Preparing for IE7 – Hacks and Conditional Comments

CSS filters and Hacks are so 2005

I think the future of CSS is not in hacks but looking seriously into using conditional comments. I’m saying this as someone that is trying to figure out the best approach for retrofitting older conversions.

Conditional comments are IE statements that say if IE6 or any other version, use this additional CSS file. Non IE Win browsers will ignore the comment.


Or is the version less than or equal to IE6


The Curveball

IE7 is going to throw a curveball worthy of a World Series ring. While it is easy and more convenient to throw a “ * HTML ” statement into a CSS, we need to start seriously looking at separating our hacks into different style sheets and intelligently using filters and conditional comments to refer to them.

Microsoft has announced that the IE7 browser will ignore past “ * HTML “ filters that were used to send styles only to Internet Explorer and will respond to child selectors: “ HTML>body “ which were used to hide styles from IE. Therefore, IE7 will see the style sheets just as every other modern browser.

Will this be an issue?

If IE7 fixes its display problems, we may not have to make any changes to our legacy CSS. However, if IE7 brings new bugs to the table, we can no longer use filters to whisper in its ear. Conditional comments will be the answer.

I’m dreading the idea of inserting conditional comments into the head sections of HTML pages. I’d like to insert it into the main.css file that imports more sophisticated styles. I have been overwhelmed lately and haven’t been able to test any answers to this. Does anyone have a suggestion?

Imagine teasing someone that their CSS is “So 2005!” Did I just coin a term? Has Joe Clark already coined this one?

Resources

— This post was originally published on www.tdrake.net

Attribute selectors to provide language information

Attribute Selectors for International Web Sites

Sébastien Guillon, recently wrote a post about using the CSS2 attribute selector and content rule
to let visitors know what to expect when clicking on a link to an international web site. Inspired by his approach, I’ve simplified some of the code and added background images to
represent the countries.

Guillon’s original project focused on adding a text description after the link in the site’s native language. To do this, he used a set of descending selectors to look at the page’s language declaration and the link’s hreflang attribute. I am assuming the site that hosts this CSS is in english. However, it would not be difficult for you to simply change the generated content if your site is written in French, Spanish,
Swahili, etc.

Sample list of international Yahoo sites

Europe

Now look at the final version with new CSS. Internet Explorer users will not see a difference, try Firefox or Opera. Internet Explorer 7 beta 2 shows the flags but does not show the generated content.

The hreflang Attribute

The hreflang allows the user/browser to define the language of a link’s targeted page to avoid presenting
unreadable information:

The hreflang attribute provides user agents with information about the language of a resource at the end of a link, just as the lang attribute provides information about the language of an element’s content or attribute values.

W3C.org

The hreflang attribute defines the language of the web site you are sending someone to. The language is defined with a two letter abbreviation, such as en, fr, sp… You can also define the locality of this language by adding the country code to this language. This is particularly helpful for languages that have dialects. A Mexican site would have this attribute: hreflang=”sp-mx”.

The Attribute Selector

CSS2 allows us to look for tags that contain specific attributes. We can look for blockquotes with cite attributes, tables with summaries, table cells with header attributes,
and our little friend, the link with an hreflang attribute.


/*English */
a[hreflang="en"]:after, a[hreflang|="en"]:after {content:"\A0(In English)";}

Breaking it down

This rule uses a combination of attribute selector and pseudo-class to transform the link from common to fabulous.

a[…]
Look for a link with an attribute
hreflang=”en”
The hreflang attribute must include the letters “en”. This allows the CSS to work on links that do not define a country variation
:after
This pseudoselector defines the space after the link
{content:”\A0(In English)”;}
After the link, place the following text: (In English)
hreflang|=”en”
The hreflang attribute must include the letters “en” within a hyphenated set, i.e. en-us, en-ca, …

Adding the flag

Now that we’ve notified the user about what language the link will be in, let’s tell them the country the site is from. Once again, we will look at the hreflang attribute for this information. This rule is not as neat and tidy. For each country, we are going to look for all of the possible language attributes. For instance, Canadian links could have hreflang=”fr-ca” and hreflang=”en-ca”.


/*Canada */
a[hreflang="en-ca"], a[hreflang="fr-ca"] {background:URL(flag-sprite.png) no-repeat 0 0; padding-left:35px;}

This time, we will give links that have Canadian country codes 35px padding to the left side and a background image of the Canadian flag that sits to the
left edge of the link’s text. This style sheet is using an image sprite to keep the server requests to a minimum. See the Alistapart.com article about using
image sprites for more information on this technique.

Et Voilà

There we have it. A set of international links with the country of origin and language clearly defined. All of this has been made possible by our friends, the
attribute selector, the pseudo-class, and the content style. Tune in next week as we learn how to make a cruise ship out of two
shoe-boxes and an XML schema.

Fine Print

This has not been tested in Safari, but it shouldn’t be a problem. The pretty and useful presentation elements will not appear in IE6, NN4, and probably
most alternative devices (My Treo shows the flags but not the added content). I do not know how assistive devices would render these styles, more than likely they would be ignored. This project falls under
the “build for the best, don’t hurt the rest™” protocol.

Resources

Creating a table that scrolls with a fixed header and footer

I had a challenge today to create a table with a fixed header and foot. My first reaction was… oh no…. I pictured all sorts of hacks to make it work. I tried position: fixed, I tried extra divs, I tried this, I tried that, I even prayed to the Venus of Willendorf statue on my desk for a solution. When all else failed, I turned to the best resource for standards-based programming, my mother. Above the din of the Jerry Springer show on television, she yelled “What the hell do I know about tables?”

With Mom and my Venus drawing blanks, it was time to hit the message boards, the Standardista search, and Yahoo! Fortunately, Scott Swabey found this really cool approach: Fixed, Non-Scrolling Table Header and Footer by Brett Merkey.

Thinking Outside the Box

It’s pretty simple. Place the table in a div with overflow:auto. Then use absolute positioning to move the thead and tfoot outside the div. Voila, scrolling body with the thead and tfoot static.

Now, I can sleep happily knowing that the table can scroll, the venus has made me pregnant, and my mom was able to finish watching “I slept with my brother’s teacher’s husband!”

— This was originally published on www.tdrake.net

Microsoft IE7 updates the select box

Microsoft has just announced IE7 will handle the select input as a modern browser should. It will now allow developers to use z-index to avoid overlapping and perhaps more artistic forms. Søren Madsen put together the utopia of form design, something every designer should look at and dream of possibilities.

SELECT element in IE7 – An Overview

In IE6, the HTML SELECT element was implemented through the Windows Shell ListBox and Combobox controls. Some key features were missing in the old version of the SELECT element, such as proper support for z-index, TITLE support, and zoom. Web developers had to write complex CSS and scripts to workaround these issues.

In IE7 however, we re-implemented the SELECT element to make IE7 more standards-compliant. This new version does not use any Shell controls any more. In fact, it is implemented totally through the MSHTML framework, including styling, UI interaction, and rendering. Thus the SELECT element in IE7 is more of an HTML element than the former legacy control.

IEBlog

Form design is frustrating.

Form elements are up to the browser for final presentation unless you get into some tricky CSS and JS solutions and those are not necessarily cross-browser solutions. One particular problem I’ve experienced was with the nicetitles javascript that creates a nice popup box with the text of a title attribute on hover. I tried to use this on an insurance quote form to give the visitor better feedback on what was needed. IE6 would place the inputs on top of the popup window. I then tried moving the popup farther to the side to avoid this and that just looked hokey. So, I gave up on the idea. It would be interesting to test this now with IE7.

I’m also intrigued by the ability to use the title attribute on the select object. Normally, I would place the title on the label. However there may be times when the visual design requires hiding the label. Placing a title on the select would be a great way of letting people know the page may refresh or whatever action the select box leads to.

With rumors floating of an IE7 Beta2 developer release within a few weeks, we should begin looking for pages to test these new attributes on.

–This was originally published on www.tdrake.net

IE7 Beta 2 is out for developers to test

IE7 Beta 2 is now available for developers to begin testing. I’ve been suggesting on the web standards group mailing list that people need to begin looking beyond 2005 and start coding for IE7 and 2006. That doesn’t mean you design for IE7 and hack for Firefox. No, it means you can begin using more sophisticated CSS rules. Here’s a very brief summary of what I’ve seen with IE7 Beta 2 so far.

Rolling out IE7

Microsoft has an aggressive agenda to upgrade people from IE6 to IE7. By the end of Fall, we should see a significant percentage of our web site visitors using IE7 and by the end of the year, the majority of our traffic will be IE7. Those without IE7 are machines with illegal copies of XP, people with XP Service Pack 1, and those that don’t accept Microsoft service updates.

Use real CSS

If you are working on a site now, begin using real CSS.

  • Use child selectors, first-child, attribute selectors, etc.
  • Hover your list items and more. IE7 supports the hover pseudoclass on more than the link.
  • IE7 offers full support of alpha transparent PNG graphics, so begin using them as well.

Forget what you knew about “* HTML”, those hacks now belong in a style sheet that is introduced via a conditional comment. They are gone, kaput, zilch. Sure, they’ll still work on IE6, but you’re going to have one heck of a nightmare keeping track.

Test Sites

I am a big fan of All that malarkey (Andy Clarke). However, his site is full of special rules for IE6 and its a great testing ground to see what IE7 chokes on and what it does as good as Firefox, Opera, and Safari. If your site is fairly hack free, you probably won’t notice a difference going from Firefox to IE7 Beta 2. Start hunting around and finding the errors.

What is still broken on IE7

There are two major issues that I have with IE7.

  1. No generated content. You can’t use CSS to add checkmarks to visited links, clearing containers spans, etc.
  2. Double float margin still exists. This can be fixed by adding display:inline to your floated objects when this problem occurs.
  3. While I haven’t been able to nail down the specifics, there seems to be some bugginess with positioning absolute/relative.

I’m sure there will be much better analysis of this launch by PositionIsEverything, Quirksmode, and the IE7blog. I hope these scribbled notes help you move forward. IE7 is a good thing. It’s not perfect, but damn it sure is nice to ditch the son of suckerfish javascript, class=”firstitem”, haloed transparent gifs, et al.

I forgot to mention, IE7 replaces IE6 on your computer. You need to have an extra computer to continue testing your pages in IE6. If you only have one windows box, I’d suggest keeping IE6 on that and just program for Firefox, et al and placing your IE6 hacks in a conditional comment linked style sheet

— This was originally published on tdrake.net