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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2001
These days, with applications such as "Flash" and "Frontpage" being used to put all the bells and whistles on applications, most wouldn't give a second thought to this book. This is unfortunate. This book is without a doubt the most important book anyone who has a background in HTML can pick up. It deals in great depth with the W3C CSS 1.0 standard, which allows the web designer to customize and standardize their pages to the minutest detail. I was surprised at how comprehensive this book was since it showed me how to do everything from creating lists bulleted with custom images to layering text/images on top of one another. The use of external cascading style sheets allowed me to create elaborate "standard" pages that could be updated by merely changing the stylesheet file. This concept is carried further in eXtensible Style Sheet language (XSL) and therefore is probably the best introduction to XML, before actually beginning to read up on XML! One thing in particular (among many!) about this book that I liked was the extensive use of screenshots to illustrate the effects of various scripts, something often missing from O'Reilly books. After reading this excellent tutorial/reference, read "JavaScript, the Definitive Guide", and "Dynamic HTML: The Definitive Reference" to learn how to create powerful client-side web pages (pop-up images, pop-down menus, etc.). Throw out FrontPage and really begin developing!
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on June 28, 2004
The subtitle claims this volume is the definitive guide, I believe it. This book provides comprehensive coverage of the current cascading style sheets specification and how it is being of being implemented (or not). The focus is on the CSS2 and CSS2.1 specs. My first impression of the book was that it would be a valuable reference manual, but as I began to read it, I soon realized it would serve as a great instructional source also. The writing style is as if a good friend sat down to explain style sheets. I found the pacing of the material to appropriate and the detail of the explanations to be exhaustive.
The chapter on selectors (chapter 2) was extremely valuable for me. It helped me to understand why some things did not work as I thought they should. Throughout the book, differences between the specification and the implementation in certain products are explained. Additionally, the differences between various levels of CSS are highlighted. The book has numerous examples for the CSS elements and variations.
This is a great book on CSS, but I wish that electronic versions of the examples were available. This is the only shortcoming of the book that I see. This book is a great tutorial and a valuable reference. Regular practice of the techniques contained within this volume can assist the reader in voiding the abuse of the table and fonts tags.
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on August 9, 2003
I learned CSS from this book. It's probably not the best book for an introduction to CSS, but it worked quite well for me. As part of O'Reilly's Definitive Guide series, the book has a format which is awkward for a beginning text. These books are meant to be encyclopedic in coverage, so every topic gets discussed down to the last arcane detail before you move on to the next one. That's probably not the approach I would take if I were teaching a course on the subject. But that was probably not the intent of the book.
The odd thing was, the writing was so good that the book worked quite will as an introduction. Eric Meyer is one of the world's top experts on CSS, and he is also a marvelous writer. That is an unusual combination, and one that readers should take note of. Over time, I will probably acquire all of Meyer's books. He is that good.
Don't expect this to be the only book you need on the subject. The web is a fast changing medium, and books tend to lag behind the material that is accumulating on the web itself. There is excellent materail on sites like,,, and elsewhere. There are also other books which take different approaches, which will fill in some of the gaps. That is to be expected; no one book can do it all.
Unfortunately, the book is getting a little outdated. Many modern browsers are supporting CSS2 by now, and proposals for CSS3 are already circulating. Meyer is already at work on the second edition. We all have something to look forward to.
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on June 13, 2003
This is the only book you need on Cascading Style Sheets. It is absolutely complete, and will allow you to get started right away designing simple style sheets. On the other hand, if you are willing to take the time to browse other designer's code while simultaneously using this book, you will find yourself designing complex style sheets right away!
Before picking up this book, I was familiar with style sheets in the most basic sense. Within a week, I was designing moderately complex stylesheets more or less on my own, only occasionally using the book for reference. I can now easily write CSS on my own and no longer "need" the book, but I do still often find myself referring to it while using some of the trickier positioning elements. It has been an invaluable reference.
I give this book five stars and, based on my description above, I think it is clear that recommend it to anyone who wants to use CSS; HOWEVER, there is one caveat - this book does not cover the CSS2 specification in depth. When it was written, CSS2 was on the horizon, but not yet a reality. The book therefore has a chapter that talks theoretically about CSS2, but it cannot give hard and fast rules or make definitive statements about the specification. Now that CSS2 is a reality, however, the book is slightly dated. If you are interested in making an investment in this book, you may wish to visit the O'Reilly Web site and see if a new edition is soon forthcoming. If so, I would recommend waiting for the 2nd. Ed.
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on April 15, 2003
Most people who have happened to work on web pages know something about stylesheets--yet very few actually know how to properly take full advantage of their features even at the "level 1" standard fairly well supported by most web browsers today.
If you've struggled to make a web page look like you want it, resorting to multipe FONT tags, tables, and formatting tags, then you need this book. If you've written a stylesheet or two but find yourself creating and applying styles to the point it seems more trouble than it's worth, this book is for you. From what I learned, I cut both the size of stylesheets and web pages for a number of both personal and company web pages--at times by more than a half--simply through a better understanding of the workings of stylesheets.
Beginning with the basics of what stylesheets actually are and building upon that basis with concepts like cascading, selectors, elements and pseudo-elements, the book will give readers an understanding of CSS difficult to appreciate merely through reading over other people's web pages or through trial and error. An exhaustive treatment of each sort of style--from fonts to inline elements to boxes--follows and covers nearly everything one could want to know about CSS1.
That said, the book could use an update as since 2000 the browser wars have evolved as has the application of CSS2, which is only touched upon by the book. However, unless you are already a pro at styles, you'll likely find this an invaluable reference, much as any title in the O'Reilly series.
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on February 24, 2003
As someone who has never using Cascading Style Sheets in the past, I never realized just how much work this language could save me. I am still amazed at the fact that I can control every aspect of an entire webpage regardless of size by editing various components of the style sheet file.
Never before have my website been as error-free and consistent as they are now. Using CSS2, I was able to ensure that each element of my sites is consistent and correctly displayed on almost all web browsers. I no longer spend hours each month chasing down what I used to call "code flaws" that would cause a section of the page to be improperly displayed in various browsers.
Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide is an excellent resource for anyone who wishes to learn to utilize this time-saving language to automate and centralize the task of website maintenance.
Written with a very straight-forward, no-bull approach - I found this book to be a very easy read. The examples provided along the way connected the dots and the appendixes were extremely helpful as a syntax reference. The book is easy to understand even for someone who is not an expert and takes the user from knowing nothing to mastery in just a few short hours.
In less than two hours, I had created a basic style sheet that effectively managed the formatting of my website and put me back in control. Over the next 20 to 30 hours, I had tweaked the style sheet to control every aspect of every page of the entire site and rolled the feature out across the entire site - which consists of more than 2500 separate HTML files or fragment files.
I now estimate that I have 10 additional hours every week to focus on my business and not tweaking my website constantly.
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on January 24, 2002
I realize that this book was originally published in 2000, and that CSS2 has been released, but it usually takes a while for the industry to catch up to new technologies. It's time to start using Cascading Style Sheets. If you've been skeptical, so have I. I've tested most of the examples in this book in Netscape 4.76, and IE 5.5, and most of them worked in the older Netscape Browser! All examples that I tested worked in IE 5.5. I always keep myself a few revs back on the Netscape side, and use it as a floor for testing. If it runs there, I feel that it's safe to use. (I really only test with Netscape and IE, I gave up on AOL long ago...)
Mr. Meyer does an awesome job presenting the material in this book, and all of the examples are extremely useful. The book is well thought out and organized, and lacks nothing. I read it sitting in front of my computer so that I could implement the examples as I went along. I was really excited about being able to finally use CSS confidently in new Web sites, and this book shows the way.
I'm not sure if the Browsers are ready for CSS2 yet, but I can say that I've already bought Mr. Meyer's new book on the subject, having been thoroughly impressed with his first.
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on November 13, 2000
As a WebMaster, I try to keep up with the latest trends in web design. When I first heard about style sheets, I cringed because I thought "Oh great..some new complicated thing to learn." However, once I started reading this book, I began to realize the power of style sheets and how they make designing elements on a web site much easier. While small sites like the ones I design may not need Cascading Style Sheets, I realized very quickly what a pain it could be to have to change the color or font for a H1 or P element on a site containing 50 to 100 pages or more!
The book covers a number of different subjects, including browser compatability issues (after all, there doesn't seem to be any elements that all browsers support quite the same way), along with element units and values, fonts and text properties, colors, and visual formatting. I now realize the fascinating things you can do on a web site with the help of style sheets.
As with other O'Reilly books, there's a wealth of resources in the Appendixes, including a Resources appendix and a sample Style Sheet, done in HTML 2.0 (It always helps to see what a "sample" sheet looks like in order to further understand what all the element attributes mean).
An excellent reference guide to Cascading Style Sheets.
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on July 5, 2000
"Love yields in one moment," wrote Goethe, "what years of efforts can hardly attain." Farseeing as he was, I don't think that Goethe -- the poet, the dramatist, the statesman, the scientist -- had Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) in mind when he waxed poetic about Love. But I fell in love with Style Sheets at first sight. Why? Because I realized that in mere moments CSS gave me gorgeous design effects that even the most cleverly worked-around HTML could never come near. Yet every love requires the lover to make sacrifices. CSS is more complex than HTML, and far more fickle: CSS is not fully supported by even the latest versions of the major Web browsers. Which means that in the real world -- oh, dear! - - some browsers will not be able to view your web pages made with Style Sheets, and other browsers will see things much differently than you had planned. In technology, as in life, Love is blind. Fortunately, there is help for both the weak-browsered and the broken-hearted. Two new books about Style Sheets, both lucid and superbly written, explain how style sheets work and how to get them to work despite the problem of browser ineptness. One of these books, XHTML 1.0 LANGUAGE AND DESIGN SOURCEBOOK by Ian Graham, which covers CSS in relation to XHTML, has been reviewed in BookLovers Review # 18. The other must-own work is Eric Meyer's Cascading Style Sheets, The Definitive Guide. To work with this book you do need a basic understanding of HTML 4.0, but you don't need any prior knowledge of CSS . What we really want in a computer book is an expert in the field taking us step-by-step through the basics, clearly and gradually, to higher and higher levels of proficiency. Eric Meyer is an acknowledged expert in the realm of Cascading Style Sheets. Meyer writes with a natural style, easy to follow, lively, and often reassuring. Here's one example of what I mean: after explaining the potential pitfalls about how your style sheets will look different in different browsers, Meyer writes: "Above all, though, regardless of how bleak things may seem, keep going! Your perseverance will be rewarded." How right he is to understand that computing beginners -- and even computing experts -- need not only information, but also encouragement! The book covers everything important about CSS1 in chapters titled: Selectors and Structure, Units and Values, Text Properties, Fonts, Colors and Backgrounds, Boxes and Borders, Visual Formatting, and Positioning. There's a penultimate chapter about CSS2 which lets us glimpse a supercharged version of Style Sheets: a web designer's Utopia with even more control and even more splendid effects. Meyer's final chapter, CSS in Action, explains three projects, all about how to convert to CSS from ordinary HTML and a magazine article in a printed page. There are some stunning effects illustrated here. In future editions of this book it would be valuable to expand this hands-on chapter. Expect to spend lots of time perusing this book's appendixes. One explains all the CSS1 properties; another contains a CSS Support Chart, showing which CSS properties are and are not supported by which browsers. What it all adds up to is everything I look for in a great non-fiction book: an expert teacher making a difficult subject interesting and clear. This is the heart of it all, and yet a few words need to be said about this book's design: it is gorgeous. Not flashy, but the typefaces are attractive, and the book has been designed with just the right amount of white space so that it's pleasant to look at and easy to read. Needless to say, there's a companion website to the book. The website offers Eric Meyer's Top Ten CSS Tips; the book's Contents and Chapter 1; and an insightful interview with Meyer. Web browsers are getting better, and the better they get, the more important CSS1 will be. Style Sheets are an evolutionary leap beyond HTML. Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, will teach you everything worth knowing in this domain. Meyer explains why you should be using Style Sheets, guides you from beginnerdom to Style Sheet mastery, and takes you and your website into the designing future that promises the best of both worlds: more structure and more style.
Michael Pastore Reviewer
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on December 25, 2002
Perfect CSS1 reference. Eric Meyer is the high priest of CSS, and this belongs on the desk of any web designer who wants to learn how to work with stylesheets from the ground up, and have a reference you'll use again and again.
I also bought Meyer's fabulous "Eric Meyer on CSS: Mastering the Language of Web Design." These two books compliment each other very well.
"CSS The Definitive Reference" is accessible to someone who is a rank beginner at stylesheets, yet would benefit intermediate users as well.
If you already have a CSS reference book and want to go to the finer points, you may want to go straight to "Eric Meyer on CSS: Mastering the Language of Web Design," however; it's more of project-oriented book, and a bit more involved and advanced.
Also, one caveat; because of the publication date of this book, CSS2 is not really covered. If this is an important consideration for you, maybe wait until a new edition comes out.
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