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I'm writing a paper where I systemize knowledge. At the moment I have a very big excel file. In order to fit this table into an A4 paper, I would have to create a table similar to the one attached. As a matter of fact I have read many papers where similar tables are being shown. What software do I need to create something like this? Is this latex?

table

  • 7
    I think you can do all of that in Excel, particularly if you can identify a font containing the symbols. What aspect are you unsure about? – fixer1234 Nov 22 '16 at 18:48
  • Come to that, you could do it in HTML, which isn't too difficult, even for a non-coder (for a coder, I would recommend AngularJs) – Mawg Nov 23 '16 at 11:19
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    For the informaiton of all, questions like this, which ask to recommend an applciation, would be better asked on softwarerecs.stackexchange.com Note that OP ought to state an operating sytem preference and a budget – Mawg Nov 23 '16 at 11:20
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    For the record: when authoring a paper I’d recommend against spreadsheet software for typesetting, and in favour of proper typesetting/publishing software. Unfortunately tables are a general sore spot for DTP software. The best solution can probably be achieved in LaTeX but this may be too much of an effort for somebody not already versed in it. – Konrad Rudolph Nov 23 '16 at 17:08
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    @Mawg, for a question like this, where a specific application is already in use (Excel in this case), it's a 2-part question: 1) Do I need to use another app (if so, what), or can this be done natively? 2) How to actually accomplish it? Is that better suited here or Software Recs? My impression was that Software Recs was more focused on the "what to use", while SU is more "how to do it". – fixer1234 Nov 23 '16 at 19:58
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The table can be created in LibreOffice Calc.

The following screenshot shows similar table that has been created in LibreOffice Calc. The table can be fitted within A4-sized paper in landscape orientation, but not portrait.

Table reproduced in LibreOffice Calc

Text format details

The following font family and size are used.

  • Liberation Serif 10 for text

  • DejaVu Serif 10 for symbols

The following symbols are found in Unicode Character Database.

✻   U+273B TEARDROP-SPOKED ASTERISK
†   U+2020 DAGGER
○   U+25CB WHITE CIRCLE
◐   U+25D0 CIRCLE WITH LEFT HALF BLACK
●   U+25CF BLACK CIRCLE

For quick lookup, refer to Unicode symbols on Wikipedia. Users on Linux platform can use GNOME Character Map that is based on the Unicode Character Database 6.3.0 (as version 3.10.1).

Formatting discrepancy

The appearance of symbols may vary when using different font family i.e. Liberation font family renders some symbols at different size; DejaVu Serif renders at same size. Also, symbol might need repositioning (Go to: Format > Character > Position) to mimic the text appearance in original table.

Character position setting

The slanted text is achieved by changing the text orientation (Go to: Format > Cells... > Alignment) from 0 to 60 degrees. By doing this in LibreOffice, the cell border lines will be shifted towards right. Therefore, one might have to apply similar formatting of cell borders to the next several columns to get equal length of table border lines in final document (either in Print Preview or Export PDF).

Format cells with text alignment, extra border line

Remarks

Reproduced table in LibreOffice Calc 5.1 on Linux. This answer shall be useful and applicable for those who use LibreOffice on Windows.

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    LibreOffice is free, so it won't cost anything to load it and use this solution as presented. But all of this should also translate to Excel as another option if that's already available. The menu locations for the features will just be a little different. – fixer1234 Nov 23 '16 at 5:50
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    @clearkimura An excellent answer (+1). We would like to see you active and helping at softwarerecs.stackexchange.com – Mawg Nov 23 '16 at 11:22
  • While I had explained that LibreOffice Calc can reproduce the table, I had no intention to recommend the software for publication purpose. If softwarerecs SE had existed back in early 2000s, when I was actively seeking for Windows-Linux software alternatives, I might have had joined there. – clearkimura Nov 26 '16 at 7:04
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This can be done in excel.

Firstly, you will need the circles being used to represent the data. These are available in a font called WingDings 2. Information on how to use the black medium circle and semi-circles can be found on that page.

Once you have the data in excel, you will then need to angle the column headers. Highlight the row that the headers are in, then click on the diagonal "ab" in the Alignment group on the Home tab. Select the diagonal option, or any other option you might prefer.

Then select the columns that correspond with your header information and adjust the width to squeeze the data together.

You may also want to resize your columns or rows to accommodate these changes.

HardToRead DiagData DiagHeaders

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    Many fonts will also have Unicode Harvey balls, which means that you won't have to use WingDings – sapi Nov 22 '16 at 23:28
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    I've been using Excel for years, and somehow have never noticed these "Angle (Counter)clockwise" options. I don't know if I have just missed them forever, or they are relatively new and the last time I carefully scrutinized the vast array of Excel options was back some time in version 97. Either way, a very good answer; +1 for teaching me something. – Cody Gray Nov 23 '16 at 17:09
  • You could totally do this in Excel 97; despite having repressed memories from high school Office classes, I know the Angle options were definitely around somewhere. We were required to use them. – sq33G Nov 27 '16 at 12:51
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As Narzard pointed out, you can certainly do this in Excel, but if you want it to look like a 'professional' document, or are considering it for publication, go with LaTeX. These symbols are in the "wasysym" package in LaTeX. I won't lie to you though: LaTeX has a very steep learning curve so if you just need to get it done, stick with Excel.

I do want to make one point about the table. As a piece of printing, it's pretty advanced. As a piece of information design, it's not very good. Often in these sorts of tables the "optimum" row is the one that has all the circles filled - think of the Consumer Reports magazine reviews for example. If that is true, why use "-" for "doesn't have this property" and not a clear circle ("O")? In complex graphics like these you want the readers' eyes to do the visual recognition with as little work as possible. Another example is how the reader has to work out which columns belong under "Adoption": it looks like "Message Repudiation" might be one but then again probably not. All soluble by some other element such as color, banding or a vertical separator.

Good luck with your thesis!

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    I know latex but haven't made anything other than a simple table. So I don't know how to angle the column headers for instance. – Aventinus Nov 22 '16 at 20:53
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    See tex.stackexchange.com/questions/32683/… for samples on how to do this. h/t to StackExchange LaTeX site! – AlwaysLearning Nov 22 '16 at 20:56
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    As much as I know and love LaTeX, I don't see how it inherently looks more professional than Excel. Both work on the garbage in - garbage out principle like anything that helps generate content. It is nice to have an alternative to Excel, but let's not over inflate the benefits of those alternatives. Numbers (OS X only) and open office (which has several variants) are also alternatives. – Todd Wilcox Nov 23 '16 at 0:49
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    @ToddWilcox, you make a good point and I have edited to reflect what I was trying to say, which was that if the poster was going to have this professionally published or shared around the academic world, I'd recommend going with LaTeX. The original text made it sound like a value judgment with it should not have been. – AlwaysLearning Nov 23 '16 at 2:16
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    The rules and table notes in the original look like they were done in LaTeX using the booktabs and threeparttable packages. I suggest the the former in particular is very useful in generating professional-looking tables, while defaults and common templates/instructions for spreadsheets do not. It's certainly possible to get nice results with any of the major tools, and may even be easier unless you've spent some time on LaTeX tables..(@ToddWilcox) – Chris H Nov 23 '16 at 12:29

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