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On its own, RH will not "automatically insert a huge space between the end of the text and the edge of the column."
The percent usage for tables is the better way to go, since that method also produces much better results when printed or when compiled into a Printed Doc output.
The HTML protocol takes up to the percentage of page width that is designated, wrapping the words in column 1 if necessary. However, if there is a contiguous text string (alpha/numeric/underscore) that is effectively wider than that set percentage, it will hijack the extra space that it needs from the adjacent column.
Assuming multiple words, then, a 100/20/80% has worked very well for us, showing consistency throughout the project, and in various output. Note also that if your table resides within a list, it should be formatted as 90/20/70% ( and 80/20/60% if in a second-level list).
Of course, if most of your content in column 1 is short and mostly one word, you could reduce column 1 width to 10%, for example.
Thanks Leon, and I think my wide screen monitor was confusing the issue!