Pro CSS Techniques

4 comments | Posted: 25 February 07 in Books, by Nathan Smith

Pro CSS Techniques I received my review copy of Pro CSS Techniques in the mail from Apress last month, and finished reading it last week, but am just now getting around to writing a review. I wish I’d read it sooner, because in the acknowledgments section at the beginning of the book, it was flattering to see my name listed me amongst those who are “sources of inspiration and motivation” (thanks Jeff). This book was authored by Jeff Croft, Ian Lloyd and Dan Rubin.

These guys are all CSS gurus in their own right, respectively working on projects such as: Django, Accessify and Sidebar. I like the approach they take in writing this book, one of pragmatism instead of hand-holding, riding a bike without any training wheels. In the words of the authors:

This book is a collection of proven, professional, modern techniques that you can use every day to get the most out of the time you put into your projects… This book is not an introduction to CSS. Although we’ll provide an overview of the basics, we’ll assume you have a simple understanding of CSS and how it works.

Because the devil is in the details when it comes to CSS, this is exactly the type of book that is needed. CSS is like chess, simple in principle yet complex in application. It’s like the old adage: “A day to learn, a lifetime to master.” I’ve never met a web developer who has had trouble mastering the concepts behind CSS. Agony is caused by multi-browser implementation of advanced layouts.

Don’t get me wrong, I think introductory books are necessary, and in fact one of my favorite ones is Eric Meyer’s Definitive Guide to CSS. Not every book needs to be the Encylopedia Britannica of programming languages. Pro CSS Techniques is more in line with CSS Mastery in the approach that it takes.

Favorite aspects:

Specificity and the Cascade – It’s nice to be reminded what is in store, once IE6 is no longer a thorn in our sides. It will be nice to use child and adjacent selectors with reliability. How many times have you wanted to change one of many list items, and had to give it a class name?

Typography – This chapter shows off text effects, such as how to get the first letter treatment seen on sites like Jason Santa Maria and Garrett Dimon:

Jasonsantamaria.com + Garrettdimon.com

Styling Tables – I actually talked to a designer awhile ago who had no idea how to make use of tables, having started after tables received their negative stigma for layout. They are still important for presenting data, and this chapter shows how to use them semantically as they were intended.

Styling Forms – How many times have you seen an unusually large submit button, because an amateur designer generically set the width of all input? This chapter shows you how to finesse web forms into submission.

Styling Lists – Arguably one of the hardest aspects of using CSS is getting menu and navigation lists to display correctly. This is evident by sites such as Listamatic catering specifically to lists. This chapter tackles it head-on.

Print and Other Media – This is a nice look at how to think beyond the browser. Mobility is all the rage nowadays, and it won’t be long before we’ll be developing sites that cater to handheld devices. This chapter also shows how to go from screen to paper, without losing the essence of your content.

Summary

This is a great book, and would make an excellent addition to the arsenal of any client-side developer. The appendices are worth the price alone, containing CSS Reference, Specificity and Browser Grading charts. These provide a great way to see side-by-side comparisons of which CSS techniques are well supported, and those we can salivate over until they hit the mainstream. Bottom line, if CSS puts bread on your table, this book will make you more productive.

Discuss This Topic

  1. 1 Larry

    Specificity and cascade and all that have ALWAYS eluded my understanding. Maybe I’ll pick up this book in the near future. Unless, of course, you wanna send it my way. ;)

     
  2. 2 Nate Klaiber

    I think this book is an incredible resource with a wealth of knowledge. I recently let a friend borrow it who is really interested in CSS. I feel safe, even though he is a beginner, that this book will help him understand CSS at a new level. The authors did a great job of covering things exhaustively, even forcing you to fail at times. All of it comes full circle as they walk you through the details.

    RE: Larry
    This book does a great job of covering specificity and the cascade, but if you want a quick desk reference – check out the Eric Meyer Definitive guide that Nathan mentioned above.

     
  3. 3 Kerwyn Wilson

    Great Review. I will considered getting myself a copy, although I currently have my eyes set on CSS Mastery.

    Larry:
    Beginning CSS Web Development by Simon Collison is another great book for beginning CSS users. Its also published by Apress.

     
  4. 4 Mark Priestap

    I’m sold! Thanks for the review Nathan – I’ve been looking for a resource like this.

     

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