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HTML Table Sorter


This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.

This lets you extracts an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) table and sort the rows based on the specified columns, e. g.
java.exe TableSort mytable.html 1 4

means sort all the rows using column 1 as the primary key and column 4 as the secondary tie-breaker key.

After you have that working, tackle the problem of converting a long skinny single-row or a single-column table column into a grid, either by rows or by columns. Then convert it back again to either a single row or single column. You might even also have logic to count the elements and do a square root to determine the grid size to make a square grid.

Then consider the problem of merging two tables and selecting columns or rows from the combined table. For example you might want to take two single column tables and merge them to create a single table with two columns. You might want to join the tables by matching a common key using an inner or outer join. Sounds like SQL (Standard Query Language) doesn’t it? Consider implementing the whole reorg utility by importing tables into SQL, doing all your fancy stuff in SQL, then exporting tables. You need to have a way of stripping tags such as <b> so that SQL can sort columns. However, you need to keep the tags around for when you export HTML tables again.

A fancier version would let you embed <-- sortkey ardvaark --> commands in each of the cells to use a sorting key other than the visible contents of the cell. That way could for example sort by significant word in a list of book titles instead of the leading The. It would also let you sort on data not visible to the end user.

I have written a very crude one. I would send it to you by email to help you get started. It uses very primitive parsing.

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