HTML Definitive Answers

There are two books always within immediate reach on my computer desk; one is a dictionary, the other is HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide by Chuck Musciano & Bill Kennedy. Following publisher O’Reilly & Associates, Inc. tradition of animal line-art for the covers, this is the koala book. I have no idea why, unless it’s a subtle reference to the slow but methodical coverage the authors give their subject.

This book could be used to learn HTML and XHTML, but like most O’Reilly publications, it’s not a visual book. It’s more like an academic reference and can be a little intimidating looking at a sub-section headed with “ The rows and cols attributes”. Butwhen you really want to know what’s the right way to code that table attribute or are trying to figure out why your HTML did THAT when you really wanted it to do this, HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide should be in your bookshelf.

The authors cover the basics and the actual HTML standard (at the time of publications, of course), as well as providing comprehensive information about browser-specific extensions to the HTML code — both in an overview and as they cover each tag and attribute. They also include the older tags, noting which ones have been deprecated in favor of the new standards, and the now preferred cascading style sheet methods. Yet they are often quite honest about the lack of consistent support even by browsers that support css and encourage coders to consider following a more moderate approach to the protocal support. Whenever I’ve been in doubt about using a deprecated method or following the new standard, these authors have cast the deciding vote. I don’t even bother with a re-count.

The coverage of XHTML and XML explains the advantages — and disadvantages — to Internet businesses in some of the clearest language I’ve found. They quickly persuaded me to meet the new XHTML standard as closely as possible. I only wish the programmers of the HTML coding tools and the professional coders working on the corporate sites would use this book!

The instructions are simple and clear, but if you’ve never touched HTML code, this is not a “learn HTML in day” book, despite it’s best efforts. In their goal to be complete, they sacrifice brevity. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a comprehensive reference to answer those niggling questions or want to progress in your coding to a professional level, add HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide to your library.