • jquery data tables
  • Orthogonal data
  • Working with data tables
  • Data table schema definition
  • Manipulating data in a data table
  • Handling data table events
  • Data sets, data tables, and data views

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