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Quick Start with HTML


When you're just starting out with HTML and XHTML, you want to build documents right away. This article series gets you started right. It is excerpted from chapter two of HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide, Sixth Edition, written by Chuck Musciano and Bill Kennedy (O'Reilly; ISBN: 0596527322). Copyright 2007 O'Reilly Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission from the publisher. Available from booksellers or direct from O'Reilly Media.

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By: O'Reilly Media
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March 27, 2008
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. · Quick Start with HTML
  2. · 2.2 A First HTML Document
  3. · 2.3 Embedded Tags
  4. · 2.4 HTML Skeleton
  5. · 2.6 Text
  6. · 2.6.2 Text Structures

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Quick Start with HTML - 2.4 HTML Skeleton
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Notice, too, that our simple example HTML document starts and ends with <html> and </html> tags. These tags tell the browser that the entire document is composed in HTML.* The HTML and XHTML standards require an <html> tag for compliant documents, but most browsers can detect and properly display HTML encoding in a text document that's missing this outermost structural tag. [<html>, 3.6.1]

Like our example, except for special frameset documents, all HTML and XHTML documents have two main structures: a head and a body, each bounded in the source by respectively named start and end tags. You put information about the document in the head and the contents you want displayed in the browser's window inside the body. Except in rare cases, you'll spend most of your time working on your document's body content. [<head>, 3.7.1] [<body>, 3.8.1]

There are several different document header tags that you can use to define how a particular document fits into a document collection and into the larger scheme of the Web. Some nonstandard header tags even animate your document.

For most documents, however, the important header element is the title. Standards require that every HTML and XHTML document have a title, even though the currently popular browsers don't enforce that rule. Choose a meaningful title, one that instantly tells the reader what the document is about. Enclose yours, as we do for the title of our example, between the <title> and </title> tags in your document's header. The popular browsers typically display the title at the top of the document's window. [<title>, 3.7.2]

2.5  The Flesh on an HTML or XHTML Document

Except for the <html>, <head>, <body>, and <title> tags, the HTML and XHTML standards have few other required structural elements. You're free to include pretty much anything else in the contents of your document. (The web surfers among you know that authors have taken full advantage of that freedom, too.) Perhaps surprisingly, though, there are only three main types of HTML/XHTML content: tags (which we described previously), comments, and text.

2.5.1  Comments

A raw document with all its embedded tags can quickly become nearly unreadable, like computer-programming source code. We strongly recommend that you use comments to guide your composing eye.

Although it's part of your document, nothing in a comment, which goes between the special starting tag <!-- and ending tag --> comment delimiters, gets included in the browser display of your document. You see a comment in the source, as in our simple HTML example, but you don't see it on the display, as evidenced by our comment's absence in Figure 2-1. Anyone can download the source text of your documents and read the comments, though, so be careful what you write.

2.5.2  Text

If it isn't a tag or a comment, it's text. The bulk of content in most of your HTML/XHTML documents--the part readers see on their browser displays--is text. Special tags give the text structure, such as headings, lists, and tables. Others advise the browser how the content should be formatted and displayed.

2.5.3  Multimedia

What about images and other multimedia elements we see and hear as part of our web browser displays? Aren't they part of the HTML document? No. The data that comprises digital images, movies, sounds, and other multimedia elements that may be included in the browser display is in files separate from the main HTML/XHTML document. You include references to those multimedia elements via special tags. The browser uses those references to load and integrate other types of documents with your text.

We didn't include any special multimedia references in the previous example simply because they are separate, nontext documents that you can't just type into a text processor. We do, however, talk about and give examples of how to integrate images and other multimedia in your documents later in this chapter, as well as in extensive detail in subsequent chapters.


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