I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves writing fairly complicated CSS to do something that would be trivial using tables. Take form styling for example. It’s possible to lay out even very tricky forms using tables in just a few minutes. You can achieve similar results by floating elements with CSS, but it’s a lot more involved
The rest of Andy’s points are lucid, level-headed, and enforce something that you may or may not personally believe: CSS-based design under all circumstances, while a goal to strive for, is hard. Using a table for layout may at times be the best way to get the job done.
For example, it’s (relatively) easy to keep a CSS-based design functioning on a simple 10 page, custom-designed site; you’re designing for rigid and known conditions. There’s almost never a need to fall back to tables under those circumstances.
But it’s a whole new level to keep a large 500 page CMS-driven site functioning, which could potentially see large images dropped in the content area (thus breaking your floats), or multiple hands involved in creating markup (including those that are markup-illiterate), or any number of other conditions beyond your direct control. More and more of us are learning this from direct experience, myself included. Just because you know how to code without a table in sight doesn’t mean the rest of the stakeholders in your project will.
None of this is permission to go wild. One simple table stripped of presentational markup should almost always suffice in these circumstances. And please, leave the multiple nested tables in 1999.
But claiming structural tables are wrong under any and all circumstances is too much of an ideal at this moment in time. The practical reality of today’s web is that learning curves and browser support can sometimes raise the bar too high for full-out CSS design in certain scenarios. A designer using proper discretion who pays special attention to accessibility, essentially a designer who is educated and capable of using tables well, may consider the layout table a still-valuable tool.
Reactions will be mixed. Vive la difference!
: The thinking behind this post has been expanded on and clarified here.