Book Review ~ CSS The Definitive Guide
Friday, April 27, 2007 3:09:21 PM
CSS is used for styling the content of an HTML (Hypertext Mark Up Language) or XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Mark Up Language) document. It allows an author to separate presentation and content. It also allows web pages to load faster by not having the styling in the document itself, thus making for a smaller file size.
The author has really brought together a definitive look at CSS and what it can and cannot do. The book covers CSS through the current W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) recommendation 2.1 and references the upcoming CSS3 Recommendation that is currently in the works. It also contains three Appendixes, property reference; selector, pseudo-class, pseudo-element reference; and a sample HTML 4 style sheet. These three references are worth the cost of the book.
Eric gives a history of CSS and in his writing tells the reader about what was changed between the CSS Recommendation 1.0, 2.0 and 2.1 and why these changes were made. Usually changes occurred because user agents (browsers to non-tech types) did not widely support certain recommendations.
There has been much talk for a while about web standards. Although the W3C makes recommendations, for web designers and developers they see these recommendations as standards and write their code according to these recommendations so that you, the web surfer, can view the pages they write as they intended (or as close as possible based on your browser settings) in whatever browser you use to surf the web.
This is a must have book for anyone who creates web pages or is interested in beginning the journey into web publishing. Tables used for designing web pages are still used but are being discourages for accessibility issues. Extensible Hypertext Mark Up Language (XHTML) and Hypertext Mark Up Language (HTML) are the vehicles for structuring the content of a web page. CSS is the vehicle for presenting the content on the web.
In Chapter 1 Eric discusses bringing CSS and XHTML together with detail and good examples of how-to. He discusses in Chapter 2 the rules, the structure and the different types of Selectors. Then he heads off into the structure of the document and the cascade of the styles and how it works discussing specificity, the rules you write and in what order they work, how a rule might overrule another rule and inheritance and how it affects the styling of the document in Chapter 3.
I don't want to spoil the book for you or give you too detailed a description of each chapter, but this is a very up-to-date publication that web designers can use as a reference when things get tough.
The author discusses values and units, fonts, text properties and a separate chapter on basic visual formatting. He shows you how to apply padding, borders and margins and delves into colors and backgrounds.
One of the easiest and hardest parts of CSS is the use of floating and positioning elements with CSS. There are pitfalls with browsers that Eric shows you how to avoid and workarounds when these pitfalls are unavoidable. You can gain a better understanding of how and when to apply these principles after reading the chapter.
Table layout, generated content and lists and user interface styles was a very eye opening read for me. Eric took me by the hand and led me through the valley of darkness into the light in these three chapters. I was amazed at how far CSS has come since the mid to late 1990's when I was first introduced to it.
The last chapter deals with Non-Screen Media and how to style for these different media and what they are. The author writes about what browsers support these alternative styles and some of the pitfalls of styling for non-screen media.
Even though the book is excellently written and examples thoroughly discussed, a reading of the W3C HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0 and CSS 2.1 Recommendations will give you a better understanding of structuring and styling a document and what is and is not allowed. Again, (X)HTML and CSS work in tandem. It can be very frustrating at times to make things work the way you would like, and this book can ease those frustrating times with solutions.
The book will also spark your imagination to do and try things you may never have thought of. It can offer the spark of creativity that will change bland web pages into attractive and eye catching designs. Though it may not give you the control that a print designer has over their design, it comes real close to doing that, and Eric can show you how.
Today CSS is far more than just styling text and backgrounds. It is a very powerful language and this book shows you how to apply it. If you already understand the principles it is a great reference for those times when you get just plain stuck and need an answer.
My time is up; I thank you for yours.