Learning HTML

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. HTML is a member of the Standardized General Markup Languages ( SGML). There are three characteristics of HTML which are important to understand.

  1. It is a markup language that focuses on tagging the content of a page so that it can be displayed appropriately on different platforms by different software. Since the intention is to be platform independent, it does not attempt to provide font selections or highly detailed layout specifications.
  2. It is intended to be readable by both humans and machines. Thus it is a formal language with precise rules that humans can easily mess up. Most browsers will ignore tags they don't understand and will try to do something sensible with documents which are not syntactically correct. Unfortunately, this means that your document may look fine on your machine with your browser, and may look unintelligible on a different machine or a different browser. There are software editors, HoT-MetaL Pro and PageMill for example, which automatically generate tags and insure conformity to the HTML standard. There are also programs which verify HTML documents for conformance to the standard.
  3. Hypertext is the primary feature of HTML which distinguishes it from other SGML languages. An anchor tag can be used to indicate that a word or phrase should be displayed differently (typically underlined and colored blue) and then treated as a link to another document. Two key specifications were necessary to make this work - the Uniform Resource Locator (URL), and the HyperText Transport Protocol (HTTP).

What's new? HTML 3.2

HTML 3.2 is W3C's new specification for HTML. It was developed together with vendors including IBM, Microsoft, Netscape Communications Corporation, Novell, SoftQuad, Spyglass, and Sun Microsystems.

Relative to the HTML 2.0 standard, HTML 3.2 will add widely deployed features such as:

A description of HTML 3.2 elements includes a few minor changes relative to HTML 2.0 as well.

W3C is continuing to work with vendors on extensions for multimedia objects, scripting, style sheets, layout, forms and math. W3C plans on incorporating this work in further versions of HTML. See The W3C Activity Statement on HTML for details.

What happened to HTML 3.0? HTML 3.0 was a proposal for extending HTML published in March 1995. The Arena browser was a testbed implementation, and a few other experimental implementations were developed (see: the Yahoo list of browsers, including UdiWWW, Emacs-W3, etc.). However, the difference between HTML 2.0 and HTML 3.0 was so large that standardization and deployment of the whole proposal proved unwieldy. The HTML 3.0 draft has expired, and is not being maintained.

Resources For Learning HTML

A Beginner's Guide to HTML
This is an excellent document for anyone who is starting to do serious web page authoring. This document is maintained by NCSA.
The HTML Quick Reference Guide
This is a complete and concise list of HTML tags and attributes. It's a handy reference once you've finished the primer. This document is maintained by Michael Grobe, Academic Computing Services, The University of Kansas.
The World Wide Web Consortium
The W3 Consortium exists to develop common standards for the evolution of the World Wide Web. It is an industrial consortium run by the Laboratory for Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In Europe, MIT collaborates with CERN, the originators of the web, and INRIA, the European W3C center. W3C works with the global community to produce specifications and reference software. W3C is funded by industrial members, but its products are freely available to all.
The HTML 2.0 Standard
This site is maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium and contains the HTML 2.0 standard in several forms. It also includes the SGML source which defines the language and tools for translating between SGML and other formats such as TEX and RTF.
HTML 3.2 Features at a Glance
Brief description of all HTML 3.2 elements
Document Type Definition
This defines the syntax of HTML as an SGML application. This is a draft which represents the consensus of an editorial review board within the W3C, as of April of 1996. They are still under revision, subject to W3C member review and public review.
HTML Validation Software
This link connects to Yahoo's current list of sites providing HTML validation services or software, including the WebTechs HTML Validation Service and Webxref, a Perl program for quick and easy checking and cross referencing of a local setof HTML documents for missing links, anchors, files etc.
An Instantaneous Introduction to CGI Scripts and HTML Forms
This document provides a quick introduction to HTML forms and the CGI Scripts needed to process them. This document is maintained by Michael Grobe, Academic Computing Services, The University of Kansas
Developer's JumpStation
An excellent source for tools and other web development resources.

Some Sample Pages

W3C Wilbur Checked!