Review: CSS: The Missing Manual

by Web Teacher

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★★★★ CSS: The Missing Manual by David Sawyer McFarland is from O’Reilly (2009). The books in the missing manual series are always dependable resources, and this book is no exception. The book isn’t a big wow. It isn’t bad. It’s somewhere in the middle where solid resources and reliable information can be found. If you need a book that answers your CSS questions quickly and clearly, this book is a good choice.

The book is in three sections. In Part One, you get the basics including a summary of why Plain Old Semantic HTML (POSH) is desirable, a look at the construction of a style rule, and an explanation of internal and external style sheets. Other basics in Part One include selectors, inheritance, and the Cascade. Part Two deals with applied CSS. The applied CSS includes styling text, margins, padding, borders, graphics, links and navigation, tables, and forms. Part Three is devoted to page layout. There an introductory chapter dealing with divs and how to mock up a design based on content. Then a chapter for float-based layouts and another for positioned elements. Neither of the chapters in the page layout part of the book deal with layout techniques using the display property, probably because Internet Explorer is so problematic in that area. (The book does include lots of tips for dealing with the difficulties of IE, however.) Part Four is Advanced CSS. Section Four includes media targeted style sheets such as print styles, tips on commenting CSS, some descendent selector information and information about how to use conditional comments for IE. The advanced information includes a brief chapter on CSS 3. There are three appendixes: CSS properties, CSS in Dreamweaver CS 4, and an extensive list of resources.

The appendix about using CSS in Dreamweaver CS4 is an interesting addition to the book. You don’t often see this sort of thing in a book that is strictly about CSS. Normally, you must get a Dreamweaver CS4-specific book for information about CSS in Dreamweaver. I actually find this to be a plus in CSS: The Missing Manual‘s favor. While I think everyone working in front end web development should know CSS front to back, I also realize that tools like Dreamweaver get used in the real world because they save so much time.

Summary: A solid resource

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