HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide 6th edn.

Reviewed by Major Keary

HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide has been in print for some thirteen years; the current (sixth) edition was released in 2006. It contains a discussion on what was something of a hot issue at the time: HTML 4 vs. XHTML 1.1 and whether to-use-or-not-to-use XHTML. For example, the <img> tag was out, and is now back (?for the time being). It seems we are likely to be waiting for some time before there is any real disturbance of present practice, which makes HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide still relevant.

The book has been written "for anyone interested in learning the language of the Web, from the most casual to the full-time design professional". If you have had no experience of using markup languages I suggest you begin with one of the elementary texts to provide the basic knowledge assumed by the The Definitive Guide.

Browser variations (both vendor- and version-related) are still with us and the book addresses the problem of the same HTML document displaying differently on various browsers. Ways of minimising potential problems are described.

Readers are taken from simple HTML documents through to the use of style sheets, JavaScript, forms, and tables. The information is presented in clear English and supported by useful examples. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript are subjects in their own right, but the coverage here will enables users to orient themselves in what may seem to be a confusing landscape.

Other chapters cover Rules, Images, and Multimedia; Links and Webs; Formatted Lists; CSS; Forms; Tables; Frames; Executable Content (applets, objects, JavaScript, and embedded content); Dynamic Documents (push and pull); and Mobile Devices. There are also detailed discussions of XML and XHTML, and a chapter devoted to Tips, Tricks, and Hacks.

Appendices include an HTML grammar; HTML/XHTML tag quick reference; CSS properties quick reference; the HTML 4.01 DTD; the XHTML 1.0 DTD; a list of character entities; and a list of colour names and values.

The book is not just a list of tags and the like, but provides in-depth explanations of concepts and processes. In particular, for those who want to understand the Document Type Definition the listings (appendices D and E) and discussion in the text should provide a good grounding.

A useful feature is the boxed information for each tag; these lay out in tabular form a tag's function, attributes, contents, and use.

Chuck Musciano and Bill Kennedy: HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide 6th edn.
ISBN 978-0-596-52732-7
Published by O'Reilly, 654 pp., RRP AU$ 105.00

The Australian distributor is Woodslane.


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