John Topley’s Weblog

Doing It With Style

I'm working on prototypes at the moment of the user interface for the J2EE application we're developing at work. As it's going to be a browser-based interface, I decided it was high time I learned more about Cascading Style Sheets. I've had enough knowledge to get by but hadn't delved into some aspects, such as when to use an ID selector and when to use a class selector, or floats. I've found some brilliant resources on the Web to help me.

Over at Max Design they've a series of great tutorials and articles explaining style sheet fundamentals, such as how rule sets are applied and the document tree, as well as showing how to turn plain HTML unordered lists into a horizontal menu bar complete with rollover effects. I also had a more thorough look at an old favourite, A List Apart, which is also stuffed full of useful techniques and advice. My CSS editor of choice remains TopStyle from Bradbury Software, although I'm using quite an old version now (version 1.5). There really is nothing I've seen to touch it.

Having spent a few days immersed in this stuff I'm struck anew by what a breathtakingly elegant concept Cascading Style Sheets are. I feel quite inspired to create a compelling user experience. Some of the interfaces that are being created now using this technology are amazing. Unfortunately, the predominant Web browser where I work is Internet Explorer 5 on Windows, which is the browser that your mother warned you about when it comes to CSS support. At least nowadays the bugs are quite well documented and some clever people have come up with some ingenious workarounds.

At home I seem have ended up using four browsers on a regular basis: IE 6, Opera 7.10, an old build of Mozilla and the brand spanking new Mozilla Phoenix Firebird Firefox 0.8. However, I'm trying to move most of my surfing over to FeedDemon—especially now I've just purchased it—although I still like to visit sites the old-fashioned way to see how they look.

Get Firefox

Mozilla Firefox is shaping up to be a great browser and I love the new branding. Their website is so much better than it used to be, too. Mozilla really seem to have got their act together after a few years in rewrite hell. Along with Opera they show us just how stagnant the old Microsoft warhorse has become. I love all the new-generation browser paraphernalia, such as tabbed windows, pop-up blockers, download managers and my personal favourite, mouse gestures. Firefox also comes with a particularly lovely Web Developer toolbar. Yes, I know there are upteen browsers you can download that bring all this to Internet Explorer, but I'd rather have the standards-compliant Gecko engine underneath. To the outside world it looks as if Microsoft have tossed IE into a drawer, like a broken toy a child has lost interest in. They're really going to have to pull something special out of the bag for Windows Longhorn.


There are 4 comments on this post. Comments are closed.

  • avatar John C
    02 March 2004 at 10:45

    Hey John, thanks for the FeedDemon tip - it's a quality piece of software that is now my default news reader.

  • avatar John Topley
    02 March 2004 at 19:26

    No problem John, I wonder if I can claim a commission? ;-)

  • avatar John C
    03 March 2004 at 10:51

    I personally don't have any objections to you claiming a commission...

  • avatar Brian Duff
    03 March 2004 at 23:55

    I'm totally with you when you say that Mozilla's website is so much better than it used to be. It's a funny thing with Mozilla though, in the past it seemed to set trends. I remember a while after Netscape first open sourced what would become Mozilla and the website went live. It wasn't long before numerous sites out there had adoped that "solid-black-line-border" style that seemed to favour. It has all twisted around now. I don't think they're so much setting trends, but at least they're keeping up with them. It's great to see they have some decent icon designers contributing to the project. God that teal coloured Seamonkey icon they had for about 5 years sucked like hell. The slinky, antialiased fox with a tail of fire and its snout firmly angled toward what almost resembes the British Isles is a masterpiece of icon design. Go! Go Firefox! For the first time in ages, I actually feel like Mozilla stands a chance against Internet Explorer.

Microsoft have tossed IE into a drawer, like a broken toy a child has lost interest in.


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