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Eric Meyer on CSS: Mastering the Language of Web Design


There are several other books on the market that serve as in-depth technical guides or reference books for CSS. None, however, take a more hands-on approach and use practical examples to teach readers how to solve the problems they face in designing with CSS - until now. Eric Meyer provides a variety of carefully crafted projects that teach how to use CSS and why particular methods were chosen. The web site includes all of the files needed to complete the tutorials in the book. In addition, bonus information is ...

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There are several other books on the market that serve as in-depth technical guides or reference books for CSS. None, however, take a more hands-on approach and use practical examples to teach readers how to solve the problems they face in designing with CSS - until now. Eric Meyer provides a variety of carefully crafted projects that teach how to use CSS and why particular methods were chosen. The web site includes all of the files needed to complete the tutorials in the book. In addition, bonus information is be posted.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780735712454
  • Publisher: New Riders
  • Publication date: 6/28/2002
  • Series: Voices That Matter Series
  • Pages: 322
  • Product dimensions: 7.96 (w) x 9.92 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

About the AuthorAbout the Author Eric A. Meyer has been working with the Web since late 1993. He is currently employed as a Standards Evangelist with Netscape Communications and lives in Cleveland, Ohio, which is a much nicer city than you've been led to believe. A graduate of and former Webmaster for Case Western Reserve University, Eric is also an Invited Expert with the W3C CSS&FP Working Group and coordinated the authoring and creation of the W3C's CSS1 Test Suite. He often speaks at conferences on the subjects of CSS, Web design, Web standards, Web browsers, and how they all go together. He is the host of "Your Father's Oldsmobile," a weekly big band¿era radio show heard on WRUW 91.1FM in Cleveland. When not otherwise busy, Eric is usually bothering his wife, Kat, in some fashion. About the Technical Reviewers These reviewers contributed their considerable hands-on expertise to the entire development process for Eric Meyer on CSS: Mastering the Language of Web Design. As the book was being written, these dedicated professionals reviewed all the material for technical content, organization, and flow. Their feedback was critical to ensuring that this book fits our reader's need for the highest-quality technical information. Molly E. Holzschlag With over 20 Web development books to her credit, Molly is also a popular columnist and feature writer for such diverse publications as Macworld, PC Magazine, IBM developerWorks, and She is an engaging speaker and teacher, appearing regularly at such conferences as Comdex, Internet World, and Web Builder. As a steering committee member for the Web Standards Project (WaSP), Molly works with a group of other dedicatedWeb developers and designers to promote W3C recommendations. Currently, she is serving as the Associate Editor for Digital Web Magazine. Molly also acts as an advisory board committee member to numerous organizations, including the World Organization of Webmasters. Tobias Horvath has been involved with Web technologies since 1995, when he was just 12 years old. Growing up in the early stages of the Internet, he made his journey to become a Macintosh enthusiast. During the day, he is trying to be a student in Essen, Germany, where he lives. You can find his personal website at © Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents

Project 1 Converting an Existing Page 1
Project 2 Styling a Press Release 33
Project 3 Styling an Events Calendar 55
Project 4 Bringing Hyperlinks to Life 79
Project 5 How to Skin a Menu 95
Project 6 Styling for Print 117
Project 7 Making an Input Form Look Good 143
Project 8 Creating an Online Greeting Card 165
Project 9 Multicolumn Layout 185
Project 10 Sneaking Out of the Box 211
Project 11 Positioning a Better Design 235
Project 12 Fixing Your Backgrounds 263
Project 13 Eric Meyer on CSS in CSS 283
Index 311
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As many readers are no doubt aware, I've spent a good deal of time andenergy on the subject of CSS during the past six years. In addition to articlesand support charts and test suites, I've also written Cascading StyleSheets: The Definitive Guide (O'Reilly, 2000) and Cascading StyleSheets 2.0 Programmer's Reference (Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 2001), which tome always felt like two legs of a three-legged stool. The first leg coveredtheory in detail with the intent of educating the reader how CSS works in allits details. The second leg was meant for CSS authors who needed a referencetext to help them write clean CSS the first time and to remind them of valuenames and meanings. The missing third leg was a book that showed how CSS worksin a hands-on, practical way, preferably in full living color.

Happily, the third leg is missing no longer: Thanks to New Riders,you're holding it in your hands right now.

Should You Buy This Book?

That isn't a facetious question. As proud as I am of the work containedin these pages, I'm also keenly aware that this book is not for everyreader. So let me take a moment to describe two kinds of readers: those forwhom this book was written and those for whom it was not.

Those For Whom This Book Is Meant

You ought to find this book useful if you match one or more of the followingcriteria:

  • You want a hands-on, practical guide to using CSS in real-world projects.That's exactly what this book is all about.

  • You're a hands-on learner, someone who gets a lot more out ofinteractive experimenting than fromjust reading a book. Despite the fact thatthis is indeed a book, it's been intentionally designed to let the reader"play along at home," as it were.

  • You've been meaning to increase your CSS skills for some time now,but you keep putting it off because CSS is a large, complex subject, and youdon't have a roadmap for how to get to the next level.

  • You've always wanted someone to show you how to convert a typical,old-school, pure-HTML design into a blend of HTML and CSS and to explain whyit's to your advantage to do so. If that's the case, go to Project 1,"Converting an Existing Page," without another moment'sdelay.

  • If asked, you would describe your HTML skill level as"intermediate" or "expert" and your CSS skill level as"basic" or "intermediate." In other words, you understandHTML fairly well and have used enough CSS to have a basic grasp of how it'swritten.

Those For Whom This Book Is Not Meant

You might not find this book to be useful if one or more of the followingdescribes you:

  • You've never used or even seen CSS before. Although some basic termsare defined in the text and I've included a short glossary, the assumptionhere is that the reader knows the basics of writing CSS and is fairly proficientwith HTML authoring.

  • You want to understand all of the subtleties of the theory underlying CSSand grasp the nuances of the specification. There are now many books on themarket that occupy that niche. The focus here is on demonstrating effects thatwork.

  • You've only done Web design in a point-and-click editingenvironment. This book assumes that you can edit (or have edited) HTML and CSSby hand, and its narrative is based on that assumption. Its projects may beeasily reproducible in a point-and-click editor, but the book was not writtenwith such editors in mind.

  • You want a book that will tell you how to write CSS that will look thesame in all browsers on all platforms, including Netscape 4.x and Explorer 3.x.See the following section, "What You Can Expect from This Book," fordetails.

  • You've read my other works and hate the personal, familiar tone Itake in my writing. I promise you that my writing style has changed verylittle.

What You Can Expect From This Book

From the outset, my intent has been to write an engaging, interactive bookthat focuses on practical and interesting uses of CSS that can be deployed intoday's browsers. To do this, each project evolves from having no styles tobeing fully styled and ready for deployment on the Web. If I've done my jobwell, you should get the feeling of watching over my shoulder as I work on aproject, with me commenting on what I'm doing as I do it.

Although you can simply read the text and look at the figures to get a senseof how a project is evolving, I think the best way to work along with the bookis to have a Web browser and a text editor open as you read. That way, you canfollow along with the changes I make in the text by physically making the samechanges in your project file and seeing the changes in your own Web browser.

There is one point on which I want to be very clear: The techniques shown inthis book are generally meant for browsers whose version number is greater thanor equal to 5. If you have to design a site that looks the same in Explorer 4.xand Netscape 4.x as it does in IE6.x and NS6.x, this book is not for you.In fact, "Tricking Browsers and Hiding Styles" on the Web site spendsa good deal of time describing ways to hide CSS from version-4 browsers. Suchtechniques allow you to write CSS for modern browsers and still let the contentdisplay (albeit in a much plainer way) in older browsers. That's about asfar as this book goes to cater to the limitations of version-4 browsers,however.


In keeping with the practical, hands-on nature of this book, I'vedivided it into a series of 13 projects—each one effectively a chapter. Itis possible to skip around from project to project as the spirit moves youbecause each project was written to stand on its own as much as possible.However, the book was still written with the linear reader in mind, and if youread from front to back, you should find that the projects build on oneanother.

With a few exceptions, the projects are titled in as self-obvious a way aspossible. For example, Project 1 takes a page designed using only HTML markupand spacer GIFs and converts it to an HTML-plus-CSS design.

Projects 2 through 5 cover some fairly basic projects, from touching up apress release or an events calendar to making hyperlinks look better than theyever have before. Projects 6 and 7 increase the sophistication somewhat byfocusing on printing and the styling of form elements in more than one medium.Then, in Projects 8 through 11, the topics of discussion are positioning,integration of various styling techniques, and how to make designs look moreorganic and less boxy.

Project 12 takes a look at a powerful and potentially beautiful techniquethat isn't widely supported but can be adapted to work in the real world.In some ways, this is a look ahead to a future in which CSS support is morewidespread, but if you pick the right tools, you can flex your artistic musclestoday. All work and no play makes for a boring book, I always say.

Project 13 is the most ambitious and complex of the book: It is an attempt tore-create, as closely as possible, the visual design of this book in HTML andCSS. Just as important as the ways in which the look can be re-created are thediscussions of why certain things can't be exactly reproduced on theWeb.

Companion Web Site

Each project in the book is based on the editing of a real project file. Youcan either download the project files for the entire book at once, or for eachchapter individually. The project files are available on the book'scompanion Web site: you will find "Picking a Rendering Mode" and "TrickingBrowsers and Hiding Styles" (which are of a more practical and theoreticalnature than the projects themselves), a short Glossary of terms, the files thatwere used to produce the figures throughout the book, any errata to the book,and supplemental materials like bonus text, commentary from the author, andlinks to useful on line resources.

For each project, there will be an archive of all the files you need to workalong with the text, which includes any graphic files needed as well as aversion of the project file at its outset. These files follow a consistentnaming; for example, the Project 1 file will be ch01proj.html. This isthe file you should open up with a text editor and make changes to as theproject moves forward. You can also load it into a Web browser and hit"Reload" at each step to see what effect the new styles have.


This book follows a few typographical conventions that you should be familiarwith before proceeding.

A new term is set in italics the first time it is introduced. Therewill often be a short definition of the term nearby. Program text, functions,variables, and other "computer language" are set in a fixed-pitchfont. In regular text, it will also be a dark blue color—for example, whenmentioning the property margin or a value like 10px.

Code blocks are set entirely in a fixed-pitch font. Any red text within acode block indicates a change to the code from its previous state. Most codeblocks show only a fragment of the overall document or style sheet, with thelines to be changed (or inserted) surrounded by unchanged text. This extra textprovides a sense of context, making it easier to find the part you need tochange if you're following along with the text. Here is an example:


<title>Travel Guide: Ragged Point Inn</title>

<style type="text/css">

table {border: 2px solid red; margin: 3px;}

td {border: 1px dotted purple; padding: 2px;}



Every computer book has its own style of presenting information. As you flipthrough this book, you'll notice that it has an interesting layout. Hereare the layout conventions:


These usually contain detailed explanations that are related to the main text but are not a part of the project itself. They might also offer alternative approaches or ideas to those demonstrated in a project. In every case, they can be skipped without disrupting the project's flow.


These are meant to be helpful annotations to the main text, and there are alot of them in this book. These are used to provide tips, asides, definitions of new terms, tangential points, or related bits of information.


These indicate a point that might cause problems in some browsers or a similarly grave note of caution.

Web site notes provide guidance as to which files to download or load into aWeb browser, or things to check out on the Web.

Finally, at the end of each project you will find a section titled"Branching Out." This will present three short exercises that inviteyou to try modifying the finished project in certain ways. These"branches" are certainly not the end of what you can do, but they mayhelp you start experimenting with the concepts presented in the project. Thinkof them as jumping-off points for your own design ideas and also as interestingchallenges in their own right. If you can match the illustrations with your ownstyles, then you'll be well on your way to writing creative CSS of yourown.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2006

    Mastering the Language

    This is a book published in 2002. It is probably best suited for people who are at the intermediate level (or higher) in web design. Eric Meyer On CSS shows how to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to modify and create web pages. It gives step by step instructions demonstrating how to use CSS code to make the design of web sites look exactly the way that you want them to. CSS is all about design. It doesn¿t affect content. Each chapter in the book covers a unique topic. These include: how to convert a web site from HyperText Markup Language (HTML) to HTML + CSS, create an online greeting card, a press release, an events calendar, unique looking hyperlinks, multiple columns and printer friendly pages. It is easy to read and follow. One of the neatest things is that the author put files on his web site. The reader can download either all or some of the chapter files, then, follow along in a hands on way. The author assumes that the reader has basic knowledge of HTML and CSS. I was especially interested in the first chapter ¿ how to convert an existing page from HTML to HTML + CSS. This was the one that I downloaded the files for and made the changes as I read. Also, I did some of the work on a personal project of my own. Eric¿s writing style is straightforward. It is easy to understand. The follow along files are great. Seeing the changes to the web page as I applied the CSS code on my computer was really cool. I would like to see even more examples of ways to use CSS. One would be to include how to remove XML code from web pages originally created with Microsoft Front Page. This would be an excellent enhancement for the chapter on converting an HTML page to HTML + CSS. As a whole, Eric Meyer On CSS is well written, with very good graphics that show how the code changes look on a web page. The examples are easy to follow, even for someone like me. I have a lot of experience with HTML and none with CSS. Still, the book helped me as I worked on my project to convert a web site to CSS. I would recommend the book to people who are familiar with HTML code and have worked on web sites previously. It would be especially helpful if you have created web pages manually using HTML.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2005

    Helpful book for beginners

    The first thing I read to learn CSS was Meyer¿s CSS: The Definitive Guide (vol. 1) and it was helpful, but I needed the project work in Mastering to really get going with CSS. Like so many web languages it¿s easier to learn CSS if you can play with someone else¿s code first. The projects presented in Mastering addressed nearly all of the topics I was interested in. By the end I felt ready to dive into the redesign my department¿s web site using CSS as the primary formatting language.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2002

    Eric: Bravo once again!

    Eric Meyer has shown once again that he can provide exactly what the industry needs at the time that it is needed. Now that CSS is working similarly for the most part in the top 3 browsers, this book comes with perfect timing. Meyer's previous books, such as 'Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide', were great. I still have several photocopied pages of that book taped up around my monitor (like the complete box model from chapter 8). I raved about 'CSS 2.0 Programmer's Reference' when it came out; it was exactly what was needed for a DHTML programmer. This new book, however, truly brings CSS to the masses. I really like the slick, color pages used by the publisher, New Riders. I think this is finally the book that will make CSS so accessible that it will become what it was intended to be: the norm. 'Eric Meyer on CSS' does an excellent job of drawing parallels between CSS syntax and HTML. The book presents realistic situations in a project-oriented approach. The code is broken down into step-by-step bites that really remind me of the Sams 'Teach Yourself in 24 Hours' books. But make no mistake: this book is useful for advanced users, too. One can never have access to too many tips & tricks! My first experience with Cascading Style Sheets came as a challenge from a 17 year old who in 1997 said 'get on the bandwagon, gramps' and start writing CSS. So I opened up Notepad and started writing CSS, afterwards looking at it in Internet Explorer 3.0. That was the summer of 1997, and I was 29 years-old. My previous experience writing RTF-based Help told me this was exactly what HTML needed. But extensive use of CSS seemed slow to catch fire. In 1997-1999 I was using CSS in an ideal setting: on a company intranet where all users were using at least IE 4.01. But as I moved on to other web sites during the 'dot-com' craze, I found that my use of CSS would be limited due to varied browser usage throughout the World Wide Web. We're now at a point with IE6/NN6 (and Opera, too) where widespread use of CSS--and advanced CSS at that--is possible. 'Eric Meyer on CSS' is going to be an important tool in making that happen. Do yourself a favor and learn all of the CSS syntax you can from this book instead of relying only on a point-and-click GUI. There are excellent tools available, such as TopStyle, but these tools are no replacement for 'mastering the language of web design', as noted on this book's cover.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2002

    Get with CSS

    Eric Meyer on CSS Mastering the Language of Web Design AUTHOR: Eric Meyer PUBLISHER: New Riders REVIEWED BY: Barbara Rhoades Eric Meyer provides the reader with 13 projects on how CSS can be used in building web pages. He begins with converting an existing web page from an all HTML-heavy design to one that uses both HTML and CSS. This is done to make the mark-up easier to read. Press releases and events calendars are two times that can benefit from the HTML-CSS combination. Mr. Meyer explains how in Chapters 2 and 3. There is no CD-ROM provided with this book but there is a companion web site where the files are available. Hyperlinks, navigation bars, input forms, greeting cards and multi-columns will all benefit from using CSS. There are chapters on all of these things to help you understand just how CSS can help. CSS2 allows styles to be applied for the print media and Chapter 6 discusses how to do this. Chapter 10 is all about creating unusual text boxes to give your web pages a unique look rather than using the old term paper look. Do you have a graphic you want to use on your page? Don¿t use the same old rectangle box; curve the picture or layer it to give it some pizzazz! Check out Chapter 11 for this effect. Finally, Chapter 12 describes how to design a unique background for your pages. CSS is a great way to make your mark up much more readable. Get Eric Meyer on CSS to help you get CSS into your web.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2002

    Awesome Book About CSS

    I've been a part-time WebMaster for years, getting by mostly with HTML. When I first started hearing about Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), there was a part of me that cringed. The same part that cringes every time I need to learn something new. However, this new book by Eric Meyer greatly "lessens the pain" of learning CSS. He shows through numerous examples and step by step instructions, the wondrous and gorgeous effects that can be seen on web sites using CSS. And you can achieve some of the same effects that are used in JavaScript of DHTML without having to learn them. Not all however, and anyone wishing to learn those skills after learning CSS is very much advised to do so by this reviewer. What struck me immediately about this book was how beautifully it was laid out. Not only are most if not all of the examples in color, each step is illustrated by the addition or change of code in red, making it easy to spot. All step by step instructions throughout the book are well-detailed and easy to follow. The book is made up of thirteen different projects, everything from redesigning an exisiting HTML page into CSS, to designing a press release, an input form, multi colum layout on a page, even creating your own online greeting card. Looking through each of the code examples makes it clear how each portion of a style sheet affects the display on a web site. And there's a companion web site to the book, allowing you to download files from each prject, allowing you to "play along" as you read. This helps you to better learn about doing your own style sheets, ie "what works" and what doesn't. Anyone doing web design should definitely add this book to their library.

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