Chapter 13. Positioning HTML Elements

Introduction

When a typical HTML page loads, the browser flows the content according to its interpretation of how each element should appear on the page. Some elements have attributes that control various dimensions, either in terms of pixels or percentages of the available space, but again, the designer is at the mercy of the rendering engine of the browser. The tradition of HTML as a passive publishing medium is much cruder than print publishing, where the designer is in total control of every millimeter of space on the page.

Precise HTML content layout is often left up to twisting HTML tables and transparent images inside table cells to make sure the position relationships, say, between an image and its caption, meet the designer’s expectations. In fact, if you play with WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) web page layout programs the same way you use print publishing layout tools (such as PageMaker or QuarkXpress), a mass of HTML table-related code frequently accrues behind the pretty page. Manually tweaking that gnarled code can sometimes lead to tears.

To fill the gap by providing publishing-quality control over content appearance, the style sheet concept has gained a strong footing in web publishing, particularly with the W3C-sponsored Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) recommendation. Not only is the raw content—the words and images, primarily—separated from the specifications of how the content is rendered, but the publishing world ...

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