Making Tables With Sticky Header and Footers Got a Bit Easier

It wasn’t long ago when I looked at sticky headers and footers in HTML <table>s in the blog post A table with both a sticky header and a sticky first column. In it, I never used position: sticky on any <thead>, <tfoot>, or <tr> element, because even though Safari and Firefox could do that, Chrome could not. But it could do table cells like <th> and <td>, which was a decent-enough workaround.

Well that’s changed.

Sounds like a big effort went into totally revamping tables in the rendering engine in Chromium, bringing tables up to speed. It’s not just the stickiness that was fixed, but all sorts of things. I’ll just focus on the sticky thing since that’s what I looked at.

The headline to me is that <thead> and <tfoot> are sticky-able. That seems like it will be the most common use case here.

table thead,
table tfoot { position: sticky;
table thead { inset-block-start: 0; /* "top" */
table tfoot { inset-block-end: 0; /* "bottom" */

That works in all three major browsers. You might want to get clever and only sticky them at certain minimum viewport heights or something, but the point is it works.

I heard several questions about table columns as well. My original article had a sticky first column (that was kind of the point). While there is a table <col> tag, it’s… weird. It doesn’t actually wrap columns, it’s more like a pointer thing to be able to style down the column if you need to. I hardly ever see it used, but it’s there. Anyway, you totally can’t position: sticky; a <col>, but you can make sticky columns. You need to select all the cells in that column and stick them to the left or right. Here’s that using logical properties…

table tr th:first-child { position: sticky; inset-inline-start: 0; /* "left" */

Here’s a sorta obnoxious table where the <thead>, <tfoot>, and the first and last columns are all sticky.

I’m sure you could do something tasteful with this. Like maybe: