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Eric Meyer on CSS: Mastering the Language of Web Design [Paperback]

Eric Meyer
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 8 2002 073571245X 978-0735712454 1

There are several other books on the market that serve as in-depth technical guides or reference books for CSS. None, however, take a more hands-on approach and use practical examples to teach readers how to solve the problems they face in designing with CSS - until now. Eric Meyer provides a variety of carefully crafted projects that teach how to use CSS and why particular methods were chosen. The web site includes all of the files needed to complete the tutorials in the book. In addition, bonus information is be posted.

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From the Publisher

If you were looking for someone to help you understand how to use CSS effectively in real-world projects that would be compatible across browsers, who would you go to? That one's easy -- Eric Meyer -- the guy web professionals call the CSS master or guru! Eric always wanted to add a third leg to the "two-legged stool" of CSS books he has written. I was fortunate enough to have the pleasure of working with Eric to make a practical project-based guide to CSS a reality.

Eric targeted this book at folks who have a pretty good knowledge of HTML and at least a basic knowledge of CSS. For those of you in that category, you'll love this book. You really get to work right along side Eric as he takes you through the progressively more advanced projects. This is one book you'll truly want to have on your desk if you want to incorporate CSS into your work!

In order to provide you with the resources you need on CSS in particular and web development in general, it's important to me to hear what you think about this book -- and what you'd like to see in future offerings. Please share your thoughts by emailing me at nrfeedback@newriders.com.


Linda Bump Sr. Acquisitions Editor, New Riders Publishing

From the Inside Flap

In addition to articlesand support charts and test suites, I've also written Cascading StyleSheets: The Definitive Guide (O'Reilly, 2000) and Cascading StyleSheets 2.0 Programmer's Reference (Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 2001), which tome always felt like two legs of a three-legged stool. The first leg coveredtheory in detail with the intent of educating the reader how CSS works in allits details. The second leg was meant for CSS authors who needed a referencetext to help them write clean CSS the first time and to remind them of valuenames and meanings. The missing third leg was a book that showed how CSS worksin a hands-on, practical way, preferably in full living color.

Happily, the third leg is missing no longer: Thanks to New Riders,you're holding it in your hands right now.

Should You Buy This Book?

That isn't a facetious question. As proud as I am of the work containedin these pages, I'm also keenly aware that this book is not for everyreader. So let me take a moment to describe two kinds of readers: those forwhom this book was written and those for whom it was not.

Those For Whom This Book Is Meant

You ought to find this book useful if you match one or more of the followingcriteria:

  • You want a hands-on, practical guide to using CSS in real-world projects.That's exactly what this book is all about.

  • You're a hands-on learner, someone who gets a lot more out ofinteractive experimenting than from just reading a book. Despite the fact thatthis is indeed a book, it's been intentionally designed to let the reader"play along at home," as it were.

  • You've been meaning to increase your CSS skills for some time now,but you keep putting it off because CSS is a large, complex subject, and youdon't have a roadmap for how to get to the next level.

  • You've always wanted someone to show you how to convert a typical,old-school, pure-HTML design into a blend of HTML and CSS and to explain whyit's to your advantage to do so. If that's the case, go to Project 1,"Converting an Existing Page," without another moment'sdelay.

  • If asked, you would describe your HTML skill level as"intermediate" or "expert" and your CSS skill level as"basic" or "intermediate." In other words, you understandHTML fairly well and have used enough CSS to have a basic grasp of how it'swritten.

Those For Whom This Book Is Not Meant

You might not find this book to be useful if one or more of the followingdescribes you:

  • You've never used or even seen CSS before. Although some basic termsare defined in the text and I've included a short glossary, the assumptionhere is that the reader knows the basics of writing CSS and is fairly proficientwith HTML authoring.

  • You want to understand all of the subtleties of the theory underlying CSSand grasp the nuances of the specification. There are now many books on themarket that occupy that niche. The focus here is on demonstrating effects thatwork.

  • You've only done Web design in a point-and-click editingenvironment. This book assumes that you can edit (or have edited) HTML and CSSby hand, and its narrative is based on that assumption. Its projects may beeasily reproducible in a point-and-click editor, but the book was not writtenwith such editors in mind.

  • You want a book that will tell you how to write CSS that will look thesame in all browsers on all platforms, including Netscape 4.x and Explorer 3.x.See the following section, "What You Can Expect from This Book," fordetails.

  • You've read my other works and hate the personal, familiar tone Itake in my writing. I promise you that my writing style has changed verylittle.

What You Can Expect From This Book

From the outset, my intent has been to write an engaging, interactive bookthat focuses on practical and interesting uses of CSS that can be deployed intoday's browsers. To do this, each project evolves from having no styles tobeing fully styled and ready for deployment on the Web. If I've done my jobwell, you should get the feeling of watching over my shoulder as I work on aproject, with me commenting on what I'm doing as I do it.

Although you can simply read the text and look at the figures to get a senseof how a project is evolving, I think the best way to work along with the bookis to have a Web browser and a text editor open as you read. That way, you canfollow along with the changes I make in the text by physically making the samechanges in your project file and seeing the changes in your own Web browser.

There is one point on which I want to be very clear: The techniques shown inthis book are generally meant for browsers whose version number is greater thanor equal to 5. If you have to design a site that looks the same in Explorer 4.xand Netscape 4.x as it does in IE6.x and NS6.x, this book is not for you.In fact, "Tricking Browsers and Hiding Styles" on the Web site spendsa good deal of time describing ways to hide CSS from version-4 browsers. Suchtechniques allow you to write CSS for modern browsers and still let the contentdisplay (albeit in a much plainer way) in older browsers. That's about asfar as this book goes to cater to the limitations of version-4 browsers,however.


In keeping with the practical, hands-on nature of this book, I'vedivided it into a series of 13 projects—each one effectively a chapter. Itis possible to skip around from project to project as the spirit moves youbecause each project was written to stand on its own as much as possible.However, the book was still written with the linear reader in mind, and if youread from front to back, you should find that the projects build on oneanother.

With a few exceptions, the projects are titled in as self-obvious a way aspossible. For example, Project 1 takes a page designed using only HTML markupand spacer GIFs and converts it to an HTML-plus-CSS design.

Projects 2 through 5 cover some fairly basic projects, from touching up apress release or an events calendar to making hyperlinks look better than theyever have before. Projects 6 and 7 increase the sophistication somewhat byfocusing on printing and the styling of form elements in more than one medium.Then, in Projects 8 through 11, the topics of discussion are positioning,integration of various styling techniques, and how to make designs look moreorganic and less boxy.

Project 12 takes a look at a powerful and potentially beautiful techniquethat isn't widely supported but can be adapted to work in the real world.In some ways, this is a look ahead to a future in which CSS support is morewidespread, but if you pick the right tools, you can flex your artistic musclestoday. All work and no play makes for a boring book, I always say.

Project 13 is the most ambitious and complex of the book: It is an attempt tore-create, as closely as possible, the visual design of this book in HTML andCSS. Just as important as the ways in which the look can be re-created are thediscussions of why certain things can't be exactly reproduced on theWeb.

Companion Web Site

Each project in the book is based on the editing of a real project file. Youcan either download the project files for the entire book at once, or for eachchapter individually.These files follow a consistentnaming; for example, the Project 1 file will be ch01proj.html. This isthe file you should open up with a text editor and make changes to as theproject moves forward. You can also load it into a Web browser and hit"Reload" at each step to see what effect the new styles have.


This book follows a few typographical conventions that you should be familiarwith before proceeding.

A new term is set in italics the first time it is introduced. Therewill often be a short definition of the term nearby. Program text, functions,variables, and other "computer language" are set in a fixed-pitchfont. In regular text, it will also be a dark blue color—for example, whenmentioning the property margin or a value like 10px.

Code blocks are set entirely in a fixed-pitch font. Any red text within acode block indicates a change to the code from its previous state. Most codeblocks show only a fragment of the overall document or style sheet, with thelines to be changed (or inserted) surrounded by unchanged text. This extra textprovides a sense of context, making it easier to find the part you need tochange if you're following along with the text. Here is an example:


<title>Travel Guide: Ragged Point Inn</title>

<style type="text/css">

table {border: 2px solid red; margin: 3px;}

td {border: 1px dotted purple; padding: 2px;}



Every computer book has its own style of presenting information. As you flipthrough this book, you'll notice that it has an interesting layout. Hereare the layout conventions:


These usually contain detailed explanations that are related to the main text but are not a part of the project itself. They might also offer alternative approaches or ideas to those demonstrated in a project. In every case, they can be skipped without disrupting the project's flow.


These are meant to be helpful annotations to the main text, and there are alot of them in this book. These are used to provide tips, asides, definitions of new terms, tangential points, or related bits of information.


These indicate a point that might cause problems in some browsers or a similarly grave note of caution.

Web site notes provide guidance as to which files to download or load into aWeb browser, or things to check out on the Web.

Finally, at the end of each project you will find a section titled"Branching Out." This will present three short exercises that inviteyou to try modifying the finished project in certain ways. These"branches" are certainly not the end of what you can do, but they mayhelp you start experimenting with the concepts presented in the project. Thinkof them as jumping-off points for your own design ideas and also as interestingchallenges in their own right. If you can match the illustrations with your ownstyles, then you'll be well on your way to writing creative CSS of yourown.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is this book for you? May 10 2004
By njdj
This is a good book, but before buying it, check that you are in the target audience. It is not a reference book. It is not for complete newbies. It is not for gurus, either.
It is more like a hands-on CSS training course for somebody who has used HTML a lot, knows a little bit about CSS, and who wants to make fuller use of CSS. If this is what you are looking for, this is an excellent book. It is well-produced, with appropriate and intelligent use of color screenshots, too.
You will need to use some kind of reference in addition to this book when you actually write CSS for your own sites.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A OK book for experienced people March 11 2004
By A Customer
Being in the IT industry, mostly web based, I thought I would give this book a try to see what new material I could learn and apply in my job. Anyway, it was a disappointment. The book doesn't really explain anything but walks you through on changing from a non CSS site to one. It's not that good for what CSS is capable of doing either and the options associated with it. Overall, this book really isn't any good for someone that has experience. To me, it's more of a beginner to intermediate level for those who have only scratched the surface of CSS. If your experienced, don't bother.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Expand your universe Nov. 3 2013
By bernie TOP 50 REVIEWER
So far I am just dabbling with CSS. This book is great for taking you from ground zero to something svelte. The lessen format is like having your personal tutor. I will eventually get around to something practical. In the mean time I am expanding my universe.

So far I find this to be midlevel coding. The real problem with top level is that you have know idea want you are doing and a lot of superfluous overhead is added to the commands; it is good for a quickie but can later paint you into a corner. Low level will give you tighter code and more control over results. Midlevel is a compromise but sometimes adds functionality that can not be reached at the lover level command line coding.

Every language has it strengths and purpose they just do not invent more complexity for the fun of it. I hope to have the mechanics down before I find out what it is.

CSS may come and go but it is necessary to be aware of it incase you need to correct someone else's code. For me this is the right book at the right time. What time is it for you?

CSS: The Definitive Guide by Eric Meyer
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Brawny Mechanic of Web Design July 26 2002
In the interest of full disclosure, I submit my bias up front: everything I've read by Eric, whether book, article, or newsgroup post dashed off to aid a complete stranger, has been clarity nonpareil. In addition, I cheerfully choose to ignore his gracious yet wholly unexpected and aberrant judgment in mentioning my name in the acknowledgements.
If you are a person who frequents Internet newsgroups, listservs, and online forums related to Web work, you cannot have missed the word of mouth that is going around about this book. The praise is from all ranges of Web design experience and it is well-deserved.
I don't need to outline the book's contents. The editorial reviews and the information on the book's web site do that in detail. Eric has also made the code available to people who do not buy the book. But if you just work the code, you will be missing the book's motivation, warnings, tips, advice, colorful layout, and wit that make the code pop.
Eric, right from the outset, shows you how to combine both elementary and advanced style techniques. He leads you to do this in such a natural, seamless way that at different stages in each project you realize with a start that you just worked a bit of magic!
A long time ago, working in a huge factory in Pittsburgh, I tagged along as a helper to a mechanic who was massive and muscular. I fully expected prodigious feats of brute strength from the man. None were to be seen. His favorite saying was "If you have to use force, you must be doing something wrong." Eric calmly cuts through the clutter and makes it all look easy with just that spirit.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expected more June 23 2004
By A Customer
After all that I've read about Eric Meyer, I must admit I was left wanting after reading this book. The experience reminded me of certain teachers I had in college: very bright, knew what they were doing, but did not know how to effectively convey their knowledge to others. For instance, his erratic use of varying units of measure within the same CSS rule - usually without explanation - goes against most all professional design convention, making the resulting code both difficult to learn AND difficult to maintain (VERY confusing for subsequent Web technicians needing to modify the work).
Buy the book - but buy it USED.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eric Meyer is a CSS God June 3 2004
Make sure you kow what you are doing before you pick up this beauty. Its not for the CSS beginner, but is perfect for the web developer who is really only looking for answers.
Its format is sort of recipe-like in that he guides you step by step through some very specific types of projects, but you can certainly adapt the lesons to do your own thing.
Since Eric is a bit of a CSS purist, he doesnt really cover hacks and work arounds for the various browser incompatibilities, and the screenshots are all on Netscape on Mac. I noted that in a few places my IE 6 on Win XP didnt render exactly the same way.
Beautiful 4 color layout - but why did they make the images so small?
Despite the couple of little issues I had with the book, this may be the best CSS book ever written.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Product
Product arrived in good time and in excellent condition. It was sold as used but it could easy qualify for new. I recommend the book and the seller. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Ben
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I really loved this book and learned a lot on CSS with it. I was tempted to put a 4 or 4.5 for one thing though: it's hard to use it as a reference once you have finished it and... Read more
Published on April 7 2006 by Nelson Therrien
5.0 out of 5 stars a definite plus
Excellent Book!
This book is a definite plus for all people who have dabbled in table-free design but weren't quite ready to dive head first. Read more
Published on June 9 2004 by Douglas E White
4.0 out of 5 stars Code in a boat
I found this book to be extremly useful. A step by step manual of CSS and how it works with over 20 great examples to learn by. Read more
Published on April 21 2004 by "kankersour"
3.0 out of 5 stars Good writing but not enough book
Eric's writing is great, however, for a thin book with limited content, my opinion is that New Riders Publishing got greedy with the pricing of the book. $45 retail in the stores?! Read more
Published on March 4 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars A Cookbook For Writing HTML with Style
I bought the book hoping to learn how to create pop-up menus. I was disappointed in that respect. I did find it to be a nice guide for using style sheets for specific situations. Read more
Published on Jan. 19 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars Design for the 10 %
Over 90% of the browsers surfing the internet are using IE, but this book's examples seem to only work best on Netscape browsers. Read more
Published on Dec 26 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book -- but read intro
Wonderful book, but when the author says you need to know some CSS going in, he means it. This is not a beginners book, to get the most out of it you should know some CSS before... Read more
Published on Nov. 29 2003 by M. A. Devlin
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