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The Ultimate HTML Reference Hardcover – May 29 2008
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About the Author
Ian Lloyd runs accessify.com, a web accessibility site that he started in 2002, and has written or co-written a number of web development books. Ian was previously a member of the Web Standards Project and is a regular speaker at web development conferences, including the highly regarded South By Southwest (SXSW) and @media events.
Top Customer Reviews
With this said, I am not a professional website designer by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not sure if I'm following proper HMTL (or XHMTL) protocol or if I'm using a lot of code that is just confusing my viewers' browsers.
The Ultimate HTML Reference can be used in a variety of ways. The first chapter explains the differences and uses of HTML versus XHTML. The rest of the book is separated into intuitive sections so that those new to HTML can learn step by step. Finally, the author has added a variety of extremely useful appendixes: for code that is rarely used anymore (and often no longer supported by common browsers), for non-standard elements, and code in alphabetical order for easy reference.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
(1) Every HTML tag past and present is covered in this book.
(2) Each tag description is covered by telling you the proper open and closing tag, and available parameters;
(3) An example HTML segment is given on how it's used;
(4) Whether this is still valid HTML or an old, deprecated tag;
(5) A brief text description on what the tag is used for, and when you should use it;
(6) Browser support for the tag, with four browsers covered: IE, Firefox, Safari, and Opera. What version of the browser supports the tag, and its compatibility with past browsers. No other HTML reference that I know has this.
(7) An index of each tag for quick look up.
(8) A table of contents in logical segments: HTML Concepts, Structural Elements, Head Elements, List Elements, Text Formatting Elements, Form Elements, Image & Media Elements, Table Elements, Frame & Window Elements, Common Attributes with three appendixes: Deprecated Elements, Proprietary & Nonstandard Elements, and an Alphabetic Element Index.
Now, to the aesthetics. The book is gorgeous. Type is well spaced, large, and laid out beautifully. Each tag is laid out in the same format with shaded areas for quick reference. And the piece-de-resistance, this is a hard-backed book, so when you pull it out of the bookshelf it feels solid and nice in your hand, not like a floppy fish you get with the soft covered tombs.
What this book is not. A text on learning HTML. This is not a step-by-step guide. It is a beautiful dictionary for fast look up of HTML tags when your not sure of allowed options, format, whether it is a supported tag, or what browsers are supported.
Five Stars for exactly what it is, "The Ultimate HTML Reference."
I strongly agree with the first reviewer that the aesthetics of this book are outstanding. The typography and layout are superb. Astute attention to these simple elements remarkably enhances the usefulness and readability of this book. An important aspect of my own job is transferring the same approach to the visual interfaces of Web applications, so I appreciate the sweat that went into this simplicity.
Since I made my enthusiasm clear, I guess I can belabor my quibbles. I am not sure I would call this an "ultimate" reference because much has been left out. This is not particularly bad since the emphasis of the book is simplicity and usability. Most Web workers will surely want to use this book's approach, with all its fine organization and examples, rather than the W3C specs.
What might you want more of? Well, there is no index for attributes. Each tag, like BUTTON, has plenty of attributes. Knowing what attributes are appropriate and most effective is important. For instance, this book covers the most critical attributes for BUTTON -- but not all of them. It mentions that IE has an incorrect default value for the TYPE attribute. This is very good to know, but even more important to know is that client-side script does not work for Firefox if the TYPE attribute does not have an explicit value of BUTTON.
The world of HTML is fairly simple but can be treacherous. That is exactly why someone moving into this world will find this book a ready aid.
One of the appendices covers deprecated elements - that is, those elements and attributes that are no longer supported by the newest HTML and XHTML standards (but most browsers still permit their use, just the same). Another covers some of those special (read that annoying) proprietary and nonstandard elements (remember the "blink" command in Netscape--that only worked in Netscape?).
The organization of the book makes it very easy for individuals with at least some HTML coding experience to locate the elements and attributes they need, and describes in just enough detail how to apply them. While there aren't as many examples as I might like, there seem to be enough for most users. What I do like is the compatibility chart that goes with each attribute. The chart displays compatibility (Full, Partial, and None) of the attribute against several versions of the most currently popular browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Opera.
Within the book's first 25 pages, readers receive preparation for upcoming changes to the HTML standards, as XHTML (eXtensible HyperText Markup Language, a hybrid of HTML and XML--eXtensible Markup Language--a highly structured, rules-based markup language) begins to take over. XHTML tightens up some of the structuring that was missing in HTML, which makes the code much more readable and easier to modify as needed, and if you need to transition to full XML (for things like content management systems), much of the work has already been done. HTML 4.0 and earlier code, in comparison, can be really sloppy, but it still renders just fine in most browsers. For example, in HTML 4.0, capitalization is optional, and line endings don't need to be terminated in a formatting attribute, like "".
XHTML also imposes more stringent rules on quoting. Every attribute value must be quoted. For example, quoted attributes like class="gallery" are mandatory in HTML 5.0 and newer. HTML 4.0 code permits code like class=gallery.
The author takes pains to differentiate the older HTML vs the new XHTML, and if you haven't started coding in XHTML, be prepared to break newer browsers on their way to a computer near you. Not today, but maybe a year or two (or three) from now, the older HTML formats will begin to disappear as XHTML becomes the new standard. If you want to read more about the differences between HTML and XHTML, check this page out. But I digress...
What surprised me were the number of new attributes and elements that I had not used before that are a part of XHTML as well as newer releases of the HTML specification. It turned out to be very useful in a recent office project where we converted one of our product manuals to HTML--a project that had plenty of tricky points to deal with.
A companion website contains everything in the book, fully hyperlinked and searchable, as an additional valuable resource. It's free, to boot. The free companion site to the CSS reference book can be accessed at [...]
What can I say? This book replaced Taylor's book as my primary HTML reference at home and at the office. It's well worth the 45 dollar price-tag. I can only find fault with the fact that it doesn't have enough chunks of sample HTML and illustrations of how the HTML will render. Most of my loyal readers (?) know that I'm pretty tough with my ratings, but taking that really small negative into account, I give this book the MyMac Magazine rating of 4.5 out of 5.
I've found myself frequently reaching for it when trying to remember how to control a table layout in a blog entry or double-checking how to get a link to open in a new window. The material is complete so far as I can tell, and the organization, including TOC and index, is strong and lets me easily find what I need. At $45 it isn't a cheap volume, but could easily save you its cost in time efficiency in your first time or two of using it.
I do wish that the index were more complete and cross-referenced. But still a good book to have close by when dealing with HTML.
Unfortunately this is a book that is let down by the way that the information is presented rather than by the information itself as the way that the book is set out it presents all of the standard, deprecated, and many proprietary HTML tags and attributes sorted alphabetically by general category without making it clear enough which are which.
The book does state which elements and attributes are deprecated and proprietary but you need to read carefully through the entry in order to see that information. As many people will not look that carefully the book has at least the potential to promote the use of deprecated and proprietary code instead of the standard equivalents. Even just a vertical line down the side of deprecated and proprietary entries to distinguish them visually from the standard code would be a huge improvement. Possibly the best alternative would have been to break the book up into two sections with standard elements and attributes in the first part and deprecated and proprietary ones in the second part allowing those attempting to use standard complient code to just ignore the latter 60% of the book.
The book also fails to distinguish clearly enough between elements and attributes and you need to look really closely at the heading on each section to tell one from the other. A clearer indication of where the write up on each element starts would have fixed this.
Despite my preference for printed reference books rather than online references, I suggest that you will be much better off using the online version of this reference on the SitePoint site where the same information is much easier to follow than the poor way that it is presented here in book form.
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