WPDFD Issue #67 - October 01, 2003

This month's edition is about progress – mostly! Firstly, it looks at the state of current browsers and shows how well they have come on in the last year. Although there are still minor discrepancies in how they render CSS, major cross-browser differences are now a thing of the past. If you produce valid HTML (or XHTML) and CSS markup, you will be surprised only by the lack of surprises! The next big step forward is that the editor manufacturers are now taking Web standards seriously.

Last September, I put a batch of browsers through some gruelling tests to see how well they coped with Cascading Style Sheets layouts. More specifically, I wanted to see how far I could push them before they fell over. When you use CSS for layout, if the browsers don't behave as expected, you can end up with a mess. It's just like pulling a can of beans from the bottom row of a supermarket display.

The uptake of CSS and general Web standards has been pitifully slow, a fact that is almost entirely down to the poor support in the popular Web page editors. The relatively few designers, who do care about such things, usually have to resort to hand coding. Hopefully, that's all about to change. Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004 still has the same familiar interface but it has two very significant changes from the previous version.

DOCTYPE & DTD

In HTML and XHTML, the DocType is a special tag that goes right at the top of the page above <HTML> and warns the browser what's coming. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> This one, for instance, tells the browser that the page uses Extensible HyperText Markup Language - Just like saying "The game is Five Card Stud.