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"How's Your Sense of Style?"

By Merle
Posted Friday, June 25, 2004

No, I'm not referring to your wardrobe here, but to cascading
style sheets, also known as CSS. Developed by the World Wide
Web Consortium, it allows webmasters to separate site layout
from the design. CSS is actually a standard for controlling
the appearance of your Web pages. It's essentially a set of
rules that, when linked to or embedded in HTML pages, control
their appearance.

Right about now you're probably thinking "What's so great
about that?" The benefits are numerous -- two of the biggest
are:

1) Easy Site Updates: Global site updates will be simpler
when you can make all your changes in one place to update
the entire site. It's much better than going through page
after page of HTML code. For example, say you have a site
made in Times New Roman font and your customer calls you
up and tells you he wants Verdana. Can you imagine
scrolling through 25 pages or more looking for every
incident of the tag and changing it to Verdana?
What a nightmare. With CSS you would simply specify the
font in one location and the change would be implemented
site wide.

2) Faster Loading: Your HTML pages will load faster
due to cleaner code. All of the extraneous coding will
be in a style sheet, leaving less clutter and faster
downloading of the site.

So now that you've seen a few of the "benes" to style sheets,
let's learn more about them. Let's clarify up front that
while both Netscape and Internet Explorer both support CSS
from version 4.0 and higher, they don't exactly see eye to
eye on CSS and interpret some style properties differently.
You'll want to test your pages in both browsers to check and
correct any inconsistencies.

So what can you control with CSS? Things like paragraphs,
headings, borders, table layouts,Fonts and font colors, text alignment, pixel size, line height, letter spacing,word spacing, font weights, page margins, and even backgroundimages; and the way they work is a big improvement over just plain old HTML. Are you beginning to see the possibilities and just how powerful this can be?

There are three ways to use CSS:

1) Inline: The CSS tags are applied to the web page itself,
to any body element you choose. This is not the best method,
as you'll have to find each incidence in the web site in
order to make changes in the future.

Example of this:

Text Here
In the example above the text would be highlighted yellow.

2) Embedded: The actual CSS code is part of the HTML page placed
between the tags on each page. Again, placing the tags
inside the pages defeats the convenience of CSS and being able
to make global site changes from one document, but some do
like to use this method.

Example of embedded:

3) Linked: In my opinion, the best method to use.
You place a link to the CSS between the
tags on your web pages. The link looks like this:

The style sheet is a separate text document that is saved
with a .css extension like this: style.css.

So now that you know your three options for using CSS, how do
you write the code? Every style sheet rule starts with a selector
followed by braces. A selector is any part of HTML coding like P,
Font, Body, etc.

Here's what it looks like in action:

P {font-size: 12pt}

The P above is the selector and the font specification
between the braces is the property. This code says that
all paragraphs will be 12 pt font in size.

A rule can always have multiple properties. Semicolons
separate multiple properties, commas are used to
separate multiple selectors.

Example:

P { color: black; background-color:white; font-size=12pt }

This code says you want all paragraphs black with a white
background and a 12 pt font. (Why anyone would want that is
beyond me; it's just an example so go with it.)

You can always group more than one selector tag like this
if you want them all to look the same.

TD,H2,H1 { color: Red; background-color:pink }

This would make all table cells, and heading 1 and 2 tags red
with a pink background. Attractive don't you think? Again, this
is an exaggeration to prove a point (even if it is gaudy).

Selectors are not case sensitive, so "P" is the same as "p."

H2 { color: blue } this would make all heading 2 tags blue in
color.

As you can see from these examples, CSS is not that hard to pick
up and can really give you more control over your website's
appearance. For further information, check out some of these
informative sites and you'll be a CSS pro in no time at all:

(http://www.InternetBrothers.com/CSS_Basics.htm)
(http://www.users.f2s.com/faq/cssbasic.php3)
(http://www.freewebmastertips.com/tutorials/css)
(http://www.builder.cnet.com/webbuilding/pages/authoring/CSSCenter/)

There are also software programs you can download that will make
the creation of CSS so much easier:

TopStyle (http://www.bradsoft.com/topstyle/index.asp)

Dutch's CSS (http://www.dutchthewiz.com/styles/Default.asp)

About the Author
Merle (http://www.EzineAdAuction.com)
"Where some of the BEST Deals in Ezine Advertising are Made"
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