PLOS continues to improve our processes, and we strive to meet the needs of both readers and authors of our published research content. The latest change improves both the ability of authors to communicate the messages in their data and the ability of readers to easily understand those messages.
PLOS authors now have an expanded and exciting set of options for displaying their diverse content within tables. The new format went into effect for articles typeset as of June 16, 2016, with published articles containing the updated table format appearing on the PLOS websites shortly thereafter.
Anyone who has ever tried to represent (or typeset!) complex tabular content can appreciate the use of the word exciting to describe this latest rollout at PLOS. Extensive feedback from authors, staff and vendors culminated in this update. The expanded set of author table tools includes lists within cells, optional heavier horizontal lines, color shading to convey meaning and the ability for authors to specify text orientation within cells. We have done away with the alternate-row shading pattern in favor of table gridlines! Read on for a bit more information on the benefits and thoughts behind the changes, and when you’re ready to prepare your submission visit the PLOS Author Guidelines for detailed table and LaTeX instructions.
The most obvious change is that the previous style of using alternately shaded rows has been replaced by a clean gridline layout. A major benefit of this change is that vertically merged cells are now allowed and will display cleanly and clearly. In addition, the inclusion of vertical gridlines in the new display adds clarity, particularly when the content in two cells is very close to the cell edges.
Authors can now display content on separate lines within a cell by using lists. The standard list types found in text editors are supported: ordered (numbered, lettered, roman numerals) and unordered (bullet points).
Heavier horizontal lines
Authors now have the ability to specify any horizontal gridlines that they wish to be thicker, allowing greater author control of the visual display. Providing additional means for authors to clearly organize their tables helps readers more easily understand complex table content.
Background color shading in cells
Certain types of content benefit from a presentation utilizing color, instead of table footnotes or other organization options, to convey additional meaning, and now PLOS authors can apply background color to individual cells. Any color can be typeset and displayed; the Author Guidelines on cell shading contain resources to assist authors in selecting colors that comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Authors have greater control of formatting and display preferences. PLOS will honor the orientation of the text within cells when text editor alignment features are used (not spaces and tabs). For example, an author can specify that text be centered within the space created by vertically merged cells by selecting that text and applying the text editor’s vertical center alignment formatting.
Have feedback for us? We’re always looking to improve and facilitate the successful translation of content from the submitted manuscript to final published form. Send any comments to us via the feedback survey located at the bottom of the Author Guidelines table page.
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