Today my colleague showed me an interesting problem. He had a table cell which was supposed to be constrained to a certain width but the content kept running out of bounds and wouldn't wrap.
The table look something like this
The table is supposed to be constrained to 150 pixel, so the correct one should look like this
So we were wondering what's wrong and I looked at the source of the page the browser was displaying, take note, this is the source on the CLIENT side, not your server side source. And I saw something interesting, this was what his td tag looked like.
<td>monday tuesday wednesday thursday </td>
I asked him the obvious question, why are you using as a space? He tells me that the data was entered as a comma and the client wants it to be displayed as a space so he did a simple string.replace on it. At first I didn't think too much about it since.. well it IS a space. That was until I remembered what nbsp stood for, non BREAKING space. Keyword here being non breaking, I guess that would mean that the browser will not word wrap on that space hence the name non breaking. So.. sure enough by replacing the with a simple space everything worked fine.
So.. the question now was why do we use nbsp in the first place? Well, for me it all began when I started learning HTML a long long time ago. I was wondering why I couldn't insert multiple spaces to space out a word like this. This was of course when I was using Notepad to make my pages and I realised that browser would basically shrink multiple spaces into one. Then I used Dreamweaver and noticed that it could insert multiple spaces between words, so obviously I take a look at what got used to force the space and found my little friend and I've been using him as a forced space ever since.
So.. obviously now that I know that nbsp might not be the best way to force a space with in every situation I start looking for alternatives. I tried the most obvious one   the ascii code for a space.. and it didn't work the browser collapsed repeats of those into a single space as well. I wonder if there really is an alternative to the dear old nbsp, not that it causes much problems lar!
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