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xMichael Price

Concise Guide Series

Basic HTML

Part One | Part Two

Weaving a Web

Part One: The Basic Page

The Internet. It never used to be this popular y'know. Once upon a time, the Internet was confined to the American military and educational institutes, so they could send long distance mail for, well, not very much, and discuss things without the need for expensive phone calls.

In the early 90s, all that changed. Tim Berners-Lee, working at the European Lab for Particle Physics (or CERN for short, in Switzerland) came up with the standard which led to the World Wide Web. This standard needed nothing more than a few angled brackets and forward slashes. This standard is HTML.

HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. In simple terms, it's the source to a web page. Go to a web page and make use of the View Source function of your browser of choice. What you will see before you is the code that makes up the page shown. Where a Windows binary or a music or video file is a sequence of binary and machine code only the machine itself could ever understand, HTML is a simple text file. It requires no special editor to write (though they are available), and no special program to compile. You can write a web page using nothing but Notepad.

In advanced terms? It's an advancement of the SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language) defined by ISO 8879, first filed in1986, then refined in 1988. Another format based on the SGML is XML, but we'll talk about that later.

The introduction of such a simple language to people caused an explosion on the Internet, known as the World Wide Web. All of a sudden, everyone wanted people to know about their cat, dog, favourite hobby or, well, pretty much anything else. It became a vital research tool, a people-finder, and these days, you can almost live your life without ever leaving the house by using the Internet (not that you'd want to, we hope!)

The best thing is, even you know how to write HTML. At it's most basic, this is what an HTML document would look like:

Cut and paste that into Notepad, save it with an HTML extension (go to Save, select Type: All Files, and put quotation marks around the filename) and load it into a web browser by double clicking on it. You just wrote a webpage!

Breaking it down is simple enough. <HTML> is what's called a container tag. In fact, all the tags in this file are containers. Why is that? It's because they have a beginning tag, and the end tag. The end is just the beginning with a forward slash added. The browser applies the tag to whatever appears in between the pairing. For example, take <HTML></HTML> above. This says to the browser "Everything in between these tags is HTML". <HEAD></HEAD> means "Between these is header information"

<TITLE> defines what appears in the title bar of the browser to give a quick description of your page. <BODY></BODY> is actually displayed in the browser itself.

See, it's simple! And in Part Two I'll show you how to apply font styles such as bold, italic and underline. But if I told you that <B>, <I> and <U> were container tags for the three styles, would you be able to figure it out for yourself?


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