HTML for the World Wide Web – A Review

Author: Elizabeth Castro
Reviewer: Stephen Walker
with XHTML and CSS

The book begins by explaining the basic differences in HTML, XML and XHTML and the need for the evolution therein. While it is undoubtedly correct, factually, it was a little grey in detail.

Described as a pictorial quickstart guide it achieves that objective reasonably well. It is a very thorough book and it is a number of years since I studied it in any detail. So, I think I will just list the main chapters and annotate my observations as we go.

Chapter 1 Web Page Building Blocks

Begins with the fundamentals of Elements, Attributes and Values and goes on to discuss the Inline and Block types.  We move on quickly to consider the parent and child relationships these elements can possess.

Cascading Stylesheets are introduced with a very thorough, understandable explanation of cascading or inheritance. I don’t wish to go into detail, that is the function of the book.

Chapter 2 Working with Web Page Files

We begin by considering the Web Site design or structure before creating files which is an excellent idea and one I am very guilty of not doing properly. Then which editor to use? This is a personal choice and I use FrontPage most of the time as it allows quick previewing of the page layout. Having said this I seldom use the interactive features of FrontPage preferring to do most coding by hand. I will often finish coding with Notepad.

Next we consider file organisation and naming conventions which may seem trivial but does play a part in managing your site and with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

HTML for the World Wide Web
HTML for the World Wide Web

Chapter 3 Basic (X)HTML Structure

This chapter covers the most basic (X)HTML elements – the ones you need to create the structure of your document. You’ll learn how to create new paragraphs, headers, page breaks, comments and more,

Creating a clear and consistent structure makes it much easier to apply styles to your document.

Chapter 4 Basic (X)HTML Formatting

In this chapter Elizabeth Castro talks about the basic HTML formatting options available to the Web Site developer who chooses not to use Cascading Stylesheets for the page layout and appearance.

Tags such as <b> (bold) and <i> (italic) are simple to use and take up very little overhead so, do not justify the effort of creating a separate CSS file.

Chapter 5 Creating Web Images

Web friendly images have specific characteristics that images for other media formats may not have or need. Images for the Web need to be downloaded with each page viewed so file size is of major importance, The file size is determined by the file format and the image resolution.

This chapter does not set out to teach graphic design, only to discuss useful tips for manipulating images on your Web Site. It does touch on acquiring images and the possibility of copyright infringement.

Chapter 6 Using Images

I learned something new from this section. When wrapping text around a floated image you can use certain attributes for the <br> element to control where the text begins after the break. Otherwise, this paragraph looks at options for positioning your images on the page.

Chapter 7 Links

This looks into an important feature of all Web Pages; links or anchors. These can be textual or graphical and provide the means by which a user will navigate around a Web Site, or indeed, to another Web Site.

As this chapter follows the chapters on images, it is only logical to consider image links including image maps. Image maps allow specific areas of an image to be an explicit link to a particular destination. Simple image maps can be created manually, but more complex images maps may require the use of a third-party product.

Chapter 8 Creating Styles

I found this section more confusing than illuminating. It tries to compress a subject into single chapter that often occupies an entire volume. It also appears to focus on inline style sheets rather than the external style sheets I am more familiar with.

Chapter 9 Applying Styles

Interestingly, this chapter suggests style sheets can be selected manually by the visitor, a concept I had not previously encountered. However, it ends by saying this feature is only available in NetScape 6, A fact I am sure is out of date now. It does begin to explain the use of external style sheets, but only briefly.

Chapter 10 Formatting with Styles

This is a fairly short chapter looking more closely at how individual CSS elements are defined. It shows example of inline CSS which I feel overlook the whole point of centralizing the layout control.

Chapter 11 Layout with Styles

This chapter is interesting, it discusses the notion of document flow and the ‘box model’ where each element is contained within a virtual box. This is all good stuff but, not enough attention to detail is provided for a good understanding.

Chapter 12 Style Sheets for Printing

I will be honest, I have not used this feature. I am either to lazy or don’t wish to consider visitors who may wish to print my pages.

Style Sheets for printing are, as they infer, styles to be used when the document is printed, often very different to the way you would like it displayed in the browser. I have visited sites that use this functionality to great effect.

Chapter 13 Lists

Away from CSS now, we look at ordered and unordered lists. How you control the numbering order of ordered lists and the bullet style of unordered lists. Custom or image bullets are touched on and nesting of lists is also covered.

Chapter 14 Tables

Designed for presenting tabular data, tables are often used for more complex layout control. W3C prefers you use CSS for this purpose, but many still favour tables as a simpler quicker solution.

Creating complex table layouts takes a little bit of practice and visual editing tools are often the easiest means of accomplishing this. One big drawback is that subsequent editing is often fraught with difficulties.

Chapter 15 Frames

Frames are a means of displaying multiple pages on the one parent page. I think the practice has fallen out of favour as there have always been a number of drawbacks.

Chapter 16 Forms

Forms provide some basic interactivity with Web Site visitor. They allow you to enter and submit information to the Web Site. Largely superceded by JavaScript and PHP, they are still supported by most browsers.

 

There are more chapters in the book than are summarized here but, I think I have provided a reasonably concise overview of what the book is about.

HTML for the World Wide Web is a good introductory book that I found useful at the time. The CSS sections I found inadequate and I had to purchase a specific CSS book to cover that.

There are a number of very useful appendices at the end of this book and I still regularly refer to these.

 

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