HTML - A Primer
[reprinted from IEEE - Fort Worth Section Signals June 1996]
by Jeff Carrell, Electronic Communications Chairman
HTML or HyperText Markup Language, is the underlying component of what you see when browsing the World Wide Web. However, just because you are seeing neat graphics, a plethora of colors, moving objects, sound bytes, and even watching real-time video clips, the effort that goes into what you see is not necessarily all that difficult (well, maybe just a little bit :-)
HTML is the standard way of creating a document (web page) that can be universally viewed by applications called 'browsers'. A browser such as Netscape or Microsoft Internet Explorer, interprets the document formatting characteristics and displays the document in a GUI presentation. Add to this the capability to inbeding graphics, sounds and video files and also hyper links to other places/systems, and you have a powerful presentation medium.
Although there are standards for HTML (version 1.0, version 2.0 and version 3.0 is in draft stages), there is also the capability for a vendor to add extensions. These extensions provide more formatting capability for a particular browser, that other browsers may or may not adopt. That is why you see more and more web pages with the disclaimers of "...best when viewed with xxxxx browser...". At this time, Netscape is the most popular and widely supported browser on the market. Not only can you download a free version, you can also purchase the product getting documentation and support from Netscape Communications.
Creating an HTML document can actually be a simple task. HTML uses "tags" or formatting variables, that when input into a document correctly, are not displayed themselves, but translated by the browser to present the information in a certain way. This includes headers, text formatting, hypertext-links, loading of graphics files and so on. The next time you are on the 'Net surfing around, choose an option that can display the actual source of the current web page (available in most browsers). By doing this, you see what I am talking about. Another thing to try is after viewing a neat web page of which you see some things you really like, do a "save as" function and save that web page to your computer as a file. This is also a *very* easy way to get started on your own, by reviewing and analyzing the HTML codes in these files, you can start creating your own web pages.
You can create HTML documents using a text editor like Windows Note Pad, a word processor that has the HTML add-on such as Internet Assistant for Word for Windows, HTML editors like HoTMetaL and even some browsers are coming with built-in WYSIWYG editors. There are many ways to do this and these are just a few basic examples.
As a note, the IEEE has now made it standard policy for new documents and manuscripts submitted for publication to be created in SGML (Standard Graphics Markup Language - HTML's parent). This allows for easy transportability across many computing platforms. Another tidbit, in the computer industry more and more on-line documentation provided by vendors is HTML formatted documentation.
OK, how about an example? The following is an HTML file:
Paragraphs end with a <p>
Unnumbered lists can look like this:<p>
Have comments for me? <A HREF="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">Click here to contact me via email.</A><p>
The resulting view with Netscape:
As you can see, HTML is powerful. But like anything else, you can also miss a little simple tag and then your doc is not being seen as you had actually wanted it. So a bit of advice, before you publish your HTML docs, always check them yourself and maybe even have someone else check it.
The following are excellent web sites with tons of HTML and related info:
There are also many books available on HTML, visit your favorite bookstore and peruse a few. Also, CompUSA and Computer City have their computer books at a 20% discount.
Have a question or want to know more details about e-mail, the Internet, electronic communications or related technologies? Send a note to me or Signals editor and we will try discuss it in a future article. If your society, company or other organization would like an Internet presentation, demo, discussion, etc., let me know. (no commercial pitch, just plain 'ole techie talk :-)
Copyright 1996 Jeffrey L. Carrell. All Rights Reserved