|CSS Pocket Reference, 3rd Edition|
|author||Eric A. Meyer|
|reviewer||Michael J. Ross|
|summary||A concise reference book for CSS.|
For each element of CSS that is covered in all of the sections mentioned above, the types of information presented to the reader can vary, depending upon the category of element. But they generally include the element's possible values, a default value, what elements it can apply to, whether it is inherited, its computed value, a brief description of the element, at least one example illustrating its usage, what browsers support it, and oftentimes a note on its usage. Consequently, this new edition of the book, like its predecessors, should prove more than adequate for most CSS reference needs.
As with any computer book, there are several ways in which this one could be improved. Any reader using the book to look up a particular element, has two possible ways of doing so: They could first consult the index, and, assuming the element is listed there, go straight to the page indicated. But most readers, knowing that the elements in each section are listed alphabetically, will probably open up the book near the front or the back, and begin flipping backward or forward, respectively, hoping to spot the element of interest as quickly as possible, given its alphabetical ordering. That individual will likely immediately spot an obvious problem with the book: The pages have no running titles (the words that indicate the first element discussed on that page, and typically listed at the very top of each page). Inclusion of such running titles in the next edition of the book, would make it much faster to use.
Another valuable addition would be some sort of table listing all of the CSS elements and their level of support within the most commonly used Web browsers and, in the case of Internet Explorer, the most commonly used versions of the browser. Also, on page 48 of the book, at the beginning of the Property Reference section, it has a subhead of "Visual Media," which suggests that there are other subheads within that section, for other media types; but I was unable to find any.
All of these problems concern the publisher's choice of material. My last criticism concerns the layout of that material in the print version of the book. Because this diminutive volume has narrow pages, and they are tightly glued together in the binding, it is imperative that the publisher of such a book provide plenty of white space in the inner margins (those closest to the binding), so the reader does not have to crack open the book too much in order to read the text closest to the binding. Repeatedly opening up the book far enough to read those inmost words, will over time weaken and eventually destroy the binding. In contrast, a small reference book like this has no need for much outer margin. Sadly, O'Reilly got it backwards with this volume, with relatively wide and useless outer margins, and inadequate inner margins.
Aside from the aforementioned flaws — all of which can be remedied in the future — CSS Pocket Reference is a compact and neatly organized gem of a book, packed with information of value to busy Web programmers.
Michael J. Ross is a Web developer, writer, and freelance editor.
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