HTML and CSS Reference
In-Depth Information
1.4. HTML and XHTML: What They Aren't
Despite all their new, multimedia-enabling page-layout features, and the
hot technologies that give life to HTML/XHTML documents over the Inter-
net, it is also important to understand the languages' limitations. They
are not word processing tools, desktop publishing solutions, or even pro-
gramming languages. Their fundamental purpose is to define the struc-
ture of documents and document families so that they may be delivered
quickly and easily to a user over a network for rendering on a variety of
display devices; jacks-of-all-trades but masters of none, so to speak.
1.4.1. Content Versus Appearance
HTML and its progeny, XHTML, provide many different ways to let you
define the appearance of your documents, but their focus is on structure,
not appearance. Of course, appearance is important, since it can have
either detrimental or beneficial effects on how users access and use the
information in your documents. And that is why the companion CSS
standard is important.
Nonetheless, we believe that content is paramount; appearance is sec-
ondary, particularly since it is less predictable, given the variety of
browser graphics and text-formatting capabilities. In fact, HTML and
XHTML contain many ways for structuring your document content without
regard to the final appearance: section headers, structured lists, para-
graphs, rules, titles, and embedded images are defined by the standard
languages without regard for how these elements might be rendered by a
browser. Consider, for example, a browser for the blind, wherein graph-
ics on the page come with audio descriptions and alternative rules for
navigation. The HTML/XHTML standards define such a thing: content over
visual presentation.
If you treat HTML or XHTML as a document-formatting tool, you will be
sorely disappointed. There is simply not enough capability built into the
languages to allow you to create the kinds of documents you might whip
up with tools such as FrameMaker and Word. Attempts to subvert the
supplied structuring elements to achieve specific formatting tricks seldom
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