in reply to
Tables in CGI.pm
Well this sounds more like a (classic) HTML problem than like a perl problem. Maybe you should consider reading the HTML table behaviour in any decent HTML book/course/whatevermedium. And if you think you got a perl problem you'd better post a (small) snippet of your code.
it seems that if I have multiple columns in the same row, I cannot set the width's for each column
You need to see this in the whole table. A row is not independent from the other rows, plus the setting of width of a row might not work when the content is too wide plus you might run into the browser hell...
Sorry, if this isn't a big help, but I think your problems are with HTML and not perl.
you begin bashing the string with a +42 regexp of confusion