Like their counterparts in desktop publishing page-layout programs, style sheets in HTML allow authors to apply typographic styles and spacing instructions for elements on a page. The word cascading refers to what happens when several sources of style information vie for control of the elements on a page -- style information is passed down from higher-level style sheets (and from parent to child element within a document) until it is overridden by a style command with more weight.
This comes as good news both for designers who want more control over presentation and for HTML purists who stand by the principle that style should be separate from content and structure. Style sheets make both these dreams possible, but it is important to be aware of their advantages and disadvantages.
Style sheets offer the following advantages to web designers:
As of this writing, the sole drawback to implementing style sheets remains uneven browser support. First, style sheet information is not supported in browser versions earlier than Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 or Netscape Navigator 4.0. That is not as frustrating as the inconsistency of support among browsers and versions that claim they do support CSS.
The World Wide Web Consortium first published its recommendation for style sheets in 1996, and they were first implemented by Internet Explorer 3.0. Since then, as usual, Microsoft and Netscape have chosen diverging paths in the properties their browsers support and the way those properties are presented.
The good news is that the outlook continues to improve with the release of standards compliant browsers and as older versions fade away. Internet Explorer 5.5 and higher and Netscape 6 claim to support almost all of the CSS Level 1 specification and parts of CSS Level 2 (the latest version as of this writing). With an estimated 95% of web users surfing with 4.0 or higher version browsers, you can safely assume that basic styles (font, size, and color, for example) will reach the vast majority of your audience.
Strategies for Using Style Sheets Today
Although consistent browser support for style sheets remains a large issue, that does not mean that you should abandon them completely. In fact, many large commercial and consumer-oriented sites are taking advantage of the power of style sheets today. Here are a few strategies for adding styles to your site:
The Future of Style Sheets
Despite a bumpy start, style sheets still hold great promise as the preferred method for specifying page presentation. The Web Standards Organization, an industry watchdog group that educates the web community on the importance of standards, urges web authors and developers to begin using style sheets right away. Kiss your <font> tag goodbye!
In 1998, the W3C published its second style sheet proposal (CSS Level 2, or CSS2), which includes additional properties and advanced methods for absolute positioning that could make tables and frames as layout devices a thing of the past. Style sheets are also a key component to programming dynamic effects with DHTML. CSS Level 3 is already being considered.
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Web Designing Tutorial
Designing For A Variety Of Browsers
Designing For A Variety Of Displays
Web Design Principles For Print Designers
A Beginners Guide To The Server
Printing From The Web
Structural Html Tags
Adding Images And Other Page Elements
Specifying Color In Html
Cascading Style Sheets
Server Side Includes
Designing Graphics With The Web Palette
Audio On The Web
Video On The Web
Flash And Shockwave
Introduction To Smil
Introduction To Dhtml
Introduction To Xml
Wap And Wml
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