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Review categories > Website Design Books > HTML in action
By: Charlie Morris
Review for 'HTML in action'

Rating: 6 of out 6

Written By: Bruce Morris

Page Count: 600

Cover Type: Softcover

Published By: Microsoft Press

Date Published: 08/1996

List Price: $39.95

Author's Site: http://www.webdevelopersjourna...

We here at NCT Web pride ourselves on our unbiased reviews, so I may as well say up front that there could be some slight danger to my objectivity on this one. After all, HTML in Action was written by our founder and publisher, Bruce Morris, who also happens to be my brother. In fact, I wrote a chapter of the book myself, and so did Chief Tech Officer/Nephew Kief Morris. In spite of all that, however, I shall be as impartial as I can. This book is great!! Hop over to Amazon and order a copy NOW! In fact, you'll probably want 2 or 3 copies!! But seriously folks...

HTML in Action is an intermediate-to-advanced instructional book for Web content developers. Actually, it covers a lot more than just HTML, including information about Graphics, Multimedia, Animations, CGI programs, Java, Acrobat, and ActiveX.

The first chapter reviews some HTML basics. This book doesn't contain a true entry-level primer to HTML, although folks with a fair amount of computer experience can probably learn HTML from scratch with this book. What Bruce does in this first chapter is to show how some of the basic HTML commands can be used in unique ways. Just to take one example, how about the old standby <HR> tag?

You probably know how to do this...

...but how about this?

You can use the <HR> tag to create shapes (Only works in Netscape).

This is just one example of Bruce's "Duct Tape HTML". He also explains how to do fancy stuff with text, lists and so forth. He also discusses issues of compatibility with different browsers, and the need to strike a balance between using all the newest tags and being compatible with more browsers.

Chapter 2 is about Forms, which can be a great way to add interactivity to your site. Bruce tells how to make your forms look good, and how to make the most of the information about your visitors that they can provide.

As Bruce points out, tables are probably the single most powerful formatting tool in HTML. He takes you far beyond the standard tabley-looking tables, to tables that can format your page just about any way you like. In fact, our page layout at NCT Web, meant to work like the columns of a print magazine, is all done with tables.

Web graphics are covered pretty well here. Bruce discusses not only how to incorporate inline graphics into your pages, but how to edit and process your graphic files for best results on the Web.

The chapter on Multimedia, written by yours truly, includes a short primer on digital audio, including information about different audio file formats, as well as a primer on digital video. Next I discuss some of the newer technologies that are finally making audio and video on the Web a (semi-) reality. RealAudio, Streamworks, the MBONE and VRML are all covered.

Frames, animations, Acrobat, Java, and ActiveX each merit a whole chapter. Another very useful chapter covers HTML utilities. Here Bruce compares various HTML tools, graphic editing tools, and other little programs that you need for Web development. As a matter of fact, some of the most useful Web tools are cheap shareware.

Kief Morris is a well-known Common Gateway Interface (CGI) guru, and he contributed the CGI chapter here. CGI lets you use little programs called scripts to do all kinds of neat interactive stuff, like entering data from forms on your site into a database, or rotating banners and such. Kief lists various uses of CGI, gives a primer on how to write CGI programs, and even covers security issues.

To sum up, this is a comprehensive, well-written book. Though it has plenty of technical information, it's written in a readable, entertaining style. If you already know basic HTML, and want to expand your horizons, this is the perfect book for you! If you don't know any HTML, but are pretty handy with computers in general, HTML in Action may be the only HTML book you'll need.