Tuesday, October 2, 2012

table/figure locations

Ok, I have a formatting question for you scientific types:

A disagreement has arisen about the proper location of tables and figures in scientific documents.

I can't stand reports that have the tables and figures buried within the text itself. It would be ok if the tables/figures were small enough that they didn't interfere with the text. But what happens is that you end up with one page of text and then you get a full-size figure (or a couple figures). And then you have another page or two, and then you get some more stuff breaking up the flow of the text. If you're trying to review a complicated analysis, it's incredibly distracting, and the figures/tables you need to refer to aren't terribly close to whatever you're reading. It's even worse if you're trying to find a particular table and need to flip through the entire document (or more likely, scroll through a several-hundred page PDF) to find it.

It is so much easier to have all the tables and figures in their own section. Easy to flip to, easy to find, and it doesn't impede the flow of the text.

I lost my argument, so my complicated document will have in-text tables and figures. What's your preference?


Anonymous said...

My preference is a properly formatted PDF with embedded links to the tables and figures. That way, you just click "See Table 2", it takes you there, then you hit the back-button to return to your text. PDF text can be threaded, too, so the user can just click where the text breaks and you jump to where it resumes, regardless of how many pages away that might be. Trouble is, few PDFs are formatted this way, even though it's easy to do.


A Life Long Scholar said...

I agree with Howard, but go one step further. Two copies of the pdf open at once, one on each monitor. That way I can read the text and look at the figure or table it discusses side-by side, at a nice large scale, rather than trying to remember which feature(s) I am meant to be looking for in the figure. (I keep a document called "copy for figure viewing", and every time I open a new pdf I wish to see figures in I "save as" an overwrite of that document, so as to cut down on the number of redundant copies on the machine.)

Short Geologist said...

Hmm. I should do that. Dual-screen monitors are awesome, but I've only used them for different documents.