Creating Cool HTML 4 Web Pages
Price: Variable (out of print, but available via Amazon.com)
Page Count: 440
Once upon a time, I had a whole shelf-full of HTML how-to books. You know the kind, HTML for Imbeciles, I Hate to Code HTML, The Super Easy Way To Write HTML Pages for the Complete Illiterate, etc. Several years ago, I was able to put them all in the recycling bin and switch to a single resource book, Dave Taylor’s Creating Cool HTML 4 Web Pages. My copy was published in 1998, so it’s almost ten years old, but it is still an incredibly valuable reference book when all you need to do is do some basic no-frills HTML coding. CSS? Not here. XHTML? Nope. References to high-end HTML design tools? Not a chance. Those tools weren’t around when this book was published. People were still using Adobe’s much (deservedly) maligned PageMill in 1998. Talk about a program that completely refused to do your bidding!
What is in this book, aside from the delightfully obsolete CD chock full of 1998-vintage web applications, are page after page of really easy to read and understand examples that build on each previous example. This is the book that really brought understanding to me about HTML tables, which are generally a major pain in the posterior region to code. Did I say code? Yup! Almost all of the HTML work that I do is hand-coded. I like the control it gives me, and I don’t have to fight a web page design tool that wants to code a page “its way”. Mind you, I do make use of such software when necessary. Tools such as FrontPage 2003 on my hated office Dell machine, and Macromedia/Adobe Dreamweaver and Adobe GoLive on my various Macs are used when I need something more than just a few lines of code. I also have to admit that today’s web design tools are really, really good, and make it easy to create pages that look like what you want them to look like. That said, if I’m doing a simple blog or a product review on MyMac.com, I just think it’s easier to code the darned thing myself.
Taylor’s book gave me the confidence, many years ago, to throw off the shackles of the lousy (at the time) web editors and showed me the way to do it myself.
Not only does this book go into the basics, but also gives excellent detail on HTML tagging, with most of the important modifiers needed for text formatting, as well as special-case features, and they all still work on today’s browsers (except maybe the old Netscape “blink” tag).
The book is still available on Amazon.com through their used bookseller program for as little as 67 cents (plus a few bucks shipping). There is no single HTML coding reference guide I can recommend as highly as I recommend this one. Yes it’s old, but it’s still got its chops even after all these years. Further good news is that virtually every piece of code in this book applies to XHTML and more modern web technologies. Remember, this was written when we were still using Netscape 3 and Internet Explorer 3 or 4 (yes, I have gray hair–you would too if you had to use PageMill!). If you need to quickly learn a little bit of HTML, or a lot, you should start with this book. It’s just that good. It still sits on my desk at work, and I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t open it to look up some arcane chunk of HTML code that I need for one of my office web projects.
Dave Taylor published a newer version of this book, Creating Cool Web Sites with HTML, XHTML, and CSS a few years ago, but I have not read it, so I can’t say for certain what improvements this newer edition might have.
Even nine years after publication, I still give this book my highest rating, though due to its age and really obsolete enclosed CD, I’ve dropped the rating slightly.
MyMac.com rating 4 out of 5.