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CSS Overview

The W3C rather crisply defines CSS as “a simple mechanism for adding style (for example, fonts, colors, spacing) to web documents” (www.w3.org/Style/CSS/). A few details omitted from that summary are worth noting:

  • CSS is a standard layout language for the web—one that controls colors, typography, and the size and placement of elements and images.

  • Although precise and powerful, CSS is easy to author by hand, as this chapter will show.

  • CSS is bandwidth friendly: a single CSS file can control the appearance of an entire site, comprising thousands of pages and hundreds of megabytes.

  • CSS has long been intended by its creators (W3C) to replace HTML table-based layouts, frames, and other presentational hacks, but as we'll see in the next chapter, it can also be highly effective in hybrid, transitional layouts.

  • Pure CSS layout, combined with structural XHTML, can help designers separate presentation from structure, making sites more accessible and easier to maintain, as described in the next section, “CSS Benefits.”


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