First of all, I personally would not rename "columns" to "bags" and "widths" to "weights". Anyway, could you tell us some more about the constrains, specifically on the number of columns and the possible window widths? Though coming up with a completely generic algorithm always seems more fun, I'm also for the pragmatic approach. For example, are the data types of the columns known? Because I doubt it would be a good idea to cut off the "date" and "amount" columns. There are also a bunch of table formatting modules on the CPAN, have you looked at those? Update: For example, Text::Table::Any lists 27 possible backends, and I'm sure there are plenty more. "Format an ASCII table" seems to be a favorite wheel to reinvent (I'm guilty of that too).