Publisher: Prentice Hall
Aimed at: Non-programmers
Pros: Attractive presentation, detailed practical guidance
Cons: Do you really need to know about these topics
Reviewed by: Sue Gee
Even if HTML5 can be explained in "simple steps", can this apply to CSS?
The first reservation I have about this title is who exactly is going to benefit from it.
There are so many options for creating a website using free or inexpensive, pre-packaged, resources, why would any beginner who needed an introduction at this simplified levels want to to grips with "raw" HTML - or even worse face the complexities of CSS3?
I can imagine situations in which you might want to inspect and edit HTML - that is something I do on a day-to-day basis - but this book goes further than than required for this task - and doesn't go far enough if you need to master CSS3 to the point where you could make the most of it.
This title is part of a series and follows and established formula. Like the others it is in full color and with lots of illustrations and big print so it comes across as friendly and approachable.
It starts with Top 10 Tips and ends with Top 10 Problems solved and it between tackles specific tasks in a hands-on manner giving number points to follow with one or two pages devoted ti each. There isn't an index so if you want help with something specific you need to scan the contents pages.
Apart from the cover, color is an important aspect of the book. Each chapter uses a different color for its headings and the step numbers that characterize each page. Pages also have colored tabs at the top acting as a visual marker to where chapters begin and end. Having full color screen dumps helps and this use of color adds to the impression of being reader-friendly. Color is also used for the boxouts that are liberally sprinkled throughout the book - red for a Hot Tip, yellow for Alert, blue for See Also, green for Did You Know (which in this volume is used for additional explanation) and magenta for What Does this Mean (which explains jargon terms).
With so much space devoted to the colorful page furniture and to screen dumps there's not much left for the book's instructional content - but this means that it is broken down into very small chunks, which actually works well in this instance.
The first chapter, Steps before you begin, deals with preliminaries, starting with downloading multiple browsers and getting a text editor, specifically Notepad++ which is the author's preference. He also shows how to download both an HTML and a CSS Quick Reference Guide and find a source of Lorum Ipsum text. This initial chapter also introduces the idea of HTML tags, elements and attributes.
We get going with HTML in Chapter 2 which looks at Structuring documents with HTML5 in ten tasks, starting with creating a basic HTML document with tags for a header and a body. Subsequent tasks create a title and add content to the body element, then we learn about HTML comments before adding HTML sections and articles, and the chapter rounds out by creating HTML navigation,a sidebar, a content header and a footer.
Chapter 3 is on Using HTML text markup tags and starts with some discussion of breaking text into paragraphs. Headings and tags for formatting text - bold, strikethrough, subscripts, formatting text as computer code and creating lists of various types, and dealing with quotations are all in this chapter.
The next chapter covers both Working with hyperlinks and images in just nine tasks and then we arrive at the topic of Working with HTML tables which is broken down into thirteen tasks, which does simplify something that can be difficult.
Then comes Chapter 6 on the even more difficult topic of forms that obtain user input and this introduces the idea of method and action attributes. The form created in Chapter 6 is used in Chapter 7 which goes into more input controls, starting with the input tag and, after creating a search field and fields for a telephone number and password, looks at the spinbox, file picker, range slider, and URL field controls. It then covers creating a date picker, color picker, a submit button, a reset button and rounds out with defining an image as a button.
At this point we've covered HTML and move on to CSS, Chapter 8, Specifying CSS styles opens with the preliminaries - find documentation, bookmark the W3C site, download the Quick Reference Guide and find out what's new in CSS3 as the technology moves rapidly. Next we are guided through making an HTML template to save having to do both HTML markup and CSS coding in subsequent exercises before an introduction to CSS followed by the straightforward task of creating CSS comments. Next comes Understand classes and ids, which is strikingly different in having more explanation than normal and references to object-oriented programming principles. The remaining tasks in the chapter covering creating an external style sheet and linking an HTML file to it, creating an internal style sheet and an inline style sheet and using CSS selectors.
Chapter 9 jumps to one of the features that is made possible by CSS3 - adding rounded element corners to borders. To work up to this there are two preliminary steps - adding a border and setting properties independently for each of its lines - and then there are subsequent steps that look at specifying colors and setting foreground and background colors and four concluding steps on background images.
Chapter 10 is devoted to Formatting fonts and text with CSS and Chapter 11 is on Controlling white space, covering element padding and margins, aligning text, text justification. adjusting word and letter spacing, line wrapping and indenting. Margins and padding are also discussed in the next chapter in the context of the 'box model' in CSS. It also introduces the idea of relative and absolute sizing.
Chapter 13 is about Positioning elements with CSS, including the float and clear properties and absolute and relative positioning. Having already tackled some complex CSS, Chapter 14 rounds out with Formatting Tables with CSS.
Overall this book is attractive presented, well structured and easy to follow. While constrained by its formulaic approach, it includes just enough explanation for you to understand what is going on. I still have to be convinced that it's entirely necessary, which is why it has a rating of 4.