Book Review: HTML and XHTML: The Definitive Guide

HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide, an essential resource book for web programmers. Continue Reading Book Review: HTML and XHTML: The Definitive Guide

There are books you read that change your way of thinking (Designing with Web Standards), books your read for ideas (Usability: The Site Speaks for Itself), and books you keep within arm’s reach at all times. This book, HTML and XHTML: The Definitive Guide, is one that you should always keep on your desk.

I’m saying this from experience. I’m a self-taught web programmer and have read over well over a dozen programming books during the past few years. This is the book that traveled with me from job to job. It’s where I go to check on the proper use of tags and attributes. It’s a well laid-out reference book that is actually interesting to read.

Who should get this book

This book is for those working directly with HTML code. It does not discuss programming languages, JavaScript, or CSS to any extent. However, it clearly defines how to use valid markup to build sites. I have found it invaluable for building forms and complex data tables. It’s also a great foundation for those learning semantic markup from the beginning.

FLORWAX – Mobile 2.0?

I sat next to Adrian Cockcraft on the plane up to San Jose yesterday. He just finished the ETech conference in San Diego.

He told me about his concept of bringing the Web 2.0 infrastructure to mobile appliances with some consistency. FLORWAX uses flash with AJAX like behaviors built on the Ruby on Rails platform. It’s just an accronym at this point. Let’s see if there’s any traction for this approach.

View your site in shades of grey

Mike Cherim just announced the beta version of his new contrast-testing site. Graybit.com allows you to see what your site looks like when colors are removed.

What does it answer?

  • Is your site still usable?
  • Is there enough contrast?
  • Are you telling people to click on the cute red button?
  • Do your forms use color to distinguish required inputs?

IE7 – Good, Bad, and Ugly

On the Web Standards Group mailing list today, Stephen Stagg posted his list of IE7 updates and downdates. I thought it was well put and wanted to share it.

More informative Error Pages.
As a general usability feature, I thoroughly approve of the more friendly error pages in IE7. That way, when your site’s server goes down, people won’t just be dumped with a nasty pile of technical text.
Transparent PNGs
This is a good one, I can’t wait to begin using transparent PNGs, tho I can see lots of usability issues arising from sites mis-using them.
Default Font Size
The IE7 default font size seems a very small, even for me (someone who likes his font sizes at about 70%). Perhaps this will be changed in the final release, but trying to read the Register in IE7 using the default size is pretty taxing.
Zoom function.
M$ seem to be trying to cater for everyone by including both font size and overall zoom controls. However their zoom feature doesn’t seem to be as well implemented as Opera’s one and I have noticed lots of odd effects appearing while zooming.
Invisible Menu-bar
I know it’s not a WSG issue but: I like what they’re doing with the menus. By default, the menu bar is hidden, freeing up screen-space for the tabbar. However, when you press a standard menu shorfut (Alt- f for example), the menu magically appears and then hides again when you’ve finished. (You can turn the menu-bar back on if you wish).
Tabbed Browsing
Well this one was just waiting to happen. I’m not someone who expects my tabs to do lots of wonderfull things so I’m just happy that they’re included in IE7.

Stephen Stagg

IE7 Updates

The Microsoft team is still hard at work, trying to fix assorted rendering bugs before launch. While they deserved to be criticized for the sad shape of IE6, their work on IE7 also deserves some kudos. Granted, it’s not as good as Firefox and Safari, but it’s getting much closer.

Add code snippets to your site with “Code Snippet” for WordPress

It’s time consuming to write a blog entry and format code snippets for WordPress and other blog programs. You’ve got to translate < elements into &lt; and either use pre tags combined with code tags, combined with blah, blah, blah. If I have a complicated snippet, ordered lists were used for easier reading and to keep the pre tags from breaking the layout.

Code Snippet

My friend Alex suggested I look at the Code Snippet plug-in for WordPress. It transforms anything inside a set of <code> tags into an easy to read and copy presentation.

The instructions on the site are a bit vague, there’s little mention of how to use the plugin. The truth is, you don’t have to do anything! Just download the plugin, upload it to your plugin directory, and activate it. Instantly, anything on your blog that was surrounded by code tags is formatted.

You can alter the appearance in the options panel. It even uses microfomatting logic: insert lang=”CSS” or the appropriate language and the plugin will color code your example.

It’s pretty darn slick. Now I need to go back and fix older posts that used ordered lists or had code tags inline. If you see a post that needs to be fixed, please take a moment and leave a comment. I’m trying to update this site’s content as effeciently as possible.