Wednesday 16th July, 2014

Introducing Responsive for DataTables

When building a modern web-site you will typically use a responsive design. The advantages of doing so are clear; one site that works on all devices regardless of screen size means much lower maintenance costs and an improved experience for your customers. Even better is that responsive design is built into the core of most ready-rolled CSS frameworks, such as Bootstrap and Foundation, so you can get the benefits with minimal development effort.

While the frameworks handle responsive layout for content extremely well, they don't really handle responsive tables [1]. This is where Responsive for DataTables comes in - it uses DataTables' built in column visibility APIs to optimise the layout of the table for the screen size that the table is being viewed on.

Background

Back in 2011 Chris Coyier wrote an article for CSS-Tricks describing responsive data tables. Then in 2012 that he wrote a follow up piece that shows a number the different techniques that can be used to make tables responsive.

There are a number of excellent examples of Javascript libraries which implement responsive tables in addition to Chris Coyier's original implementation, such as FooTable developed by themergency.com and Responsive Tables from Zrub.

So the idea of responsive tables is not new, but Responsive for DataTables is the first library that implements the concept for DataTables, allowing you to build on top of all the other features of DataTables and its other extensions, while now also gaining the benefits from responsive tables.

Using Responsive

Responsive for DataTables is designed to be as simple as possible to use. To get started, you just need to include the Responsive CSS and Javascript, when you can get by downloading the Responsive package or using the files on the DataTables CDN:

CSS
JS

Then simply add the class responsive (or dt-responsive if responsive already means something in your CSS framework, as it does in Bootstrap) to your table and Responsive will be initialised automatically when you create the DataTable.

As an alternative to class initialisation you can add the responsive option to your DataTable configuration object. For example:

$('#myTable').DataTable( {
    responsive: true
} );

That's it!

You may wish to add the class nowrap to your DataTable as well, which will stop the browser reflowing text in cells onto multiple lines (a feature provided by the DataTables stylesheet) and there are a range of options that you can use to configure how Responsive behaves if you so wish.

Features

Designed to be simple to use both for you the developer using Responsive and the end user using the table with Responsive enabled, the default settings and feature set are intentionally fairly basic. However, Responsive provides configuration options to allow customisation of almost every aspect of its operation:

  • Columns that that don't fit into the available area are removed automatically
  • Classes can be used to specify which columns should be shown on particular devices.
  • DataTables' child row API capabilities are used to show data from the hidden columns
  • Child row functionality can be disabled or customised with your own renderer (responsive.details.renderer)
  • The activation for display of the child row can be customised (responsive.details.type)

The above, and more, are documentation on the Responsive manual pages of this site. Also included are:

  • Examples - showing the different aspects of how Responsive can be customised.
  • Reference - detailed documentation of each configuration option.

It is worth noting that Responsive requires DataTables 1.10.1 or newer (available from the download page). Additionally, although more of an internal implementation point, Responsive is the first DataTables extension to be built using the new DataTables 1.10 documentation style, so the reference for Responsive will always be clear, well presented and tightly integrated with DataTables. The other extensions will also be updated to this newer style in future.

Example

The table below shows an example of Responsive being used on a table. Resize your browser window to see it automatically adjust the table layout for the browser size.

NamePositionOfficeAgeStart dateSalary
NamePositionOfficeAgeStart dateSalary
Tiger NixonSystem ArchitectEdinburgh612011/04/25$320,800
Garrett WintersAccountantTokyo632011/07/25$170,750
Ashton CoxJunior Technical AuthorSan Francisco662009/01/12$86,000
Cedric KellySenior Javascript DeveloperEdinburgh222012/03/29$433,060
Airi SatouAccountantTokyo332008/11/28$162,700
Brielle WilliamsonIntegration SpecialistNew York612012/12/02$372,000
Herrod ChandlerSales AssistantSan Francisco592012/08/06$137,500
Rhona DavidsonIntegration SpecialistTokyo552010/10/14$327,900
Colleen HurstJavascript DeveloperSan Francisco392009/09/15$205,500
Sonya FrostSoftware EngineerEdinburgh232008/12/13$103,600
Jena GainesOffice ManagerLondon302008/12/19$90,560
Quinn FlynnSupport LeadEdinburgh222013/03/03$342,000
Charde MarshallRegional DirectorSan Francisco362008/10/16$470,600
Haley KennedySenior Marketing DesignerLondon432012/12/18$313,500
Tatyana FitzpatrickRegional DirectorLondon192010/03/17$385,750
Michael SilvaMarketing DesignerLondon662012/11/27$198,500
Paul ByrdChief Financial Officer (CFO)New York642010/06/09$725,000
Gloria LittleSystems AdministratorNew York592009/04/10$237,500
Bradley GreerSoftware EngineerLondon412012/10/13$132,000
Dai RiosPersonnel LeadEdinburgh352012/09/26$217,500
Jenette CaldwellDevelopment LeadNew York302011/09/03$345,000
Yuri BerryChief Marketing Officer (CMO)New York402009/06/25$675,000
Caesar VancePre-Sales SupportNew York212011/12/12$106,450
Doris WilderSales AssistantSidney232010/09/20$85,600
Angelica RamosChief Executive Officer (CEO)London472009/10/09$1,200,000
Gavin JoyceDeveloperEdinburgh422010/12/22$92,575
Jennifer ChangRegional DirectorSingapore282010/11/14$357,650
Brenden WagnerSoftware EngineerSan Francisco282011/06/07$206,850
Fiona GreenChief Operating Officer (COO)San Francisco482010/03/11$850,000
Shou ItouRegional MarketingTokyo202011/08/14$163,000
Michelle HouseIntegration SpecialistSidney372011/06/02$95,400
Suki BurksDeveloperLondon532009/10/22$114,500
Prescott BartlettTechnical AuthorLondon272011/05/07$145,000
Gavin CortezTeam LeaderSan Francisco222008/10/26$235,500
Martena MccrayPost-Sales supportEdinburgh462011/03/09$324,050
Unity ButlerMarketing DesignerSan Francisco472009/12/09$85,675
Howard HatfieldOffice ManagerSan Francisco512008/12/16$164,500
Hope FuentesSecretarySan Francisco412010/02/12$109,850
Vivian HarrellFinancial ControllerSan Francisco622009/02/14$452,500
Timothy MooneyOffice ManagerLondon372008/12/11$136,200
Jackson BradshawDirectorNew York652008/09/26$645,750
Olivia LiangSupport EngineerSingapore642011/02/03$234,500
Bruno NashSoftware EngineerLondon382011/05/03$163,500
Sakura YamamotoSupport EngineerTokyo372009/08/19$139,575
Thor WaltonDeveloperNew York612013/08/11$98,540
Finn CamachoSupport EngineerSan Francisco472009/07/07$87,500
Serge BaldwinData CoordinatorSingapore642012/04/09$138,575
Zenaida FrankSoftware EngineerNew York632010/01/04$125,250
Zorita SerranoSoftware EngineerSan Francisco562012/06/01$115,000
Jennifer AcostaJunior Javascript DeveloperEdinburgh432013/02/01$75,650
Cara StevensSales AssistantNew York462011/12/06$145,600
Hermione ButlerRegional DirectorLondon472011/03/21$356,250
Lael GreerSystems AdministratorLondon212009/02/27$103,500
Jonas AlexanderDeveloperSan Francisco302010/07/14$86,500
Shad DeckerRegional DirectorEdinburgh512008/11/13$183,000
Michael BruceJavascript DeveloperSingapore292011/06/27$183,000
Donna SniderCustomer SupportNew York272011/01/25$112,000

Discussion

Feedback on Responsive, as it is with all other DataTables software, is always warmly welcomed. If you have any questions about Responsive please open a new thread in the forums and describe the issue or question that you have.

Footnotes

[1] Bootstrap does have responsive tables which allow the table to scroll horizontally, rather than reflowing the layout as Responsive does for DataTables.