HTML and CSS with HTML DOG
As both a systems administrator and a programmer, I've found that I tend to use HTML heavily or a while and then not at all, so when I come back to it after a break, it is essential to have a good reference. I also think it is important, if not essential, to write accessible, standards based HTML. This makes your content visible and understandable to people regardless of which browser they are using (including screen readers) today and in the future. It's amazing how while a public web site often gets changed regularly, things like simple, quick, HTML-formatted reporting programs seem to hang around, be reused, copied and otherwise persist forever.
My absolute go-to book for HTML is HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML & CSS by Patrick Griffiths. HTML Dog works well as both a teaching text and a reference for writing standards compliant, accessible HTML. I find it particularly valuable because it teaches the separation of content (HTML) from presentation (CSS) from the beginning, rather than teaching deprecated HTML presentation tags like <font> and <b>. For programmers, this is the model-view-controller design pattern applied to web-content. If you are producing code that makes HTML-formatted reports, you certainly don't want to have to rewrite your code if the company colors change from blue and green to red and gold. CSS allows you to avoid worrying about this. Better yet, it allows programmers to add just content information, like marking section headings and paragraphs while a user interface expert and/or web designer manages the presentation using CSS. HTML Dog starts with a narrative section that devotes a chapter to each important HTML and CSS area, like text, forms and alternative media (printers, screen readers and mobile devices.) The text also includes links to the HTML Dog website (http://www.htmldog.com), where you can actually see the code in action and use your browsers show page source function to see how they work. While the website and the book work well together, they are each useful resources in their own right. The narrative section is followed by two detailed alphabetical references of HTML and CSS. While each reference entry is detailed enough to stand on its own if you understand HTML and CSS, a link to the appropriate narrative section is included if you want more detail or context.
There are many books on learning HTML and CSS, and many references, but I have yet to find anything as good as HTML Dog at either one. It is one of the few books that have earned a reserved spot on my desktop and I recommend it unconditionally to anyone who uses or wants to learn HTML and CSS.
Patrick Griffiths. HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML and CSS. (Berkeley, CA: New Riders, 2007.)
HTML Dog website
Buy HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML and CSS at Amazon.com
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