HTML and XHTML: The Definitive Guide, Fifth Edition

HTML and XHTML: The Definitive Guide, Fifth Edition

by Chuck Musciano, Bill Kennedy

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HTML and its XML-based descendant, XHTML, are the fundamental languages for working on the web, and the new edition of our popular HTML guide offers web developers a better way to become fluent in these languages. HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide, 5th Edition is the most comprehensive, up-to-date book available on HTML and XHTML. It covers Netscape

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HTML and its XML-based descendant, XHTML, are the fundamental languages for working on the web, and the new edition of our popular HTML guide offers web developers a better way to become fluent in these languages. HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide, 5th Edition is the most comprehensive, up-to-date book available on HTML and XHTML. It covers Netscape Navigator 6, Internet Explorer 6, HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0, CSS2, and all of the features supported by the popular web browsers.

Learning HTML and XHTML is like learning any new language. Most students first immerse themselves in examples. Studying others is a natural way to learn; however, it's as easy to learn bad habits through imitation as it is to acquire good ones. The better way to become HTML-fluent is through a comprehensive reference that covers the language syntax, semantics, and variations in detail and demonstrates the difference between good and bad usage.

In HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide, the authors cover every element of HTML/XHTML in detail, explaining how each element works and how it interacts with other elements. Tips about HTML/XHTML style help you write documents ranging from simple online documentation to complex presentations. With hundreds of examples, the book gives you models for writing your own effective web pages and for mastering advanced features like style sheets and frames.

HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide, 5th Edition, shows how to:

  • Use style sheets to control a document's appearance
  • Work with programmatically generated HTML
  • Create tables, from simple to complex
  • Use frames to coordinate sets of documents
  • Design and build interactive forms and dynamic documents
  • Insert images, sound files, video, Java applets, and JavaScript programs
  • Create documents that look good on a variety of browsers
  • Make the transition to XHTML
The book comes with a handy quick-reference card listing HTML/XHTML tags.

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Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Sure, by now, most web sites are just too big to hand-craft everything -- and with great tools like Dreamweaver, you don’t have to. But if you’re a serious web professional, there will still be plenty of times when you need to understand how the HTML is really working -- or not.

One day, you’ll need to tweak errant HTML into shape. Another day, you’ll need to add a feature that’s not supported by your editor -- say, a CSS2 property. Equally important, there will be higher-level concepts and techniques you may simply not have come across in your travels -- especially if, like most folks, you learned by spying on other folks’ source. And, of course, if you’ve found reasons to use XHTML, chances are you’ll really need some guidance there.

At times like these, what are you gonna do -- go read the original W3C specifications? Get real. Rather, we recommend a book that’s almost the polar opposite of the specs documents: HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide, Fifth Edition by Chuck Musciano and Bill Kennedy.

Where the specs can be stunningly abstruse, this book’s as clear as the mountain air atop Everest. The specs appear almost deliberate in their refusal to give you any context. This book tells you why you’re doing what you’re doing -- and why you shouldn’t do what you shouldn’t be doing. The specs are -- by definition -- interested only in setting standards. This book’s very healthy respect for standards is matched by equal respect for the real world, which is full of deprecated HTML that works.

This Fifth Edition has been thoroughly updated for the latest browsers and HTML/XHTML technologies, including Netscape Navigator 6, Internet Explorer 6, HTML 4.01, CSS2, and the final release of XHTML 1.0. Musciano and Kennedy encourage you to use XHTML 1.0 for new pages and applications, while leaving the old stuff alone.

They also take a brief and unhappy look at XHTML 1.1, which you probably won’t have to worry about for a while -- if ever. You can feel the steam rising off the page: “If you think of XHTML 1.0 as unwieldy, picky, and time-consuming, you’ll find XHTML 1.1 even more so. In our opinion, XHTML 1.1 is an example of the standards process taken to absurd levels, defining a standard that may be academically pure but is essentially unusable.”

Back to more pleasant topics. Pretty much anything you’ll want to do with HTML is in this book: text formatting, rules, images, embedded multimedia, links, formatted lists, CSS, forms, tables, frames, basic XML and XHTML, and more. There’s also a complete chapter on embedding executable content. (Though this isn’t the place to learn how to write CGI or JavaScript. O’Reilly has other books for those, notably CGI Programming with Perl, Second Edition and David Flanagan’s well-respected JavaScript: The Definitive Guide, Fourth Edition).

The book’s coverage of forms is especially thorough. The authors review what has to happen on both the server and client side in order for a form to work, then cover all the basics (for example, when to use POST vs. GET; how to use each form interface element). There’s also a section on creating effective forms, including how to cope with limited displays and browser constraints. You’ll also walk through using email to collect forms data (essential when you can’t write CGI or your ISP doesn’t support it), but remember that email responses are far less secure!

We especially like the last chapter, "Tips, Tricks, and Hacks" (and, frankly, wish it were even longer). Favorite hacks: using tables to create multicolumn layouts complete with straddle heads and side heads, and overriding others’ targets to help your site visitors break out of someone else’s misbegotten frames. Best of all, unlike some “hacks” we’ve seen, this book’s HTML won’t transform your pages into formless chaos when someone has the audacity to use the wrong browser. Bill Camarda

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.

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Product Details

O'Reilly Media, Incorporated
Publication date:
HTML & XHTML: Definitive Guide Series
Edition description:
Fifth Edition
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 9.28(h) x 1.31(d)

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Meet the Author

Chuck Musciano has spent his life on the East Coast, having spent time in Maryland, Georgia, and New Jersey before acquiring a B.S. in computer science from Georgia Tech in 1982. Since then, he has resided in Melbourne, Florida, in the employ of Harris Corporation. He began his career as a compiler writer and crafter of tools and went on to join Harris' Advanced Technology Group to help develop large-scale multiprocessors. This led to a prolonged interest in user-interface research and development, which finally gave way to his current position, manager of UNIX Systems in Harris' Corporate Data Center. Along the way, he grew to know and love the Internet, having contributed a number of publicly available tools to the Net and started the still-running Internet Movie Ratings Report. The Web was a natural next step, and he has been running various Web sites within and without Harris for several years. Chuck has written on UNIX-related topics in the trade press for the past decade, most visibly as the "Webmaster" columnist for Sunworld Online ( In his spare time he enjoys life in Florida with his wife Cindy, daughter Courtney, and son Cole.

Bill Kennedy is currently president and chief technical officer of ActivMedia, Inc., a new media marketing and marketing research company based in beautiful Peterborough, NH, but which conducts business with clients and associates from around the world primarily over the Internet ( When not hacking new HTML pages or writing about them, "Dr. Bill" (Ph.D. in biophysics from Loyola University of Chicago, of all things!) is out promoting a line of mobile, autonomous robots as real-world platforms for artificial intelligence and fuzzy logic research and for education ( Or he's out drumming up writing assignments from his former colleagues at IDG's SunWorld/Advanced Systems Magazine (now SunWorld Online;, where he served as a senior editor-features (at-large over the Internet, of course) for nearly five years. Contact Dr. Bill directly at

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