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A.3. Online Communities

One can read only so much before it comes time to join a discussion and ask some questions. There are two major venues for discussions about CSS, but each is concerned with a specific type of discussion -- so make sure you go to the right place.

A.3.1. comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets

This Usenet group, often abbreviated as ciwas (pronounced "see-wass"), is the gathering place for CSS authors. A number of experts in the field check this newsgroup regularly, this author among them, and all are there for one primary reason: to help new CSS authors over the hurdles that learning any new language will generate. The secondary reason is for the spirited debates that occasionally erupt over some aspect of CSS, or a browser's implementation thereof. Rather unusually for a newsgroup, the signal-to-noise ratio stayed fairly high for the last few years of the 1990s, and will with any luck continue in that vein.

A.3.2. www-style@w3.org

Anyone who wishes to be involved in discussing the future course of CSS, and to clearing up ambiguities in the specifications, should subscribe to this list. The members of the list are all, in one fashion or another, interested in making CSS better than it is already. Please note: www-style is not the place to ask for assistance with writing CSS. For help with CSS authoring problems, visit ciwas instead. Questions beginning with

italic | oblique |normal

Initial value

normal

"How do I ... ?" are frowned upon by the regulars of www-style and are usually redirected to a more appropriate forum such as ciwas. On the other hand, questions that begin "Why can't I ... ?" or "Wouldn't it be cool if ... ?" are generally welcome, so long as they relate to some ability that appears to be missing from CSS.

Messages to www-style are only accepted if the sender is already subscribed to the list. In order to subscribe, send email to with the word subscribe in the subject of the message; to unsubscribe, send email to with the word unsubscribe in the subject of the message.



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XML documents are also naturally committed to a database (relational or object) or any other kind of XML document store. There are commercial products available which allow you to save XML documents to an XML storage layer (which is not a database per se), like Datachannel's XStore and ODI's eXcelon. These XML store solutions are quite expensive ($10,000 to $20,000 range).

XML documents are also quite naturally retrieved from a persistence layer (databases, file systems, XML stores). This lends XML to be used in real world applications where the information being used by different parts of a system is the most important thing.

XML is platform independent, textual information

Information in an XML document is stored in plain-text. This might seem like a restriction if were thinking of embedding binary information in an XML document. There are several advantages to keeping things plain text. First, it is easy to write parsers and all other XML enabling technology on different platforms. Second, it makes everything very interoperable by staying with the lowest common denominator approach. This is the whole reason the web is so successful despite all its flaws. By accepting and sending information in plain text format, programs running on disparate platforms can communicate with each other. This also makes it easy to integrate new programs on top of older ones (without rewriting the old programs), by simply making the interface between the new and old program use XML.

For example, if you have an address book document stored in an XML file, created on a Mac, that you would like to share with someone who has a PC, you can simply email them the plain text address book XML document. This cant be done with binary encoded information which is totally platform (and program) dependent.

Figure 11-1

Figure 11-1. Final results

11.1.2. Case 2: Library Catalog System Interface

The library of Wattswith University has been using a web-based library catalog system for the last few years, and their web developers have always tried to keep up with the times. Now that style sheets are gaining currency, the folks in the lab are itching to convert the library system's interface over to use them. XML allows you to easily generate XML documents (that contain your information), since it is so structured.

  • XML parsers allow you to code faster by giving you a parser for your all your XML documents (with and without DTDs).
  • XML documents are easily committed to a persistence layer

    XML documents may be stored in files or databases. When stored in files, XML documents are simply plain text files with tags (and possibly DTDs). It is very easy to save your XML documents to a text file and pass the text file around to other machines, platforms and programs (as long as they can understand the data). In the worst case scenario, XML documents (files) can be viewed in a text editor on just about any platform.

    basically the same as with the keywords, where if only one keyword isgiven, the other is assumed to be center. Thus:

    BODY {background-image: url(bigyinyang.gif);background-repeat: no-repeat;background-position: 33%;}

    The background image is placed one-third of the way across the page,and halfway down it, as depicted in Figure 6-42.

    Figure 6-42

    Figure 6-42. Declaring only one percentage means the vertical position evaluates to 50%