PCWeek praises CSS1

Rohit Khare (khare@w3.org)
Thu, 19 Dec 1996 16:56:08 -0500

>Endorsed by the W3 Consortium (the Web standards body),
>CSS1 provides hundreds of settings that control how text=20
> is formatted on Web pages.

1) thanks, but no thanks :-)
2) Actually, an inifinte number of setting, if anyone's counting, justnam=
your own tag class...



December 18, 1996=20
New HTML extensions promise richer pages
By Timothy Dyck

=A0<Picture: PC Week Labs Tech View>

Living in permanent fast-forward, developers at Microsoft Corp. and
Netscape Communications Corp. are delivering new World Wide Web
technologies that will make pages richer and more interactive than
previously possible.

Two page layout initiatives, CSS1 (Cascading Style Sheet Level 1) and
layout extensions to CSS1, finally allow Web pages to include formatting
information for common typographical elements such as font selection,
margins, leading and layering.

Related work in the form of Microsoft's Active HTML and Netscape's
JavaScript Style Sheets promises to add scripting capabilities to Web pag=
elements, allowing page contents and formatting to change dynamically bas=
on user actions.

Though still in early stages, these initiatives will completely change th=
look and feel of leading Web sites in the coming year.

Get some style

Frustrated page designers chafing at HTML's lack of formatting informatio=
will find their concerns addressed with the CSS1 specification. Endorsed =
the W3 Consortium (the Web standards body), CSS1 provides hundreds of
settings that control how text is formatted on Web pages.

In addition to extensive page layout settings, CSS1 allows page designers
to extend the definitions of built-in HTML styles like H1 or P (for
headings and paragraphs) to include formatting information or create new
named styles such as P.bodycopy or P.bigheading that make it easy to chan=
the format of large HTML documents in one step.

Using Cascading Style Sheets, Web designers can replace all formatting
information in their Web pages with named character and paragraph styles,
placing the actual specification for these styles in a separate file. A f=
changes to a style sheet definition can completely change the appearance =
a document.

A style sheet can be shared among all documents on a Web page, making it
possible for the first time for a Web site to have a consistent style and
presentation without laboriously hand-coding each HTML page.

Referencing an external style sheet is just one way style sheets can be
implemented. Named-style tags also can be mixed with traditional formatti=
tags, allowing for a gradual transition to the new style, and, even bette=
traditional tags can be redefined to have new meanings.

Easy to specify but difficult to implement, CSS1 is only supported by one
major browser, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3.0 (and only partially at
that), and very few authoring tools generate CSS-format style sheets.

Internet Explorer 3.0 also leads the effort to address the other major pa=
formatting gap, element layout and positioning. The HTML Layout Control
included with IE 3.0 allows designers to exactly position page elements
such as frames and images, to layer and overlap page elements (instead of
only tiling them), and to set object transparency.

The W3 Consortium is developing a layout markup language (Microsoft's
implementation is based on the current W3 draft standard) and will likely
merge both CSS and layout tags into a CSS Level 2 specification due next

Netscape Navigator doesn't currently support any style sheet or layout
formatting commands but promises that both will be found in Navigator 4.0=
due in the first half of 1997. Netscape also has stated that Navigator's
implementation will comply with the W3 Consortium specifications and thus
be compatible with Internet Explorer 3.0 and 4.0.

Smart pages

Although CSS and CSS layout extensions specify exactly how pages should
look, these formatting instructions are hard-coded into server-based HTML

At its recent developers conference, Netscape introduced JSSS (JavaScript
Style Sheets), a blending of CSS1 and JavaScript concepts that allows
JavaScript applets embedded in an HTML document to dynamically change CSS
tags. Thus, a document could use different margins or text type sizes,
depending on the configuration of a user's system.

Microsoft has responded with a similar initiative it has called Trident,
HTML Object Model or, most recently, Active HTML. Active HTML does much t=
same thing as JSSS but adds a few extra features such as a new data bindi=
object for client-side database access.

Both JSSS and Active HTML can do much more than manipulate CSS; they
promise to make any HTML elements (such as text, frame sets or table
definitions) dynamically modifiable based on user input. Significantly,
this processing happens at the client side and thus requires no lengthy
server processing and page regeneration.

Technologies such as JSSS and Active HTML extend the reach of Web scripti=
languages and will allow Web developers to stop using hard-to-develop
plug-ins or ActiveX controls just to perform simple user interface

Both these technologies are still months away from general availability,
and there is hope that the W3 Consortium will be able to merge JSSS and
Active HTML into a single standard before either is finalized.

Senior Technical Analyst Timothy Dyck can be reached at timothy_dyck@zd.c=