The title How to Do Everything with HTML & XHTML is an ambitious one indeed. It is something akin to titling a book How to Do Everything with English. Better yet, how about How to Do Everything with Algebra? The obvious question is: How do you know when you can do everything with any of the above?
HTML and XHTML are languages, and there are different ways to learn a language. Have you ever seen a book that promises to teach you Japanese in 30 days? Generally, what you get with those books are some basic phrases you can use if you travel to those places. As a rule, you don’t learn a great deal about the language. Although you might be able to order in a restaurant or ask directions, you definitely can’t do everything with it. On the other hand, you could buy a hefty book on Japanese grammar that expounds the language to the smallest detail. If you make it all the way through one of these reference books, you might have read everything about the language, but you still would not know how to do everything with it.
Books on HTML and XHTML work about the same way. You can buy books that are great for figuring out how to do specific things with XHTML—kind of like those “learn Japanese in 30 days” books. In these books you’ll find instructions that are so focused and pointed that you can practically cut and paste the code into your own pages. Other volumes are large, intimidating tomes that literally tell you everything about XHTML. However, these are not the kind of books a beginner will find helpful.
You see, doing everything with Japanese, Algebra, English, or XHTML doesn’t mean learning a few stock phrases, formulas, or lines of code. Neither does it mean you must digest an entire reference book of material. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that you are fluent. Doing everything in this context means you are functional and competent—that is, you understand how the language works and you know how to use it without pulling a handbook out every five minutes. That’s what this book is all about. How to Do Everything with HTML & XHTML is aimed at teaching you how to do Web pages by helping you understand XHTML and how it works. While this book won’t bring you to a point where you never need reference books, it can help you gain a strong enough command of XHTML so that you don’t need to design Web sites with a reference book open the whole time, or cut and paste someone else’s code into your site. How to Do Everything with HTML & XHTML can give you the satisfaction of being able to develop your own site and know that it is yours!
A second area where this book will help you is in understanding the differences between HTML and XHTML. The world of Web authoring is changing, and if you want your Web site to stay current with the technology of the day, you need to be learning XHTML. This book will help you understand the reasons behind the shift from HTML to XHTML and the importance of learning to write standards-compliant pages. You will also learn, step-by-step, how to write pages in XHTML.