CSS Anthology: 101 Essential Tips Tricks and Hacks
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Feature:The CSS Anthology: 101 Essential Tips, Tricks and Hacks
Motivation: CSS grows in importance every year in all development; here is how to use it well

CSS is becoming ever more pervasive not just in web development but general application development. All the browsers save one (IE but IE7 may change that) have implemented nearly all of CSS 1 and 2. major application developers from Adobe with Acrobat Designer and GoLive CS2 thru Macromedia with Dreamweaver MX2004 and Flex 1.5 to Sun with JavaStudioCreator are using CSS in novel ways in their developer tools. And end user applications like BBS2, RoboHelp and WordPress use CSS based templates to provide highly customizable skins for customization of their apps and interfaces.

So Rachel Andrew's CSS Anthology: 101 Essential Tips,Tricks and Hacks is certainly timely and helpful. Rachel takes a gradual but very informative approach, introducing CSS concepts before rushing off to do the tricks. The first four chapters emphasize basics, text styling, and then use of images with CSS. This party had not grasped that users can attach an image (or any CSS formatting directive)to just about any HTML tag. Thus a a table <TD> or a <H1> header can have their own background images just like a <BODY>tag. Very useful.
Rachel then carries the insights into a section on Navigation aids like menus and tabs implemented strictly in CSS. These exercises show the versatility of CSS and highlight some of the refinements possible with class based CSS elements. However, this reader who uses CSS based but Javascript enabled menus, would have liked some discussion on the trade-off between using pure CSS versus CSS+JavaScript. Interestingly - there are just 3-4 JavaScript+CSS +DOM examples covered in this book although this is a growing category of DHTML and so called AJAX development.

However, the next two chapters on CSS with tables and forms brings some great examples of what can be done with CSS and div based regions. Rachel neatly handles the alternating table row color problem. And the CSS calendar is especially interesting because Rachel shows how a few simple changes make it into a mini calendar. One can see why so much JavaScript calendaring software starts with a CSS base.

The chapter on CSS positioning and layout was particularly helpful. It discusses and shows exactly how to setup various 2 column web page layouts using CSS positioning .Rachel discusses some other trade-offs and cautions. Finally, all along in the book Rachel has been advising us when the browsers fail or fail to agree on implementation(guess how often IE is amiss?). In the last sections she provides some Hacks to get IE primarily on side for some very useful

In sum, this book is very approachable and has an easy FAQ style with lots of code snippets and illustrated examples. A website with complete, downloadable code is provided. On several occasions Rachel shows us CSS coding alternatives - which adds insight on trade-offs. If you want to get up to speed in CSS and don't like the textbook approach, Rachel Andrew's 101 Essential Tips, Tricks, and hacks is a bit dear at $40US until you absolutely, positively need to know how to make elements translucent using CSS across all browsers.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005


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