Footnotes in tables

The standard LaTeX \footnote command doesn't work in tables; the tabular environment (and its “relations”) traps footnotes, and they can't escape to the bottom of the page. As a result, you get footnote marks in the table, and nothing else.

This accords with common typographic advice: footnotes and tables are reckoned not to mix.

The solution, if you accept the advice, is to use “table notes”. The package threeparttable provides table notes, and threeparttablex additionally supports them in longtables. Threeparttable works happily in ordinary text, or within a table float.

The ctable package extends the model of threeparttable, and also uses the ideas of the booktabs package. The \ctable command does the complete job of setting the table, placing the caption, and defining the notes. The “table” may consist of diagrams, and a parameter in \ctables optional argument makes the float that is created a “figure” rather than a “table”.

If you really want “real” footnotes in tables, despite the expert advice, you can:

  • Use \footnotemark to position the little marker appropriately, and then put in \footnotetext commands to fill in the text once you've closed the tabular environment. This is described in Lamport's book, but it gets messy if there's more than one footnote.
  • Stick the tabular environment in a minipage. Footnotes in the table then “work”, in the minipages style, with no extra effort. (This is, in effect, somewhat like table notes, but the typeset appearance isn't designed for the job.)
  • Use tabularx or longtable from the LaTeX tools distribution; they're noticeably less efficient than the standard tabular environment, but they do allow footnotes.
  • Use tablefootnote; it provides a command \tablefootnote, which does the job without fuss.
  • Use footnote, which provides an savenotes which collects all footnotes and emits them at the end of the environment; thus if you put your tabular environment inside a savenotes environment, the footnotes will appear as needed. Alternatively, you may use \makesavenoteenv{tabular} in the preamble of your document, and tables will all behave as if they were inside a savenotes environment.
  • Use mdwtab from the same bundle; it will handle footnotes as you might expect, and has other facilities to increase the beauty of your tables. Unfortunately, it may be incompatible with other table-related packages, though not those in the standard “tools” bundle.

All the techniques listed will work, to some extent, whether in a float or in ordinary text. The author of this FAQ answer doesn't actually recommend any of them, believing that table notes are the way to go…

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