Tag Archives: cascading style sheet

Thoughts on Books in Browsers V (pt 2)

More Poetic Musings on #BiB14

(continued from earlier post)

Here are my notes on the talks, more for my own future reference than for anything else. The two talks I’ll summarize today, unlike most others, are not available on YouTube. To skip straight to my interpretations, go to TL;DR .

Dave Cramer of Hachette and the CSS Working Group: “Books and the New CSS”

(read an abstract of his talk)

I’d be remiss not to mention the hero’s work showcased by Dave Cramer at #BiB14, even though his talk isn’t available on-line. I could hardly do better than Iris Amelia’s sketches of the event, anyhow:

Dave, a member of the CSS Working Group, gave attendees a showcase of things that are (or will be) possible when CSS support expands to more screens, platforms, and devices. As others have done, he used a public-domain work to keep the focus on the formatting. Check this out:

slide from Dave Cramer's presentation, showing two columns of text in a browser

Dave Cramer has some nice CSS pagination.

If memory serves, Dave made this pagination, complete with running recto/verso headers, using just HTML/CSS. He’s displaying it in a Web browser, true to the Books in Browsers theme of the conference.

How about reflowing text around objects while maintaining pagination and headers?

slide from Dave Cramer's presentation, showing text reflow around illustrations in a browser

Everything gets better with whales.

Implicit in Dave’s presentation and slides was a full-throated defense of the page as an organizing concept, even for reflowable text.

Two quotes stood out, for different reasons:

“I’m the only thing that stands between you and lunch.” It had little to do with Books in Browsers, but Dave’s opening statement was a nice touch of humility and humor. It also communicated clearly his alignment with the very streamlined format of the Books in Browsers talks: Stay focused, say a lot, get off stage on time.

“Art forms advance not by forgetting the past, but by reimagining and building on it.” Even at a conference about digitizing books, attendees will encounter moments where they feel discomfort about rapid change. It was nice to have a reminder that the new need not replace the old. That is, after all, a central issue I face when I think about how ancient poems and modern E-readers can coexist. Continue reading

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Let’s Split Up but Stay Friends

Just a book should (must?) have multiple pages, an E-book should have multiple .html files.

Having one big .html file for the interior of our E-book has its advantages. After all, what’s the expression we use when we talk about keeping a project organized? “Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.” But we’re (almost) done with the HTML and CSS portions of our book, and there are good reasons to split our .html file into smaller .html files:

splitting .html file into smaller files

  • Compatibility with older E-readers. Some of the early E-books couldn’t load a file larger than 128K or 256K. Splitting our book into segments helps us keep early-adopters in the game.
  • Easier navigation on some devices. Some devices, again, often older ones, allow the reader to “blip” ahead by section. If your anthology is all one big section, then the only “blips” allowed will be the very beginning and end of the book.
  • Guaranteed page breaks. Sometimes, you just need to be certain that a certain line will appear at the top of a new page. Start with a fresh .html file and know that it will have a fresh page all to itself.
  • Alternate cascading style sheets. YBR uses one CSS, but it might be that part of your book (a prose section, perhaps) will refer to a different .css file. Put that part on its own .html file and you’re good to go!
  • Reuse of “evergreen” sections. Okay, look, the back 10 pages of every Bicycle Comics poetry E-book thus far has been 8 pages of advertising for our other E-books. We don’t want to re-write or re-code that section; we just want to pop it in.

To be clear, we are making one E-book poetry anthology; an E-book can contain multiple .html and .css files. For the Tandem anthologies, we made each month its own chapter, so each month got its own .html file, as did the frontmatter and backmatter. But we combined those .html files into one EPUB file for each of our E-books. Here are the steps: Continue reading

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A Poetry E-book’s Quest for Validation

Before we split our E-book’s .html file into chapters, let’s run it past the W3C’s Validator.

Okay, okay, terrible joke. But the idea is sound, and important. This is an HTML5 document, styled using a now external CSS2 style sheet. (Someday, maybe, I’ll code the style sheet in CSS3, but don’t hold your breath.) It will become an E-book during Step 5, but for now, it’s a Web page. In fact, you can even go see it live on the Web:
Yellow Buick Review with External CSS
Yellow Buick Review “Apricot” .css file

Before we split this book into chapters, we should check to be sure that our code is correct. You find spelling errors in your documents with a a spell checker, and you find code errors in your E-books with a validator. To do that, you use the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) Validation Service. There is a validator built into Adobe Dreamweaver, but all it does is ask the W3C’s Validation Service for an opinion. I’ll get exactly the same information using the Website.

I’ll do three things:

  1. Test my HTML code against the markup validator.
  2. Test my CSS code against the CSS validator.
  3. Fix any real errors that the validators point out. (Just as with spellcheckers, not all errors will be “real.”)

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Moving Out: Making Your Cascading Style Sheet External

Everything we’ve done so far has used an internal cascading style sheet (CSS). Now we’ll move it outside our .html files.

Remember: an .html file is a document full of code such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. A .css file is a page full of CSS code. An .html file can have HTML and CSS code inside it, but a .css file should have only CSS code. Bicycle Comics doesn’t use JavaScript in most of our E-books, so for these tutorials, we’ve been working with one big .html file that has both HTML and CSS inside it. With this tutorial, we’re moving 99% of our CSS into an external .css file .

External CSSThere are dozens, maybe hundreds, of tutorials that do a fine job explaining how you can move an internal cascading style sheet to an external .css file. I’ll give you just the basics, and then I’ll spend a little more time on the why, as pertains to E-book production.

In the previous post, we streamlined the CSS so that it is smaller and more elegant. Let’s pick up right there with the file “YBR_7_StreamlinedCSS.html .” (You can download all source code files for YBR for free.)

In short, we’re going to do three things:

  1. Remove the complete CSS info from our .html file with the “cut” command.
  2. “Paste” that CSS info into a separate, new document, which we’ll save as a .css file.
  3. Tell our .html file where the .css file is, so that our HTML can find our CSS whenever it needs it.

Continue reading

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Streamlining CSS: Chicken Sandwiches, Simplified

Let’s order lunch and streamline our code classes.

We’ve already nuked and simplified The Yellow Buick Review’s HTML/CSS. Before we make it external, let’s streamline our CSS (cascading style sheet) even more. What’s that? You don’t know how to streamline CSS code for a poetry anthology E-book? That’s no problem. Do you at least know how to order lunch? Cool! Let’s start with that. There’s an amazing fried chicken place around the corner from the office. I’ll go around and get everyone’s order: Continue reading

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Simplify, Simplify (CSS Portion)

Dump the needless CSS you’ve inherited from prose-oriented programs, and replace it with CSS that understands poetry’s unique needs.

illustration of HTML with internal CSS

Pardon the mess; MS Word was visiting.

Through this whole tutorial, we’ve been using cascading style sheet information that we inherited from the original MS Word save-to-HTML operation. Here’s where we set ourselves free. The CSS we have in our sample file is an inline cascading style sheet: it occupies the top third of our HTML. (Quick clarification: an .html file can hold all kinds of code—CSS, HTML, XML, javascript, php, and so forth. HTML is just one kind of information that can sit in an .html file.) There are two problems with this approach.

  • It’s inside our .html file, which is not as useful/easy as giving it its own document.
  • It’s terrible, terrible code anyway.

Just look at my highly technical illustration of the HTML file. See all the “junk” in there? That’s no good. Most poetry anthologies have enough junk as it is; let’s not put junk CSS in there, too. So, here’s what we’ll do about it:

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