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CSS Floating by Eric A. Meyer

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Chapter 1. Floating and Shapes

For a very long time, floated elements were the basis of all our web layout schemes. (This is largely because of the property clear, which we’ll get to in a bit.) But floats were never meant for layout; their use as a layout tool was a hack nearly as egregious as the use of tables for layout. They were just what we had.

Floats are quite interesting and useful in their own right, however, especially given the recent addition of float shaping, which allows the creation of nonrectangular shapes past which content can flow.

Floating

You are almost certainly acquainted with the concept of floated elements. Ever since Netscape 1.1, it has been possible to float images by declaring, for instance, <img src="b5.gif" align="right">. This causes an image to float to the right and allows other content (such as text) to “flow around” the image. The name “floating,” in fact, comes from the Netscape DevEdge page “Extensions to HTML 2.0,” which stated:

The additions to your ALIGN options need a lot of explanation. First, the values “left” and “right”. Images with those alignments are an entirely new floating image type.

In the past, it was only possible to float images and, in some browsers, tables. CSS, on the other hand, lets you float any element, from images to paragraphs to lists. In CSS, this behavior is accomplished using the property float.

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