|Styling Web Pages with CSS: Visual QuickProject Guide|
|author||Tom Negrino and Dori Smith|
|summary||A beginner's guide to the proper use of CSS|
Before any CSS is discussed, there is a general introduction including how the book is structured, the sample web site to be created, and what tools will be useful to create the site. For the tools, the authors recommend at least a text editor (not a word processor) and your favorite browser. BBEdit and TextWrangler are suggested for Mac owners, while Notepad is okay for Windows. I personally use Notepad++, which has styling cues for both HTML and CSS (as well as many others), so I would recommend it for Windows users. To insure compatibility with the browser, Tom and Dori say you should have Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. Strangely, Opera is barely mentioned in the book. I tested the examples using the first two. Finally, a true CSS editor might be useful, as it will provide you with your options. They suggested MacRabbit's CSSEdit for Mac users, or WesternCIV's Style Master for either Macs or Windows. I used Style Master 4.6 for Windows during testing.
After the introductory chapter, CSS is explained starting with a chapter on the basics, with simple guidelines for their use. Classes (which can be used many times) are contrasted with ids (which can be used only once per HTML file), and the benefits of using external style sheets versus internal styles is explained.
The next three chapters build upon each other to provide gentle instruction on how to layout and style the text and images. Formatting menus, tables and headings are tackled next, followed by a chapter devoted to browser differences. Finally, alternative menu and page formatting and CSS debugging is discussed.
All of the major concepts of CSS are presented so that a beginner can easily understand them. While some ways of utilizing CSS properly can be the subject of debate, the authors have chosen a rational approach that serves the basic web designer well. The result is a set of web pages that follow a simply understood design, yet ensures that the layout and format is isolated to the CSS style document, rather than the HTML.
Over and over, Tom and Dori provide useful links to web sites with additional information on the intricacies of CSS, as well as providing suggestions for programs to help you with massaging images and references to other books for more in-depth coverage.
The best way to fully understand what Tom and Dori are trying to explain is to replicate the example web site (Alpaca Repo). Unfortunately, there is no link in the book or on PeachPit's web site to a set of downloadable images and html files. The only way I was able to replicate most (but not all) of the examples was to look at alpacarepo.com. It has six pages, two style sheets, and two photos. The book shows other photos and more complete pages, so it's a partial solution at best.
Overall, Styling Web Pages with CSS: Visual QuickProject Guide is a nice introduction to the potentially confusing topic of the proper use of CSS. Many of the fancier techniques are avoided for the more common and useful ones. The short length of the book allows the beginner to avoid the feeling of intimidation that can accompany reading a 1,000 page text that covers everything you never wanted to know. Even so, I felt less than satisfied after I finished. I wanted a little bit more than I was given. Even if the book doubled in size, it would still be accessible yet it could then leave the reader with a feeling of contentment. As this is the first QuickProject book I've read, that may simply be the target they were shooting for.
One final wish for Peachpit: please include downloadable files that the reader can access to duplicate the Alpaca Repo website. I was continually frustrated when I wanted to replicate what I had just read about, yet was missing JPEG files or extensive text that I could use. Consequently, I never felt as though I had actually gotten the hang of CSS.
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