IDE(s): Coda, MAMP
When a new technology comes out, you have to ask yourself two questions:
- What problem is this intended to solve?
- How well does it solve it?
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) were designed to solve the problem of adding styles to Web documents. Was this actually a problem? (see question 1)
Web pages, at their heart, are just plain text. Originally if you wanted to add formatting you had to use markup tags to set the text as italic, boldface, underlined or even organized as a list or a table. This required some fiddling with individual text elements and there was no easy way to apply a style or combination of styles to text in separate areas of the page in one go. In addition, if you wanted to use the same content with different styling elements (or to present it for different browsers or platforms), you had to rather painfully re-write your markup.
Cascading Style Sheets let us define styles for different HTML elements (either in the Web page itself or in a separate CSS file) and apply them directly. Whenever the Web browser sees text with a label defined in CSS, it applies the appropriate style. Using a separate CSS file is considered better as it allows you to apply a common look-and-feel to multiple Web pages and makes it easy to re-format a Web page simply by applying a different CSS file.
So CSS does indeed seem to be a solution to a legitimate problem. But how good of a solution is it?
- Keeps content and design separate, making our HTML cleaner and easier to read.
- Makes it easier to display the same page correctly on multiple devices in multiple browsers
- Size and positioning of objects (such as images) can be pre-defined in CSS
- Gives readers more flexibility and control in how they view Web pages
- Not all browsers support CSS the same way
- Using CSS to position your Web page objects gets ugly really fast.
- CSS is ‘markup centric’ rather than ‘design centric’, forcing many Web designers to craft their code by hand
Needless to say, opinions differ. (The comments are pretty heated at that link. I recommend reading all of them.)
We are trying to move from print (which has had nearly a thousand years to evolve) to the Web (which has only been around since about 1993). I don’t think we’ve figured out the new design paradigms yet, but sites like CSS Zen Garden offer some intriguing possibilities.
This week I used MAMP as my Web server as usual, but instead of TextWrangler I decided to use Coda from Panic Software. It’s not free but Panic makes very good, clean, well-behaved software and Coda is not exception. Coda is not only specifically designed to manage Web code but comes with built-in documentation for
- Ruby on Rails
I was looking for something interesting to do with CSS and I came across a wonderful little tutorial at CoDrops. It walks you through setting up a Web page with CSS and JQuery that renders an animated billboard that flips between two different signs. I modified the images included using GraphicConverter and ImageMagick.
The output looks like this (as an animated GIF):