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Help Writing A Reference


Many people still write HTML by hand using tools such as NotePad on Windows, or TextEdit on the Mac. This guide will get you up and running. Even if you dont intend to edit HTML directly and instead plan to use an HTML editor such as Netscape Composer, or W3Cs Amaya, this guide will enable you to understand enough to make better use of such tools and how to make your HTML documents accessible on a wide range of browsers. Once you are comfortable with the basics of authoring HTML, you may want to learn how to add a touch of style using CSS, and to go on to try out features covered in my page on advanced HTML

p.s. a good way to learn is to look at how other people have coded their html pages. To do this, click on the "View" menu and then on "Source". On some browsers, you instead need to click on the "File" menu and then on "View Source". Try it with this page to see how I have applied the ideas I explain below. You will find yourself developing a critical eye as many pages look rather a mess under the hood!

For Mac users, before you can save a file with the ".html" extension, you will need to ensure that your document is formatted as plain text. For TextEdit, you can set this with the "Format" menus "Make Plain Text" option.

If you are looking for something else, try the advanced HTML page.

Every HTML document needs a title. Here is what you need to type:

To try this out, type the above into a text editor and save the file as "test.html", then view the file in a web browser. If the file extension is ".html" or ".htm" then the browser will recognize it as HTML. Most browsers show the title in the window caption bar. With just a title, the browser will show a blank page. Dont worry. The next section will show how to add displayable content.

If you have used Microsoft Word, you will be familiar with the built in styles for headings of differing importance. In HTML there are six levels of headings. H1 is the most important, H2 is slightly less important, and so on down to H6, the least important.

Generally speaking, JPEG is best for photographs and other smoothly varying images, while GIF and PNG are good for graphics art involving flat areas of color, lines and text. All three formats support options for progressive rendering where a crude version of the image is sent first and progressively refined.

What makes the Web so effective is the ability to define links from one page to another, and to follow links at the click of a button. A single click can take you right across the world!

If the file you are linking to is in a parent folder/directory, you need to put "../" in front of it, for instance:

To link to a page on another Web site you need to give the full Web address (commonly called a URL), for instance to link to www.w3.org you need to write:

If you are ready to learn more, I have prepared some accompanying material on advanced HTML and adding a touch of style.

W3Cs Recommendation for HTML 4.0 is the authoritative specification for HTML. However, it is a technical specification. For a less technical source of information you may want to purchase one of the many books on HTML, for example "Raggett on HTML 4", published 1998 by Addison Wesley. XHTML 1.0 is now a W3C Recommendation.