Schmitt, Christopher. CSS Cookbook. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly, 2004. ISBN 0-596-00576-8.
It's taken a while, but Cascading Style Sheets have finally begun to live up to their promise of separating content from presentation on the Web, allowing a consistent design, specified in a single place and easily modified, to be applied to large collections of documents, and permitting content to be rendered in different ways depending on the media and audience: one style for online reading, another for printed output, an austere presentation for handheld devices, large type for readers with impaired vision, and a text-only format tailored for screen reader programs used by the blind. This book provides an overview of CSS solutions for common Web design problems, with sample code and screen shots illustrating what can be accomplished. It doesn't purport to be a comprehensive reference—you'll want to have Eric Meyer's Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide at hand as you develop your own CSS solutions, but Schmitt's book is valuable in showing how common problems can be solved in ways which aren't obvious from reading the specification or a reference book. Particularly useful for the real-world Web designer are Schmitt's discussion of which CSS features work and don't work in various popular browsers and suggestions of work-arounds to maximise the cross-platform portability of pages.

Many of the examples in this book are more or less obvious, and embody techniques which folks who've rolled their own Movable Type style sheets will be familiar, but every chapter has one or more gems which caused this designer of minimalist Web pages to slap his forehead and exclaim, “I didn't know you could do that!” Chapter 9, which presents a collection of brutal hacks, many involving exploiting parsing bugs, for working around browser incompatibilities may induce nausea in those who cherish standards compliance or worry about the consequences of millions of pages on the Web containing ticking time bombs which will cause them to fall flat on their faces when various browser bugs are fixed. One glimpses here the business model of the Web site designer who gets paid when the customer is happy with how the site looks in Exploder and views remediation of incompatibilities down the road as a source of recurring revenue. Still, if you develop and maintain Web sites at the HTML level, there are many ideas here which can lead to more effective Web pages, and encourage you to dig deeper into the details of CSS.

January 2005 Permalink