Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide

Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide

by Eric A. Meyer

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Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is poised to make its mark on the Web. With good implementations in Internet Explorer 5.0 and Opera 3.6, and 100% support expected in Netscape's "Mozilla" browser, signs are that CSS is rapidly becoming a useful, reliable, and powerful tool for web authors.CSS is the W3C-approved method for enriching the visual presentation of web pages

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Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is poised to make its mark on the Web. With good implementations in Internet Explorer 5.0 and Opera 3.6, and 100% support expected in Netscape's "Mozilla" browser, signs are that CSS is rapidly becoming a useful, reliable, and powerful tool for web authors.CSS is the W3C-approved method for enriching the visual presentation of web pages. Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide offers a complete, detailed review of CSS1 and CSS positioning, as well as an overview of CSS2. Each property is explored in detail with a discussion of how each interacts with other properties. There is also information on how to avoid common mistakes in interpretation.This book is the first major title to cover CSS in a way that both acknowledges and describes current browser support, instead of simply describing the way things work in theory. It offers both web authors and scripters a comprehensive guide to using CSS effectively.Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide targets veteran web authors who have already invested thousands of hours in learning HTML and writing web pages and are wondering why they need to learn a brand new language of style. This book supplies those dubious but curious web authors with the information they need to easily implement CSS for their web site.This book also addresses an audience of novice web authors who are already straining to learn all of the tags and attributes of HTML and can benefit now from implementing CSS correctly instead of repeating the mistakes of the past.The author has extensive experience writing about pitfalls and interesting tricks in CSS. He is a member of the CSS&FP Working Group, coordinates the W3C's CSS1 Test Suite, remains active on CSS newsgroups, and edits Web Review's Style Sheets Reference Guide. He has built a widespread reputation as a CSS expert, particularly with regard to his understanding of the intricacies of browser support for CSS. He brings his knowledge and expertise to this book in the form of hints, workarounds, and many other tips for web authors.

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Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
With CSS 2/2.1, web designers have the near-absolute control they’ve always craved. The standards are pretty well nailed, the tools are there, the browsers are close enough. Strong CSS skills are now indispensable. Eric A. Meyer’s Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition is the best way to get them.

Nobody knows the realities of CSS better than Meyer -- nobody. Here, he covers it all: document structure, values, units, fonts, text, visual formatting, borders, margins, colors, backgrounds, positioning, tables, lists, you name it. Meyer presents the why, the how, the pitfalls, the solutions -- and plenty of visual examples. Bill Camarda

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2003 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.

Product Details

O'Reilly Media, Incorporated
Publication date:
Edition description:
Older Edition
Product dimensions:
6.97(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.93(d)

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Chapter 1: HTML and CSS

In many ways, the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) specification represents a unique development in the history of the World Wide Web. In its inherent ability to allow richly styled structural documents, CSS is both a step forward and a step backward--but it's a good step backward, and a needed one. To see what is meant by this, it is first necessary to understand how the Web got to the point of desperately needing something like CSS, and how CSS makes the web a better place for both page authors and web surfers.

The Web's Fall from Grace

Back in the dimly remembered early years of the Web (1990 -1993), HTML was a fairly lean little language. It was almost entirely composed of structural elements that were useful for describing things like paragraphs, hyperlinks, lists, and headings. It had nothing even remotely approaching tables, frames, or the complex markup we assume is a necessary part of creating web pages. The general idea was that HTML would be a structural markup language, used to describe the various parts of a document. There was very little said about how these parts should be displayed. The language wasn't concerned with appearance. It was just a clean little markup scheme.

Then came Mosaic.

Suddenly, the power of the World Wide Web was obvious to almost anyone who spent more than ten minutes playing with it. Jumping from one document to another was no harder than pointing the mouse cursor at a specially colored bit of text, or even an image, and clicking the mouse button. Even better, text and images could be displayed together, and all you needed to create a page was a plain text editor. It was free, it was open, and it was cool.

Web sites began to spring up everywhere. There were personal journals, university sites, corporate sites, and more. As number of sites increased, so did the demand for new HTML tags that would allow one effect or another. Authors started demanding that they be able to make text boldfaced, or italicized.

At the time, HTML wasn't equipped to handle these sorts of desires. You could declare a bit of text to be emphasized, but that wasn't necessarily the same as being italicized--it could be boldfaced instead, or even normal text with a different color, depending on the user's browser and their preferences. There was nothing to ensure that what the author created was what the reader would see.

As a result of these pressures, markup elements like <B> and <I> started to creep into the language. Suddenly, a structural language started to become presentational.

What a Mess

Years later, we have inherited the flaws inherent in this process. Large parts of HTML 3.2 and HTML 4.0, for example, are devoted to presentational considerations. The ability to color and size text through the FONT element, to apply background colors and images to documents and tables, to space and pad the contents of table cells, and to make text blink on and off are all the legacy of the original cries for "more control!"

If you want to know why this is a bad thing, all it takes is a quick glance at any corporate web site's page markup. The sheer amount of markup in comparison to actual useful information is astonishing. Even worse, for most sites, the markup is almost entirely made up of tables and FONT tags, none of which conveys any real semantic meaning to what's being presented. From a structural standpoint, these pages are little better than random strings of letters.

For example, let's assume that for page titles, an author is using FONT tags instead of heading tags like H1, like this:

<FONT SIZE="+3" FACE="Helvetica" COLOR="red">Page Title</FONT>

Structurally speaking, the FONT tag has no meaning. This makes the document far less useful. What good is a FONT tag to a speech-synthesis browser, for example? If an author uses heading tags instead of FONT tags, the speaking browser can use a certain speaking style to read the text. With the FONT tag, the browser has no way to know that the text is any different from other text.

Why do authors run roughshod over structure and meaning like this? Because they want readers to see the page as they designed it. To use structural HTML markup is to give up a lot of control over a page's appearance, and it certainly doesn't allow for the kind of densely packed page designs that have become so popular over the years...

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