Review: Cascading Style Sheets: The Designer’s Edge

book coverBeing a woman very involved with the Web, I have watched Molly E. Holzschlag’s career with some interest since she was voted one of the “Top 25 Most Influential Women on the Web.” She has done good work in many forums, but her latest book Cascading Style Sheets: The Designer’s Edge from Sybex is one of her best contributions to date. The book takes some of those innovative leaps that Sybex is not afraid to try and the result is a work that is fresh and unique in a crowded sea of CSS books.

The unique hook in this book is the sections devoted to design and “vision” with CSS. The book tells the story of the reconstruction of a table-based site that Holzschlag and Eric A. Meyer (the technical editor of the book and author of the highly regarded Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide) did at a User Interface 7 conference. It is a fascinating explanation of how all the font, span, nonstandard markup and nested tables were removed from a page and the CSS decisions that went into rebuilding the page as an almost exact replica (in appearance) of the original. For the CSS newbie who wants to move away from tables, this is one of the most instructive lessons in how to do it that I have seen in print. And for anyone who already knows quite a lot about CSS, it is still highly informative. All the HTML and CSS used in the exercise and book are available for download from

The examples of “vision” in the book include a CSS Design Gallery showing some of the possibilities for innovative design using pure CSS. Holzschlag states that, “we must use CSS in practical as well as visionary ways,” and suggests that since browser support for CSS and standard markup is very good in modern browsers there will be a great flowering of ideas involving the possibilities and opportunities for creative use of CSS.

The book begins by explaining structured markup and CSS in theory and practice and moves to CSS typography, color, backgrounds, borders and layout. I have been devouring HTML and CSS books for years, especially my beloved HTML for the World Wide Web by Elizabeth Castro, and I still managed to learn some new things and discover some fresh approaches to teaching this material in Cascading Style Sheets: the Designer’s Edge.

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