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The table editor in Acrobat XI is improved in some respects over X but still behaves exactly as you describe on table IDs – it pretends to allow IDs to be set for multiple cells but they do not stick.
You may want to evaluate the current CommonLook. It reportedly excels at tagging complex tables. I evaluated it quite some time ago and was underwhelmed, but I understand it has improved.
You might also be able to cheat a bit on some tables, using alt text (see raeben3’s post here http://forums.adobe.com/thread/1188165) or adding blank cells to the table tag structure to “regularize” the table. In other cases you may be able to deviate from the visual table representation and tag the content as a series of sub-headings and smaller, regular tables or lists. In some cases you will have to bite the bullet and use spanning properties and header IDs.
Hope this helps.
a 'C' student
I feel your table pain. If I find anything, I'll let you know. But I'm in the same boat.
I'm running the latest version of CommonLook and it handles assigning ID tags very well. You can select multiple cells and Assign them to a header. You can also select the same cells and assign them to another header using "Append". This will add the new header, without deleting the previously assigned header. In earlier versions Append did not work for me. This is what you need if you have long complex tables. If you get the current version and this is not the case call Tech Support, as the plug-in is not working properly. The Touch Up Reading Order Tool does not do this.
I occasionally create white/hidden text for heading text that spans multiple columns and then create individual <TH> to hold them, but I wouldn't rely on this for long tables or use it as my main method. It's a quick enough fix in isolated cases--or if your author likes to leave Row 1, Column 1 blank you can create your own invisible header for the screen reader. But it is too hard to check and not the best road to follow. Also hidden text is considered a no-no by some as it is assumed to be a drop out/drop behind, or error in layout.
Thanks for your response. Yes, I've run into some tables so complex that the only way to make accessible was to artifact the whole thing and present as alt text. Fortunately most of the complex tables I work with just have spanned column and/or row headers.
And right, not unusual for lists to come to us in table tag format, sometimes it's obvious and sometimes you have to actually deciper it to determine it's really not a table, we have to watch for that & remove the table structure.
Thanks for your response, nice to know I'm not alone! :-)
Thanks for your response. Sounds like I need to make a case with management to upgrade our version of CommonLook.