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How to create lists in HTML and control the way they look

By Milana Leshinsky
Posted Tuesday, July 20, 2004

You make lists every day - shopping lists, "things to do" lists, people to call lists. Indeed, lists are a very important
part of our lives. That's why when HTML was developed, its programmers just couldn't help it - they created a way to
add a list to a web page.

There are three kinds of lists that you can create:

- Unordered
- Ordered
- Definitions

Oops, another list right there! :-)

1) Here is the HTML code for creating Unordered list:

* Sour cream
* Spagetti
* Pancakes

The above code will simply create a list of bulleted items (bullets are small dots next to each item - sort of a check mark).

2) When it is important for you to list items in a particular order, create a numbered - or Ordered - list:

1. Mix the batter
2. Put it in the oven
3. Bake for 20 minutes

Obviously, order of items is important here (you don't want to bake the batter that hasn't been mixed yet :-)

Finally, the Definition lists. They are most often used when you have a list of items to be defined or explained. Use
and to start and end your list. will stand for "term" and will stand for "definition". Using the previous cake baking topic, here is an example of a Definition list:

Mix the batter:
Make sure to mix it until well blended or the cake will be lumpy

Put it in the oven:
You may need to rotate it middle of the baking cycle

Bake for 20 minutes:
Baking time may vary. Start checking in about 15 minutes.

When you're creating a complex list, with sub-items, you may use nested lists (list inside another list) and mix different kinds of lists together. Experiment with different combinations of lists to see what is the best way for you to organize items on your web page.

And here is the frosting! Hey, I bet even experienced webmasters might have missed the real flexibility of lists.

Every Ordered list begins counting with "1" by default. Every time you create a list, it automatically display "1" as the first item. But what if you don't want a list to start with "1"? Is it possible for you to control what number it starts counting at?

Let's say you are explaining different features of a product on your web page. You list the first 3 features, but then would like to stop for a moment and talk a little more about the 3rd feature. You have to end the list by using the tag. Then you will add the extra explanation about it in the next 2-3 paragraphs.

Now, you want to continue with your list. Oops! But you already closed it. If you start a new list, it will automatically begin with "1" again. But you need it to start with "4", right?

Here is what you do:
4. This item will be number 4
5. The next one will be 5 and so on.

All I did was add the word "value" and gave it a number. That number will start your list, and all the following list items will be counted from there.

And here is the sprinkles on the frosting. And this will REALLY blow you off!

In an Unordered list bullets look different in each browser. If you would like to have control over how bullets look on your web site, you can specify their type (options are - square, circle, and disc):

* This item has a black circle bullet
* The next one has empty circle as a bullet
* The last one looks like a square

So there you have it. Three types of lists that you can mix, match, combine and completely control with enough practice and experimentation. Use them often. Especially when you have long web pages filled with text. Be easy on your readers' eyes and they will be more likely to read what you have to say.

About the Author
Milana Leshinsky is the author of web design manuals for new and intermediate level webmasters. Her latest e-book "Mesmerizing Website Power" includes 65 web design tutorials, and a special report on how to design and lay out your web site to sell more of your products, "Web Design Psychology & Asthetics". Check it out at: (


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