html – Colspan all columns

The Question :

408 people think this question is useful

How can I specify a td tag should span all columns (when the exact amount of columns in the table will be variable/difficult to determine when the HTML is being rendered)? w3schools mentions you can use colspan="0", but it doesn’t say exactly what browsers support that value (IE 6 is in our list to support).

It appears that setting colspan to a value greater than the theoretical amount of columns you may have will work, but it will not work if you have table-layout set to fixed. Are there any disadvantages to using an automatic layout with a large number for colspan? Is there a more correct way of doing this?

The Question Comments :
  • The accepted answer is about how NOT to do this, and it seems to have serious performance/consistency downsides. So I guess the answer is: hardcode the number of columns. I don’t see any viable alternative.
  • Great question, but you should have just not accepted any answer if none of them are correct.

The Answer 1

277 people think this answer is useful

I have IE 7.0, Firefox 3.0 and Chrome 1.0

The colspan=”0″ attribute in a TD is NOT spanning across all TDs in any of the above browsers.

Maybe not recommended as proper markup practice, but if you give a higher colspan value than the total possible no. of columns in other rows, then the TD would span all the columns.

This does NOT work when the table-layout CSS property is set to fixed.

Once again, this is not the perfect solution but seems to work in the above mentioned 3 browser versions when the table-layout CSS property is automatic. Hope this helps.

The Answer 2

293 people think this answer is useful

Just use this:


It works on Firefox 3.6, IE 7 and Opera 11! (and I guess on others, I couldn’t try)

Warning: as mentioned in the comments below this is actually the same as colspan="100". Hence, this solution will break for tables with css table-layout: fixed, or more than 100 columns.

The Answer 3

66 people think this answer is useful

If you want to make a ‘title’ cell that spans all columns, as header for your table, you may want to use the caption tag ( / This element is meant for this purpose. It behaves like a div, but doesn’t span the entire width of the parent of the table (like a div would do in the same position (don’t try this at home!)), instead, it spans the width of the table. There are some cross-browser issues with borders and such (was acceptable for me). Anyways, you can make it look as a cell that spans all columns. Within, you can make rows by adding div-elements. I’m not sure if you can insert it in between tr-elements, but that would be a hack I guess (so not recommended). Another option would be messing around with floating divs, but that is yuck!


    <caption style="gimme some style!"><!-- Title of table --></caption>
    <thead><!-- ... --></thead>
    <tbody><!-- ... --></tbody>


    <div style="float: left;/* extra styling /*"><!-- Title of table --></div>
        <thead><!-- ... --></thead>
        <tbody><!-- ... --></tbody>
    <div style="clear: both"></div>

The Answer 4

21 people think this answer is useful

As a partial answer, here’s a few points about colspan="0", which was mentioned in the question.

tl;dr version:

colspan="0" doesn’t work in any browser whatsoever. W3Schools is wrong (as usual). HTML 4 said that colspan="0" should cause a column to span the whole table, but nobody implemented this and it was removed from the spec after HTML 4.

Some more detail and evidence:

  • All major browsers treat it as equivalent to colspan="1".

    Here’s a demo showing this; try it on any browser you like.

    td {
      border: 1px solid black;
        <td colspan="0">colspan="0"</td>
        <td colspan="1">colspan="1"</td>
        <td colspan="3">colspan="3"</td>
        <td colspan="1000">colspan="1000"</td>
  • The HTML 4 spec (now old and outdated, but current back when this question was asked) did indeed say that colspan="0" should be treated as spanning all columns:

    The value zero (“0”) means that the cell spans all columns from the current column to the last column of the column group (COLGROUP) in which the cell is defined.

    However, most browsers never implemented this.

  • HTML 5.0 (made a candidate recommendation back in 2012), the WhatWG HTML living standard (the dominant standard today), and the latest W3 HTML 5 spec all do not contain the wording quoted from HTML 4 above, and unanimously agree that a colspan of 0 is not allowed, with this wording which appears in all three specs:

    The td and th elements may have a colspan content attribute specified, whose value must be a valid non-negative integer greater than zero …


  • The following claims from the W3Schools page linked to in the question are – at least nowadays – completely false:

    Only Firefox supports colspan=”0″, which has a special meaning … [It] tells the browser to span the cell to the last column of the column group (colgroup)


    Differences Between HTML 4.01 and HTML5


    If you’re not already aware that W3Schools is generally held in contempt by web developers for its frequent inaccuracies, consider this a lesson in why.

The Answer 5

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For IE 6, you’ll want to equal colspan to the number of columns in your table. If you have 5 columns, then you’ll want: colspan="5".

The reason is that IE handles colspans differently, it uses the HTML 3.2 specification:

IE implements the HTML 3.2 definition, it sets colspan=0 as colspan=1.

The bug is well documented.

The Answer 6

12 people think this answer is useful

If you’re using jQuery (or don’t mind adding it), this will get the job done better than any of these hacks.

function getMaxColCount($table) {
    var maxCol = 0;

    $table.find('tr').each(function(i,o) {
        var colCount = 0;
        $(o).find('td:not(.maxcols),th:not(.maxcols)').each(function(i,oo) {
            var cc = Number($(oo).attr('colspan'));
            if (cc) {
                colCount += cc;
            } else {
                colCount += 1;
        if(colCount > maxCol) { maxCol = colCount };

    return maxCol;


To ease the implementation, I decorate any td/th I need adjusted with a class such as “maxCol” then I can do the following:

$('td.maxcols, th.maxcols').each(function(i,o) {
    $t = $($(o).parents('table')[0]); $(o).attr('colspan',  getMaxColCount($t));

If you find an implementation this won’t work for, don’t slam the answer, explain in comments and I’ll update if it can be covered.

The Answer 7

5 people think this answer is useful

Another working but ugly solution : colspan="100", where 100 is a value larger than total columns you need to colspan.

According to the W3C, the colspan="0" option is valid only with COLGROUP tag.

The Answer 8

3 people think this answer is useful

Below is a concise es6 solution (similar to Rainbabba’s answer but without the jQuery).

Array.from(document.querySelectorAll('[data-colspan-max]')).forEach(td => {
    let table = td;
    while (table &amp;&amp; table.nodeName !== 'TABLE') table = table.parentNode;
    td.colSpan = Array.from(table.querySelector('tr').children).reduce((acc, child) => acc + child.colSpan, 0);
html {
  font-family: Verdana;
tr > * {
  padding: 1rem;
  box-shadow: 0 0 8px gray inset;
    <th>Header 1</th>
    <th>Header 2</th>
    <th>Header 3</th>
    <th>Header 4</th>
    <th>Header 5</th>
    <th>Header 6</th>
  <td data-colspan-max>td will be set to full width</td>

The Answer 9

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A CSS solution would be ideal, but I was unable to find one, so here is a JavaScript solution: for a tr element with a given class, maximize it by selecting a full row, counting its td elements and their colSpan attributes, and just setting the widened row with el.colSpan = newcolspan;. Like so…

var headertablerows = document.getElementsByClassName('max-col-span');

[], function (headertablerow) {
    var colspan = 0;
    [], function (child) {
        colspan += child.colSpan ? parseInt(child.colSpan, 10) : 1;
    headertablerow.children[0].colSpan = colspan;
html {
  font-family: Verdana;
tr > * {
  padding: 1rem;
  box-shadow: 0 0 8px gray inset;
    <tr class="max-col-span">
      <td>1 - max width
      <td>2 - no colspan
      <td colspan="2">3 - colspan is 2

You may need to adjust this if you’re using table headers, but this should give a proof-of-concept approach that uses 100% pure JavaScript.

The Answer 10

-1 people think this answer is useful

Just want to add my experience and answer to this.
Note: It only works when you have a pre-defined table and a tr with ths, but are loading in your rows (for example via AJAX) dynamically.

In this case you can count the number of th‘s there are in your first header row, and use that to span the whole column.

This can be needed when you want to relay a message when no results have been found.

Something like this in jQuery, where table is your input table:

var trs = $(table).find("tr");
var numberColumns = 999;
if (trs.length === 1) {
    //Assume having one row means that there is a header
    var headerColumns = $(trs).find("th").length;
    if (headerColumns > 0) {
        numberColumns = headerColumns;

The Answer 11

-2 people think this answer is useful

According to the specification colspan="0" should result in a table width td.

However, this is only true if your table has a width! A table may contain rows of different widths. So, the only case that the renderer knows the width of the table if you define a colgroup! Otherwise, result of colspan=”0″ is indeterminable…

I cannot test it on older browsers, but this is part of specification since 4.0…

The Answer 12

-3 people think this answer is useful

Maybe I’m a straight thinker but I’m a bit puzzled, don’t you know the column number of your table?

By the way IE6 doesn’t honor the colspan=”0″, with or without a colgroup defined. I tried also to use thead and th to generate the groups of columns but the browser doesn’t recognlise the form colspan=”0″.

I’ve tried with Firefox 3.0 on windows and linux and it works only with a strict doctype.

You can check a test on several bowser at

I found the test page here

Edit: Please copy and paste the link, the formatting won’t accept the double protocol parts in the link (or I am not so smart to correctly format it).

The Answer 13

-3 people think this answer is useful

use colspan=”100%” in table cell and it’s working fine.


The Answer 14

-8 people think this answer is useful

try using “colSpan” instead of “colspan”. IE likes the camelBack version…

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