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Web Tutorials: For your own Website!

Introduction - Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5

Okay, just what is HTML?
What can you do with HTML?

Okay, So Just What Is HTML?

I have some good news, and I have some bad news. The bad news is that, as I mentioned in the last chapter, HTML stands for-brace yourself-HyperText Markup Language. (I'll pause for a sec to let you get the inevitable shudders out of the way.)

The goods news, however, is that HTML doesn't stand for Hard To Master Lingo. HTML is, in fact, really a sheep in wolf's clothing: it looks nasty, but it's really not that bad (and, no-it won't turn even a small part of your brain to mush). Basic HTML-which is what 90 percent of all Web pages use-isn't much tougher than reciting the alphabet. It's way easier than programming your VCR (which is, I'm sure, good news for those of you who sport that scarlet letter of modern technology: the flashing 12:00 on your VCR's clock). Heck, you don't even have to memorize anything. The handy reference card at the front of this book (which you can tear out and keep at your side or tape to your cat's forehead) tells you absolutely everything you need to know about HTML.

That's all well and good, I hear you say, but HyperText Markup Language isn't exactly a phrase that trips lightly off the tongue; it really does sound intimidating. Well, you're right, it does. So, in the spirit of self-help books everywhere, you need to face your fears and look HTML squarely in the eye. Specifically, let's examine what each element of HyperText Markup Language means in plain English:


HyperText   is a special word or phrase in a Web page that "points" to another Web page. When you click on one of these links, your browser transports you immediately to the other Web page, no questions asked. Because these hypertext links are really the distinguishing feature of the World Wide Web, Web pages are often known as hypertext documents. So HTML has the word "HyperText" in it because you use it to create these hypertext documents. (It would be just as accurate to call it WPML-Web Page Markup Language.)

Markup  My dictionary defines "markup" as (among other things) "detailed stylistic instructions written on a manuscript that is to be typeset." For our purposes, I can rephrase this definition as follows: "detailed stylistic instructions typed into a text document that is to be published on the World Wide Web." That's HTML in a nutshell. It has a few simple codes for detailing things like making text bold or italic, creating bulleted lists, inserting graphics, and, of course, defining hypertext links. You just type these codes into the appropriate places in an ordinary text document and the World Wide Web automatically displays your page the way you want. In fact, the Web browser software handles all the hard stuff.
Language  This may be the most misleading word of them all. Many people interpret this to mean that HTML is a programming language, and they wash their hands of the whole thing right off the bat. "You mean I gotta learn programming to get my two cents worth on the Web?" Not a chance, Vance. HTML has nothing, I repeat nothing, whatsoever to do with computer programming. Rather, HTML is a "language" in the sense that it has a small collection of two- and three-letter combinations and words that you use to specify styles such as bold and italic.

What Can You Do with HTML?

All right, so HTML isn't a Hideous, Terrible, Mega-Leviathan, but rather a Harmless, Tame, and Meek Lapdog. What can you do with such a creature? Well, lots of things, actually. After all, people aren't flocking to the World Wide Web because it's good for their health. Just the opposite, in fact. They're surfing 'til they drop because the Web presents them with an attractive and easily navigated source of info and entertainment (or infotainment, as the wags like to call it). It's HTML that adds the attractiveness and ease of navigation. To see what I mean, the next few sections take you through examples of the basic HTML elements.

Introduction - Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5