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Creating a Web Site: The Missing Manual, 2nd Edition by Matthew MacDonald

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Chapter 9. Page Layout Tools

When engineers first created HTML, they focused on delivering basic information: the score in yesterday’s ball game, the price of coffee beans in Colombia, the dance steps for the Electric Slide. As strange as it seems, no one thought layout tools were that important. Fortunately, a few pioneering Web designers recognized the problem and set out to rescue the Web from the scientists who invented it. These Web-heads invented a number of clever workarounds that gave the HTML universe a much-needed blast of pizzazz.

The best known of these tactics is the invisible table. Using an invisible table, you can align content, pictures, and headings within an invisible grid. It’s impossible to overstate how important invisible tables were in the early days of the Web—they almost single-handedly saved Web fans from a world of drab, plain-text pages. But now that styles are on the scene, invisible tables are starting to outgrow their usefulness. Although Web sites still use them, many Web developers find they’re just too awkward to manage.

Today, invisible-table-based layout is slowly but surely giving way to style-based layout. Style-based layouts use CSS positioning rules to place panels, columns, and pictures in specific spots on a Web page. When you use style-based layouts, your XHTML markup is easier to understand, and you have less trouble replicating your design across multiple pages. With a little planning, you can even create pages that you can completely ...

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