The CSS Anthology: 101 Essential Tips, Tricks & Hacks by Rachel Andrews

April 27, 2005

In the gloom of my CSS agony, a small bright ray of light and comfort has come to cheer me. That ray is Rachel Andrews, and if she were here I'd hug her or make her a pot roast or something.

I like the Sitepoint site. I've read a lot of their articles, and while none have been earth-shattering, I've picked up useful bits and pieces here and there. So I wasn't expecting much more than a little guidance when I ordered Andrews' The CSS Anthology: 101 Essential Tips, Tricks & Hacks, published by Sitepoint. The title might be a bit pedestrian, but it's accurate. These tips are essential, and it sure looks like there are 101 of them.

Andrews excells at summarizing real-world CSS problems and situations, distilling the solution down to its basic steps, and presenting it all in a straightforward, easy-to-understand manner.

The book is laid out in a question-and-answer format, with problems categorized by element type. This setup makes for a handy, accessible reference guide. Run up against trouble with your CSS, and you can look up that specific difficulty to find the answer. It doesn't get much easier or more practical than this.

Most of the common CSS problems are covered. There are solutions for styling text; adding images alone and as backgrounds; building various navigations; and creating spreadsheets and forms. I found the chapters on positioning and layout to be especially clear and helpful. A number of layouts, both 2 and 3 column, are presented, and Andrews takes the reader through the code line-by-line, explaining which bits do what. She's also very good at explaining floats, not the easy concept to get across. Only one omission was troubling--no explanation was given for replacing elements with images.

While the book covers a great deal, it doesn't go into more advanced CSS techniques. This is definitely a beginning coder's book. But a very, very good one that you'll refer to for a long time.

If you're still learning CSS, The CSS Anthology will be one of your best aids, next to Eric Meyer's Cascading Style Sheets. Instead of scouring the web for hours in search of a solution or pounding on your monitor in frustration when you come up against an element that goes right when you want it to go left, just pick up The CSS Anthology and find the answer to your problem. As far as I'm concerned, that kind of help is worth its weight in gold.