Stricter syntax checking.

by Joe Gillespie — May 1, 2000

Another problem with these new browsers is that they can be less forgiving of errors or ambiguities in source code. In an attempt to make them work faster and keep the application file size down to sensible levels, something has to be left out and one of those things is the ability to handle buggy old HTML code.

Version 4 browsers may not accept all the HTML that you throw at them, but at least they usually let you down gently. It's too early to tell with Netscape 6 as it's currently only an early preview but Explorer 5 on the Mac is not very tolerant of buggy HTML and sometimes just dies instead of putting up a useful error message and continuing.

The big issue here for designers, and I alluded to it earlier, is that there isn't a WYSIWYG editor that writes squeaky clean HTML for these new browsers yet. Even the better ones like Dreamweaver and GoLive have a degree of catching-up to do.

GoLive 4 has a certain degree of syntax checking which catches BIG mistakes, Dreamweaver offloads the problem onto bundled text editors, Adobe Homesite (PC) and BBEdit (Mac). These two text editors do a pretty good job of syntax checking and allow you to specify the level of HTML to check against - 3.2, 4.0 Transitional, 4.0 Frameset, 4.0 Strict.

Syntax checking your source code may be a pain, but it helps to produce more reliable Web pages. Using a DOCTYPE statement at the top of every page tells the browser which markup language specification you are working to. Leave it out, and it will probably assume the lowest common denominator.

Watch out for those `optional' closing tags like </P>, leaving them out is going to cause problems with Cascading Style Sheet specifications and pages written to XHTML (and XML) standards - which are now gaining favor.

Get into the habit of syntax-checking your code. If you don't have a syntax checker on your own computer, there are some Web sites that will do it for you - the subject of this month's review...

Del.icio.us Digg Technorati Blinklist Furl reddit Design Float