A free guide for everyone

Eric A. Meyer. 2012. CSS and Documents. O'Reilly. Free on Kindle

By Peter Hulm

If you want a quick and easy guide to using Cascading Style Sheets for your HTML documents absent any condescension or over-detailed examples (the two main faults with CSS guides), I can’t think of a better place to start.

If you already work with CSS, this is better than a refresher course, because Eric A. Meyer knows so much about the highways and byways of CSS.

Meyer is something of a legend in the CSS community. Early on he wrote the key books on using and puzzling out the problems with browsers' interpretations of code. As a result, he probably did more than anyone outside the guiding World Wide Web consortium to make CSS acceptable to designers.

He also maintains what must be the most respected site on CSS, to judge by the number of web gurus who point you toward it (almost all).

Meyer writes an admirably clear and relaxed prose that goes nicely with O'Reilly’s neat layouts. His advice is authoritative, and it’s hard to think of a better organized survey of CSS.

The pamphlet-size guide is an excerpt from Meyer’s CSS: The Definitive Guide. In this sense it represents a smart move by the publishers, both a taster and a useful giveaway.

Within a dozen pages, Meyer taught me something new I could use (about XML formatting and CSS). And virtually every page had something I hadn’t read before, or reminded me of something important I had forgotten.

What doesn’t it cover? The cascading side of Cascading Style Sheets, for which there’s a separate publication, and stuff like tables and images. I’m also not clear why I should upgrade for different e-book formats or even for lifetime updating. I’m more likely to want Meyer’s definitive guide, now six years old.

Nevertheless, for virtually everyone I’d recommend this short version as your first book on CSS. Look at the specimen pages. If you find them too technical, then try one of the step-by-step guides. At least you will already have a sound basis for your learning. If you already think you know it all, test yourself against the best.