the encyclopaedia of HTML coding - and the latest XHTML

Review of: HTML & XHTML
Chuck Musciano

Reviewed by:
On 11 July 2009
Last modified:7 January 2016


Encyclopedia of HTML coding

The problem with HTML is that just when you thought you had grasped the basics of web page design, something new emerges. Here comes the latest development – XHTML – which stands for ‘extensible hypertext markup language’. Musciano and Kennedy aim to keep you up to date with these latest developments. So – what are they? XHTML is an extension to the HTML code – at 4.01 in its present version. It is in fact a part of the XML code – and XML is itself a subset of the general Standard General Markup Language (SGML). Still confused? The authors have already guessed that, and in HTML and XHTML they do their best to explain.

HTML and XHTMLWhat they do in this excellent manual is cover every element of HTML/XHTML in detail, explaining how each element works and how it interacts with other elements. Many hints about HTML/XHTML style help you write documents ranging from simple online documentation to complex presentations. With hundreds of examples, the book gives you models for writing your own effective web pages and for mastering advanced features like style sheets and frames.

When HTML was originally conceived, no one had any idea it would be so successful or be asked to handle so many kinds of documents, browsers, and media. While it has borne up admirably under the demands of web users, HTML 4.0 has stretched as far as it can to accommodate new technology. While HTML 4.0 is petering out, XHTML 1.0 stands ready to step in, designed to handle almost anything web authors can dream up.

There are in fact three possibilities for XHTML – the ‘strict’ version which is limited but future-proof; the ‘transitional’ version which allows authors to write with current browsers in mind; and a third version which deals with frames. The reassuring news they offer is that "learning HTML is still the way to go for most authors and Web developers" – but they do remind readers that "content is paramount; appearance is secondary".

They also warn that "writing XHTML documents requires much more discipline and attention to detail than even the most fastidious HTML author ever dreamed necessary." This sounds a bit frightening – but really, it just means being extra careful with coding. It means that all tags must be opened, then closed. No more leaving out those </P> paragraph tags.

And the beauty of this book is that all the basic HTML coding is covered in the great detail which has been generated over its earlier editions. They deal with forms, frames, tables, and even Java scripts, and all the tutorial material is fully illustrated, with plenty of screenshots and understandable code.

All the really useful appendices are there too – HTML grammar, Cascading Style Sheets, the HTML and XHTML document definitions, character entities, color names and values, and of course a complete list of XHTML tags with browser compatibility notes.

If you want the very best reference manual to HTML and its latest developments – this is it. I guarantee that no matter which other web page design books you might have on your shelves, this is the one to which you will keep coming back – again and again.

© Roy Johnson 2006

Chuck Musciano & Bill Kennedy, HTML& XHTML: The Definitive Guide 6th edition, Sebastopol (CA): O’Reilly, 2006, pp.654, ISBN: 0596527322

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