Beginning HTML with CSS and XHTML: A Modern Guide and Reference

Reviewed October 10th, 2007 @ 09:47PM

[Book Cover] Beginning HTML with CSS and XHTML: Modern Guide and Reference

Beginning HTML with CSS and XHTML: Modern Guide and Reference by David Schultz and Craig Cook is an excellent beginners introduction to HTML and CSS. Through each of the eleven chapters the authors walk through the basics and foundation of HTML. For those who are just treading in the waters of HTML and CSS, this book will help you understand the tools available to you as you craft your markup. You will learn about the tags available, their available attributes and purposes, and how to finely tune these into a semantic layout that ultimately gives your content more meaning.


Chapter 1 is our quick history lesson and introduction to HTML. They give background and insight into the goals and purposes of HTML, and how these were shifted during the browser wars and the battle for browser dominance and market share. They introduce the different versions of HTML available, and what they mean for your markup and the rendering inside of the browser. As CSS is discussed, there is also a discussion on keeping a clean separation of content and presentation. Chapter 1 lets us see the big picture and evolution of HTML.

Chapter 2 builds the foundation for the rest of the chapters. This chapter discusses the basics of XHTML and CSS. The building blocks discussed here will be addressed in each and every subsequent chapter of the book. Things such as tags, elements, attributes, and formatting. We are also given a snapshot view of what comprises an XHTML document, the doctype, the HTML element, and the document tree. All of this plays into understanding the fundamentals of CSS, cascade, and inheritance. We now have our history lesson and basic constructs in place, it's time to take a look at the rest of the pieces to the puzzle.

Chapters 3 and 4 cover a large territory. From constructing a useable head section, to walking step by step through many of the available HTML elements available to you as you put your content together. With discussion of each element, you are given detailed instructions of how and when it should be used, with an exhaustive list of its available attributes. CSS is briefly discussed, but will be re-introduced in a later chapter after we have our content constructed.

Chapter 5 is all about images. This chapter gives a brief primer on how digital images work, and what are the formats you can use within your content. Images can serve different purposes: icons, decoration, background, or context. Each of these are discussed with information on how to place them accordingly with CSS or the img tag.

Chapter 6 is all about linking. You are introduced to the a tag, its available attributes, and how you can create different types of links. Textual links, anchor links, and linking an image are all discussed.

Chapter 7 is all about tables. Despite what you may hear from others, tables have a very good semantic use in regards to tabular data (who would have thought?). However, tables are also misunderstood in relation to the tags and attributes. It is important to build tables with accessibility in mind, and this chapter goes over some of the elements that haven't received as much exposure. These include, but are not limited to: caption, colgroup, and tbody. This chapter will give you the information necessary to build a powerful and semantically rich table.

Chapter 8 discusses all of the little details to building a usable and accessible form. Just as with tables, there are some elements that are often forgotten about when building forms. This chapter does a great job of covering all of the necessary components for a form, and how to structure them. Form elements are rendered with the underlying operating system, so the end of this chapter discusses CSS and some of the ways you can spruce up the look of your forms. This is to be used with caution, as forms are rendered differently in each browser.

Chapters 9 and 10 discuss the other 2 pieces of the trinity of the front end: CSS and JavaScript. These chapters are meant to be brief primers, and will most likely whet your appetite to learn more about each aspect. They are also placed here to give you a good foundation as the final chapter will roll everything up into a case study.

Chapter 11 is the end of the journey. What good would the book be if you couldn't put what you have learned into practice? This chapter creates the fictional Spaghetti & Cruft website (you have to read the book to find out the meaning of the name). This chapter starts with the design process, moves to the building process, and then polishes it off by adding enhancements with CSS and JavaScript. The humorous name aside, this chapter is one of the most valuable chapters of the entire book. This final chapter brings the book to a close, and with it leaves you a solid foundation as you continue your journey of building other sites.


Many would argue that they don't need to learn HTML, that is what a WYSIWYG is for. This book shows you the value of understanding the history, basics, and semantics of HTML. It is important to note that nothing found in this book is earth-shattering, however, if you are a beginner and new to HTML, this book will give you the proper start you need to begin developing right away. If you are moving away from the reliance of a WYSIWYG, you may be surprised at many of the elements available to you that are covered in this book.