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Review Book Review: HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML and CSS

Discussion in 'Articles, Reviews and Interviews' started by tripwire45, Dec 4, 2006.

  1. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML and CSS

    Author: Patrick Griffiths
    Format: Paperback, 448 pages
    Publisher: New Riders Press (November 22, 2006)
    ISBN: 0321311396

    Review by James Pyles
    December 4, 2006

    Most books have a website that adds value to the original text publication. "HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML and CSS" is the text that adds value to the original website. To quote from the site's "about" page: "HTML Dog has been dishing out healthy code treats since 2003, and currently serves up around 1,500,000 page views a month. The idea is to take the somewhat convoluted official specs for XHTML and CSS and present them in a much more readable fashion". Since this is a book review and not a website review, I will endeavour to read HTML Dog as a single entity (for the moment, anyway) and see how it stands up on its own (four) legs.

    I encountered a minor mystery straight away, but not one you'd expect. Both New Riders (Peachpit) and Amazon list this book as 448 pages (as I have above) but the last page of the book (the end of the index) is page 336. Even including all of the front matter, "HTML Dog" only weighs in at 365 pages by my count. I began to wonder if I had a right editon but everything else matched up. Is this a big deal? Probably not. I'm just wondering who is more math challenged...me or the publisher?

    I only mention the page numbering because minus the two appendicies, the actual content of this book is only 205 pages long...not very big at all to cover XHTML, CSS and a smattering of JavaScript. Then again, if the site is the main content area and the book a supplement, perhaps the text doesn't have to be too big.

    The introduction confirms the fact that the book is designed to be used with the parent website and might even be thought of as a "primer" for the site...just enough information to get you going so you know where you're headed. Patrick Griffiths' writing style is informal and friendly with enough humor to move the reader along through the pages. I found myself wondering how much I'd need to access htmldog.com to get the full impact from the book.

    The first chapter presents both xhtml and css...at least the xhtml side. As you may know, you can't always simply link an html page to a css style sheet and expect to get the presentation you want, no matter how brilliantly you have written the style sheet. Many of the html tags require some form of formatting so that they can be associated with the relevant portions of the style sheet. For example, you may want the opening paragraph to use arial font type and bold print and all subsequent paragraphs to be Verdana and normal weight font. You have to add attributes to the <p> tags so that not all paragraphs are displayed the same way. Griffiths introduces this concept right off the bat, rather than presenting all of the html elements first and then going back and introducing CSS.

    HTML and CSS are presented together pretty much throughout the book which distingushes it from all other web design books I've reviewed to date. I like the way this is done and this method shows the relationship between the two very clearly, making it easier for the newbie reader to learn and understand. As predicted, by the time you reach Chapter 2, you will need to be sitting next to a computer with Internet access in order to access the examples the book references.

    The target audience of both the book and the site is the newbie to web design. They are both designed to be easy reads and to get the reader involved in working with html content and style sheets quickly. There is an ample supply of graphics in the book to show the reader what to expect, although you should go to the website to get the full effect. In fact, the website turns out to be the validator for the book. After all, a book that advertises itself to be the "Best-Practice Guide to XHTML and CSS" should make good use of the tools it teaches. If you find the site attractive, informative, and easy-to-use, then I'd have to conclude the writer knows his stuff.

    A small part of the book (less than 10 pages) addresses JavaScript and the DOM. The information isn't taken any further and I wondered why Griffiths even bothered to include it? The book functions quite well without this chapter and if anything, it could have been reserved for an appendix or an "additional information" section at the end of the book. Also, Chapter 9 addresses forms, but in order to make full use of web forms, you will need some server-side tools such as PHP and MySQL. I see this inclusion also as a "path to nowhere" unless you want to link it to a significant amount of web content or a companion book on the subject.

    For the most part though, I found "HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML and CSS" a very enjoyable read and well equipped (with htmldog.com at its side) to teach the "web-designer-to-be" the entry level tools to the craft.
     
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  2. 9xje4z

    9xje4z New Member

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    Nice review, you might also want to check out some great free online books on HTML and CSS
    http://kickjava.com/books/html.htm
     
  3. simongrahamuk
    Honorary Member

    simongrahamuk Hmmmmmmm?

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    Are they legal? :dry
     
  4. hbroomhall

    hbroomhall Petabyte Poster Gold Member

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    A quick look at that page shows the following:

    Some links no longer work

    Some are for very outdated versions

    Others are links to docs which *are* free

    Without trying every link I can't be absolutely sure, but it looks OK to me.

    Harry.
     
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  5. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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  6. michael78

    michael78 Terabyte Poster

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    I was thinking about buying this book but didn't think it had a lot of meat to it so I opted for the O'Reilly book instead. HTMLGoodies is a good website. They released a book some years ago that was my first HTML book I ever bought shame it was never updated and released on a regular basis as it really help with my degree.
     
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    WIP: Online SAN Overview, VCP in December 2011
  7. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    As I stated in my review of the book, the real "meat" is at the website. There's no one book that you can "learn it all" from. One of the reasons I review books is that I get free books, so as you might imagine, my technical library has grown quite large (as the missus reminds me when she asks where I'm going to put them all).

    I use SAMS Teach Yourself CSS in 24 Hours 2nd Ed and CSS: The Definitive Guide, 3rd Ed (O'Reilly) for CSS and am currently using No Starch's The Book of JavaScript, 2nd Ed. Next will probably come texts on XML and AJAX, then we'll see from there.
     
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