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This vignette provides a quick lookup of spreadsheet nomenclature, as used in the {a11ytables} package.


Certain language and conventions are used in the package to talk about spreadsheets.

A workbook is a spreadsheet-like structure. It contains tabs that are each named with a unique tab title. Each tab contains a sheet.

Sheets can be one of four sheet types that dictate their content, layout and style:

  1. A cover sheet contains the title of the workbook and information about the data it contains, who has produced it, etc
  2. A contents sheet contains a table showing the contents of the workbook at a glance, with one row per sheet (not including the cover or itself)
  3. A notes sheet contains a table with a lookup of note codes (e.g. ‘[note 1]’) to their explanations
  4. One or more tables sheets contain statistical tables (the main purpose for the existence of the spreadsheet) or annexes of supporting information

The cover, contents and notes sheets can be considered meta sheets because they provide contextual information about the workbook and its contents.

Sheets themselves are composed of inserted elements that appear in the following row order (if present):

  • a sheet title to be displayed at the top of the sheet (user-provided)
  • a table count so users know how many tables are in the sheet (auto-generated)
  • a notes statement that declares if a table contains notes (if applicable, auto-generated)
  • a blank cells statement that indicates the meaning behind any blank cells in a table (if applicable, user-provided)
  • a source statement to explain where the data came from (if applicable, user-provided)
  • a table that contains information as rows and columns (user-provided) and has a table name (auto-generated) which appears as the ‘name’ of the marked-up table


This is an example xlsx output from the {a11ytables} package:

A spreadsheet produced by the a11ytables package. Four things have been marked with numbers. 1 points to the current tab, named Table_1. 2 points to the sheet title. 3 points to four rows of elements below the title and below the table, which refer to the number of tables in the sheet, the presence of notes, the meaning of blank cells and the data source. 4 points to the table.

The labels in the image above highlight:

  1. The tabs and their tab titles, open on a sheet called ‘Table_1’ (with each of the meta sheets currently hidden).
  2. The sheet title.
  3. Several elements: the table count, the notes statement (because the table contains notes), the blank cells statement (because the table contains blank cells) and a source statement for the data.
  4. A marked-up table, which contains suppressed values (i.e. ‘[c]’) and notes (e.g. ‘[note 1]’).


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