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Keywords: CSS, HTML, web design
Title: Cascading Style Sheets - The Definitive Guide
Author: Eric Meyer
Level: Intermediate, Advanced
Verdict: A useful reference book
Everything you ever wanted to know about CSS but were afraid to ask. And a whole lot that you didn't know to ask about as well. Eric Meyer delivers what is a readable, detailed and authoritative account of Cascading Style Sheets, including CSS2 and CSS2.1.
The book is reasonably well-written and comes with plenty of illustrations to show how and what CSS can do. Unfortunately these illustrations are all grey-scale images, and at times the images are cramped on the page. Seeing as CSS is all about presentation it's a real shame that O'Reilly couldn't have done a better job and upped the page size and added some colour.
As you would expect from something that bills itself as a 'definitive guide' the coverage is very thorough. All major areas of CSS are covered, including a chapter that looks at non-screen media. In most cases the text is clear enough, even when dealing with some of the more obscure elements of CSS. At times the book could do with fuller examples that put things together, there are no extended examples that look at a set of complete pages for example.
What the book does bring out is just how flexible and powerful CSS can be. Anyone who imagines that CSS is a simple replacement for some deprecated HTML formatting codes is in for a shock when they see what it can do. Meyer is good at bringing a lot of this out. The chapter on backgrounds is especially good in this respect.
Wisely, or unwisely, the book does not major on current support for CSS in different browsers. As Meyer points out, this is information that is changing all the time and would quickly go out of date. It's the sort of information that is available on the web. That's not to say that the subject doesn't crop up, it does, but there are no detailed listings, not even in an appendix.
There are tips and pointers to good practice in the text, though at times Meyer is annoyingly non-committal about things. For example when dealing with the thorny issue of units - ems, points, percentages etc - it would have been useful to have had some kind of overall summary or recommendation as to which to use where. As it is the advice that 'the best measurements to use are probably the relative measurements' probably isn't enough, particularly for people coming to CSS for the first time.
However, the fact remains that this is a comprehensive and useful book to have around.