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Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide Eric Meyer
Published by O'Reilly Media
ISBN:0-596-00525-3
528 pages
£ 28.50
Published: March 2004
reviewed by Mike Smith
   in the June 2004 issue (pdf), (html)
bookcover  

It is worth having a look at the CSS Zen Garden website -- especially the ``Wiggles the Wonderworm'' design ! http://www.csszengarden.com/ This demonstrates how the layout of a page can be fundamentally changed using CSS. It's much more than just changing font faces and sizes. NTK had a play around with CSS a while ago, but that's about as far as I thought you could go.

This is a second edition book - unfortunately I don't have the first edition so cannot compare it. However, apparently it's not much bigger, and some support sections were dropped from the first edition (that the author considers better online anyway, so that it can be kept up-to- date) - enabling a lot of additional information to be added to the book. CSS2 and CSS2.1 are covered. There's been a gap of four years between these editions - it's surprising how the time flies.

The idea behind CSS is that HTML can go back to its original conception -- describing the structure of a document, not its presentation. CSS lets you do anything you could do with FONT and all the other tags, but it'll do much more too.

CSS is great for content management systems. I use PostNuke (which was hacked twice recently, but that's another story), and it's easy to set colours, style etc in one place, and it's reflected across the whole site. You do get a similar effect with HTML templates, of course - but it can be easier with CSS. What's quite interesting is that you could refer to a CSS in an XML document and do away with HTML altogether.

At the risk of telling you something you can easily find on the O'Reilly website, the book has chapters covering some generalities, then specifics on Fonts; Text; Elements; Borders; Colours (without the 'u', unfortunately); Positioning; Tables and Lists. There are some interesting chapters at the end on changing cursors and other system things, and support for other media - such as Audio (though apparently specific Aural support is being replaced by something more generic). Although the obvious use of audio is to aid the visually impaired, you can even position the source of sounds in 3D space - so you could have some fun with 3D sound systems. I've just got a Creative Audigy 2 ZS, and it is fantastic with first person shooters - though perhaps web browsing isn't going to be quite that exciting.

There are lots of examples (albeit in Black and White), and the text serves two purposes - you can read through it initially to learn about Cascading Style Sheets, and also use it as a reference manual.

Although 500 pages seems like a lot, it is broken down well, and there's also an appendix with a complete reference of CSS properties.

I do recommend this book. A lot of the information will be available on the web of course - but if you like paper, this is a good one.

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