Review: CSS Cookbook

Get CSS Cookbook from AmazonCSS Cookbook, 2nd Edition by Christopher Schmitt (O’Reilly 2006) is part of O’Reilly’s series of reference books falling into the cookbook category. The books use an organization scheme that is good for finding answers to specific questions quickly, rather than reading cover to cover. It’s reference shelf material, not textbook material.

Other O’Reilly cookbooks I’ve seen give problems and solutions in a rather brief format. The CSS Cookbook often goes into detail. Take this problem, for example: "You want to develop a system to display content columns in any order." The solution takes twenty pages to explain and involves floats, margins, whitespace considerations, column order, a page layout algorithm, faux columns plus JavaScript and PHP solutions.

Other problems are solved in just a couple of pages, for example, "You want to make it difficult for people to copy your images from your web page," is covered in two pages with a suggestion to use a background image behind a transparent GIF and a warning that people will still steal the image anyway if they are determined.

The title might have been "Web Cookbook" or "Presentation Cookbook" or something less specific than CSS Cookbook, because many of the solutions offered involve JavaScript, PHP, or even Photoshop instructions. Depending on your point of view, that might be considered added value or a drawback. If you are searching for a pure CSS solution, you might be dismayed by finding an answer that involves programming. But if you are searching for an answer to a presentation problem that you think you can solve with CSS, you might be happy to find a CSS answer plus other answers involving programming that might be as good or better than doing it with CSS.

In teaching terms, any O’Reilly cookbook is good to have handy, especially for the times when students are designing their own projects and come up with some new twist that hasn’t been addressed in class. As you might expect from a reference book, the appendices are thorough and helpful.

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