Hit Counter

 

plugged In

by Eric Spellmann

A Beginnerís Guide to Web Building

The computer world is full of acronyms and abbreviations. You have DOS (disk operating system), DPI (dots per inch), OCR (optical character recognition), just to name a few. As a side note, have you noticed that most of them are three letters long? So many of them, for whatever reason, are three letters long, that we came up with a term for these abbreviations: TLAs. (heh heh)

Anyway, back to my point: One very important abbreviation you will no doubt run in to is HTML. HTML stands for "HyperText Markup Language," but you only need to memorize that if you want to impress people at parties. When you hear the term, HTML, think "web pages."

All web pages are written in HTML. Now, before we go any further, let me make one thing very clear. HTML is not a programming language. It is a MARKUP (descriptive) language. Computer programming languages (COBOL, C++, Pascal, Basic, Fortran, etc.) are "procedural." In other words, programs created with those languages are simply a series of commands telling the computer to "do something."

HTML does not tell the computer to DO anything. It describes a document. It tells the computer that certain words in the document are bolded, or italicized, or in a column. It can also describe the size of the words and their color. But, unlike procedural computer languages, it doesn't tell the computer to DO anything. Show of hands: How many of you have used WordPerfect? Remember a little feature called "Reveal Codes?" If you understand "reveal codes" in WordPerfect, you'll understand HTML, because they are exactly alike.

If I had to describe HTML with one word, it would be "tags." HTML is all about "tags." All tags begin with a "<" (less-than sign) and end with a ">" (greater-than sign). I think an example will make this more clear. Here is a plain sentence without HTML:

Eric Spellmann wrote this article.

Let's pretend that sentence is in a web page. If I wanted to bold (make darker) my name, I would simply put some tags around it. The new sentence would look like this:

<B>Eric Spellmann</B> wrote this article.

The first tag, <B>, starts bolding, and the second tag, </B>, turns it off. Everything between the two tags will be bolded when viewed in your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera). Most tags have a beginning and ending version. The "/" (slash) denotes the ending tag.

Hundreds of tags exist and new ones are being introduced every day. Every webmaster (or future webmaster) ought to invest in a great book entitled, "HTML for Dummies." You'll find a very comprehensive list of tags.

Most webmasters create their first web page without any formal training. In fact, one of the best ways to learn HTML is to see how others use it. Here's how: In Internet Explorer, go to your favorite web page. Heck, go to ANY web page. With your mouse, click on the "View" pull-down menu and choose "Source."

Voila! You are now looking at the "raw HTML" of that page. Scan through this cryptic mess and you should see many, many tags embedded throughout the text.

Believe it or not, most web pages are NOT designed from scratch. Most webmasters simply find an existing page on the Net they like and copy it. As long as you delete all the proprietary "content" you may use it as your own. HTML structure is not copyrightable. For instance, if you come across a page that has multiple columns, and you would like your page to have a similar look, simply copy that section of code and paste it into your own! It's that easy.

But what if you don't want to take the time to learn a lot of tags. Or what if you don't HAVE time to get up to speed on HTML? Well, many people go out and buy web building software. This software hides the raw HTML from the user. The user simply designs the web page as if it were any word processing document. When they hit "Publish," the software turns their creation into a file containing raw HTML.

Popular titles in this software arena include Macromedia Dreamweaver and Microsoft Web Expressions. You don't need these programs to create web pages, but they do make it easier.

To learn more about HTML check out my three favorite sites:

http://htmlgoodies.com

http://webmonkey.com

http://builder.com

So, now that you know the basics of HTML, how do you actually create the page? Where does it go when you're done? What format is it written in? Find out next week!

Iíll see you in Cyberspace!

Eric Spellmann is President & CEO of Spellmann & Associates. He can be contacted at eric@ericspellmann.com. Visit his website here.

Copyright © 2004-2009, The Clarendon Enterprise. All Rights Reserved.