LESSON ONE - INTRODUCING HTML


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UNDERSTANDING HTML

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language.

                 H yper
                 T ext
                 M arkup
                 L anguage

LET'S BREAK THIS DOWN A LITTLE FURTHER

HYPER

You may have heard the expression "hyper" in describing someone. In simplest terms, it means active, kind of "all over the place". The word "Hyper" as part of HTML is similar in context. It simply means that when you are on the internet using a browser such as Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer, you can in fact, go "all over the place". In browsing through the World Wide Web (WWW), if you see something you like, you can go immediately to it. There is no set order to do things in. Hyper is the opposite of "linear". Linear means that there is a certain order you must follow such as "you must do this before you can do that". Programming languages such as BASIC and FORTRAN are linear. HTML does not hold to that and allows you to jump to any page on the WWW and at any time. Thus the word HYPER refers to the idea that the text in HTML is not linear.

TEXT

We are working with text only files. More on text only files in Lesson Two.

MARKUP

"Markup" comes from the fact that in order to create web pages, we will be typing in the text and then "marking up" the text. If you are familiar with WordPerfect, consider this example. Suppose you just typed a document in WordPerfect. If you choose REVEAL CODES from the VIEW menu, the monitor screen or Window splits into two parts. The top half of the screen shows the text you typed in and the bottom half shows the same text but with the words marked up with "codes" or "tags". For example, suppose you typed the following three lines in WordPerfect:

Hi, this is bold

This is italics

These words are centered


If you choose REVEAL CODES, you would see the following on the bottom half of your screen in one version of WordPerfect:

[Bold On]Hi, this is bold[Bold off][HRt]
[HRt]
[Italic On]This is italics[Italic Off][HRt]
[HRt]
[Just:Center]These words are centered[HRt]

In other words, the text has been marked up with codes or tags as indicated between the [  ] symbols. Each [HRt] indicates that the ENTER key was pressed. [Bold On] means that everything after this tag is bolded. The [Bold Off] tag simply says that bolding is to end here. Unless you choose REVEAL CODES, you won't see these tags. All word processors have codes that tell the computer how to display the document, how to print it out, etc.
        In HTML, WordPerfect tags or the tags from any other word processor won't work. HTML has its own set of tags to mark up text. If you want something bolded or centered, you have to indicate so with HTML tags. WordPerfect automatically puts the tags in for you. In HTML, you must put in the tags yourself. If you want to see the tags for this page, just choose VIEW from the menu bar of your browser and then choose SOURCE or DOCUMENT SOURCE.

LANGUAGE

"Language" means that we are using a language with all its syntax. Note that HTML is not a programming language such as BASIC or FORTRAN. These are linear programming languages and are based on a whole different set of rules and are far more complicated to learn. So HTML is the basic language for creating web pages on a website and, as you will see, is also an easy language to learn.


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DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF HTML

HTML 1.0

The original version of HTML was HTML 1.0. It had very limited features which greatly limited what you could do in designing your web pages.

HTML 2.0

HTML 2.0 then arrived and included all the features of HTML 1.0 plus several new features for web page design. Until January, 1997, HTML 2.0 was the standard in web page design.

HTML 3.0

HTML 2.0 served its purpose very well, but many people designing web pages (called HTML authors or webmasters) wanted more control over their web pages and more ways to mark up their text and enhance the appearance of their websites. Netscape, the leading browser at that time, introduced new tags and attributes called the Netscape Extension Tags. Other browsers tried to duplicate them but Netscape did not fully specify their new tags and so these extension tags did not work in most other browsers. It led to considerable confusion and problems when HTML authors used these tags and attributes and then saw that they didn't work as expected in other browsers.
        At about that time, an HTML working group, led by Dave Raggett, introduced the HTML 3.0 draft which included many new and useful enhancements to HTML. However, most browsers only implemented a few elements from this draft. The phrase "HTML 3.0 enhanced" quickly became popular on the web but it more often than not referred to documents containing browser specific tags (discussed below in "The Netscape Problem" section), instead of referring to documents adhering to the HTML 3.0 draft. This was one of the reasons why the draft was abandoned. HTML 3.0 is now an expired draft. Another reason why HTML 3.0 did not make it was because it was so "big". Future versions were now to be introduced in a more "modular" way so that browsers can implement them modular by modular or bit by bit.

HTML 3.2 (WILBUR)

As more browser-specific tags were introduced, it became obvious that a new standard was needed. For this reason, the Word Wide Web Consortium (W3C), founded in 1994 to develop common standards for the evolution of the World Wide Web, drafted the WILBUR standard, which later became known as HTML 3.2. HTML 3.2 captures the recommended practice as of early 1996 and became the official standard in January, 1997. Most, if not all, popular browsers in use today fully support HTML 3.2.

HTML 4.0 (COUGAR)

In the early days, HTML 4.0 was code-named COUGAR. This version introduces new functionality, most of which comes from the expired HTML 3.0 draft. This version became a recommendation in December, 1997 and a standard as of April, 1998. Explorer has done a very good job in implementing the many features of HTML 4.0. Unfortunately, Netscape has not kept pace. The latest version of Netscape Communicator still does not recognize the many tags and attributes introduced with HTML 4.0. This means that a web page that involves HTML 4.0 specific tags will look great in Explorer but can look disastrous in Netscape.

XHTML

You would think that the next major version after HTML 4.0 would be HTML 5.0 and with it would come a bunch of new tags that would do all sorts of wonderful things. That would be a good guess - but it would also be a wrong guess. The next version of HTML after HTML 4 is XHTML.

XHTML stands for EXtensible HyperText Markup Language.

      EXtensible
      Hyper
      Text
      Markup
      Language

XHTML is not bringing with it a lot of new tags. The purpose of XHTML is to address the new browser technologies that is sweeping the world. Today web pages are being viewed in browsers through cell/mobile phones, cars, televisions, plus a host of hand-held wireless devices and communicators. Alternate ways to access the internet are continually being introduced. In many cases, these devices will not have the computing power of a desktop or notebook computer and so will not be able to accommodate poor or sloppy coding practices. XHTML is designed to address these technologies. XHTML also begins to address the need for those with disabilities (such as the blind and visually impaired) to access the internet. Thus web pages written in XHTML will allow them to be viewed on a wide range of browsers and internet platforms.

XHTML is the result of the hard working World Wide Web Consortium (the W3C) to bring some sort of standard to provide rich high quality web pages through these varied devices. XHTML became an official W3C recommendation in January, 2000. XHTML is now a web standard and is the next generation of HTML.

HTML 5

HTML 5 (usually written HTML5) is the new web standard. It follows HTML 4 (which came out way back in 1997) and XHTML. Since the introduction of HTML4, a lot has happened with the web and something needed to be done to address all the new technologies and latest multimedia. HTML5 is the result of cooperation that began in 2006 between the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG). While HTML5 is still evolving (still under development), the latest browsers do support many of the new features and elements in this version. The basic aim of HTML5 is to provide two things - (1) to improve the language and (2) to support the latest multimedia. In order to accomplish this, some ground rules were established by the W3C and WHATWG. Among them were to reduce the need for external plug-ins (such as Flash plug-ins), better handling of errors, and more markup elements (tags) to replace scripting. HTML5 should also be device independent (that is, understood by computers and the many devices in existence today) while also keeping it easily readable by us humans.


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NETSCAPE NO LONGER SUPPORTED

In 1999, AOL acquired Netscape Communications Corporation. At one time, the Netscape browser was regarded as the leader in web browsing. Soon after AOL's acquisition, the Netscape suite also became known as Mozilla. The first Mozilla-based Netscape browser was version 6 and it was released in 2000. AOL continue to support, develop and release new versions. There was also still much effort within AOL to revive Netscape Navigator. However, these efforts have not been successful in gaining market share from Microsoft's very popular Internet Explorer.

The bottom line is that due to time and cost, AOL has not been able to get the Netscape browser developed to a point many of its fans expect it to be. As a result, it is the end of the development of Netscape branded browsers. As of February 1, 2008, there is no more support for Netscape web browsers. That is, there is no more active product support for Navigator 9, or any previous Netscape Navigator browser. This includes Netscape v1-v4.x, Netscape v6, Netscape v7 Suite, Netscape Browser v8, and Netscape Navigator/Messenger 9. These browsers will still be around for long time yet as people will continue to use them and you can still download them. It is just that the support is no longer there. That is, there are no more updates on security patches and no more active product support. In other words, there will be no more security updates to keep us safe on the web with Netscape browsers.

So what does all this mean? The Netscape team fully stands behind the great work being done by the Mozilla Foundation and recommends that you download Mozilla Firefox and give it a try. Mozilla Firefox is a current web browser that is very secure and it has the look and feel people have grown accustomed to with Netscape. You can even add Netscape themes and extensions.

There are many surfers surfing with Firefox. It is a popular browser with many good features. If you are serious in creating a personal or business website or creating websites for others, you may wish to download a copy of Firefox. It is recommended that you view your web pages in both Explorer and Firefox. Sometimes a web page can look great in one browser but not so great in another browser. So it is good to check your work in various browsers such as Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Flock, etc..

Note: These lessons address mainly Internet Explorer and Firefox with references to Netscape. However, you can use any browser and if you are using Flock, the results will be the same as in Firefox. If you were to ask me what my browser of choice is, I would have to say Firefox. I believe the features, security and support are second to none. Even if you prefer Explorer, you should still check your work in Firefox as I still check my work in Explorer.

You can download your free copy of Firefox from www.mozilla.com.


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HTML SOFTWARE TO ASSIST IN WEB PAGE DESIGN

Should I not simply use one of the programs on the market that makes up web pages for me? You could. While all of them will give a basic home page, a number of them are limited in what they can do. Many do not, for example, give you all the features of HTML. However, I am also sure that there are programs on the market (and new programs coming out all the time) that do incorporate most of the features of the various versions of HTML. Still, in order to get maximum use out of these programs, you need to understand HTML and what it can do for you in the design of web pages. It would be good to know what will work in most browsers and what won't work. It would be good to know what tags are browser specific or what tags will work only in a high level browser. If you understand the basics of HTML, you will have a much better understanding of what you are trying to accomplish with these market programs. You could also use an HTML program to assist you with some of the basic stuff and then code the rest yourself with your knowledge of HTML. Someday you may want to experiment with some of these programs. There is no doubt that learning the basics of the HTML language is necessary to fully understand these web page design programs. Knowing HTML will allow you to tweak and fine tune a web page to perfection.

To illustrate what I am trying to say, here are three unsolicited testimonials I received. This first one is from Karen who lives in the state of Georgia, USA. She writes: "I can't thank you enough for taking the time to explain HTML. I'm off work due to an illness. Being bored out of my mind I decided to try to create a web page without any knowledge of HTML. The programs I used did the basics, but I found them confusing because I lacked the knowledge of HTML. So I went surfing and found your website. I must say that I am impressed. After going through all the lessons, I've got some great ideas and can't wait to get started on my own page. I decided to dump the programs and do all the coding myself. When I finish my web page there will be a note of thanks and link to your website. My greatest appreciation, Karen."

Here is an email I received from Brenda who lives in Illinois. She writes: "I have printed all of the pages of your lessons and am impressed at the level of information it contains. I can actually understand what you are talking about although I am brand new to HTML. I am teaching myself how to create my company web page using FrontPage and I have an embarrassingly simple web page on Geocities. Some trouble has occurred in FrontPage with extensions and color changes, hence I am trying to learn HTML to correct them. Thank you so much for taking the time to create these lessons. They are fabulous! Brenda."

Our third email is from Sharon who lives in Pennsylvania, USA. She writes: "After being overwhelmed by HomeSite, and constrained by templates on free space websites, this is exactly what I was looking for. You write in a wonderfully clear, concise way, that's easy to follow. Your problems are instructive, and the pace is perfect. THANK YOU!"

I have also received many other e-mails from people expressing similar view points. I'm not advocating that we "dump" these programs. For some people they are very essential in designing websites and in updating them. But the point to be made is that it is better to take some time and learn HTML first. Then if you do run into some problems with these programs, you will know how to correct them.

So now sit back, relax, and learn a whole new language called HTML. You will be happy you did.



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