What does CSS stand for?

Cascading Style Sheets

What is CSS?

Cascading Style Sheets are a means to separate the presentation from the structural markup of a Web site. By using a CSS you have the ability to keep the structure of your document lean and fast, while completely maintaining the control over the appearance of the site.

CSS allows you to decide what font size and color you want to use for the site and change the details at will. For example, if you do not use CSS the appearance of the website may differ from one user to another, that is due to the various browser settings.

Why use CSS?

Every website should have a CSS! Let us use an example to illustrate this: you create a 30-page website with blue font throughout the site; 3 months later the client decides to use an orange font. If the site was not built using a CSS this process would turn out to be quite time consuming as you would have to go through each individual pages to change the font’s color, sometimes each individual section. On the other hand, with CSS, all you have to do is specify that the font is to be orange, and it will take effect on all pages, instantly.

Use a single style sheet for all the pages of your site, or possibly a few coordinated ones if you have pages with very different needs, like for example a site combining technical documentation and marketing pages. One of the main benefits of style sheets is that it ensures visual continuity as the user navigates through the site.

The Web is not WYSIWYG, that is because of the variability in supported platforms. However, Web stylesheets are cascading, meaning that they merged with the user's browser configuration to create the intended presentation. Using a CSS can make the difference between a site that is an eyesore and one that is like candy for the eyes.

CSS is a powerful, flexible way to specify HTML formatting. It lets you separate the style and layout of your HTML files from their content, allowing you to control the layout, e.g. fonts, colors, leading, margins, typefaces, and several other aspects of style, without even compromising its structure.

When should I use CCS?

As a developer this means that the information in your Web site should go into your HTML files, but HTML files should not contain information about how that information is displayed. And you've probably guessed by now that this information is contained into the CSS files.

With CSS, you can decide how headings should appear, and only enter that information once. Every heading in every page that is linked to this style sheet now has that appearance. Want to make every heading of level 3 more obviously different from those of level 2? Edit the style sheet, and every such heading now has the improved appearance. Calculate how many hours of work (and potential errors) you have just saved.

Another major advantage involves the management of large, sophisticated sites. With cascading style sheets, whole organizations can share a small number of style sheets, ensuring consistency across the site without the need for constant updating and editing to accommodate changes.

Is CSS complicated to use?

CSS is for those who have a fair understanding of the process of Web-page development, either hand coding using HTML, or using a visual tool such as Dreamweaver MX, GoLive, FrontPage or other such tools. A good working knowledge of HTML at a code level will come in handy at times.

Which programs offers CSS?

Almost all Web editors offer CSS, like Adobe GoLive, Dreamweaver, Topstyle pro, Stylemaster, Style Studio and many more. You can also hand code it with any text editor and name it with a .css extension.

Are there compatibility issues with CSS?

At first, CSS only really worked at all in Netscape Navigator 4.0x and 4.5 and Internet Explorer 3 (a little), 4, 4.5 and 5. In the early days, this was considered to be a real issue. Developers felt that they had to develop for all those users still using "pre-CSS" browsers, so they avoided style sheets altogether. As we all know, the percentage of Web users who use a recent or even the latest version of a browser is always increasing. So what was almost unused one year ago is widely used today. If you have resisted using or learning style sheets because it is an experimental technology, keep in mind that depending on your site visitors, a sizable majority of web browsers in common use today support style sheets very well. It is no longer experimental.

On a different note, even though all the major browsers have been supporting style sheets for some time, this support is admittedly less than universal. Many Web developers believe that support is hopelessly inadequate, but this isn't true at all. In part, this is a pretext used to avoid addressing a new technology. It was a valid reason a few years ago, but now, it's just an excuse.

What are CSS Levels?

CSS 1 first became a recommendation in late 1996. Support for CSS 1 is now extensive (if not complete) in Netscape 7, and acceptable in Internet Explorer versions 4.5 for Macintosh and 5 and upwards for Windows. Opera 3.5 for Windows had very good support for CSS 1, and recent versions of this excellent browser have better support still.

CSS 2 became a recommendation in May of 1998. It extended CSS 1, so CSS 1 is a subset of CSS 2 with some very minor changes. Support for CSS 2 was almost nonexistent in Netscape Navigator 4.x, and very limited in Internet Explorer 4.5, 5 and 5.5 for Windows.

While browsers like Internet Explorer 6 and (more so) Netscape 7 and Opera 7 showed promising support for a lot of the basic aspects of CSS 2, it became obvious with time that some of its more complex (and perhaps even esoteric) features were unlikely to ever be implemented. For this reason, CSS 2, revision 1 was released in January 2003, with a number of the more high-level aspects of CSS 2 now removed

Users and developers can now enjoy the full benefits of CSS while maintaining speed an consistency of appearance at one end, and reliability and friendliness of operation at the other.