I am trying to refine my development skills by increasing cross-browser compatibility and W3C standard compliance in my code. While this is possible to do using free resources on the internet, I personally find it easier and quicker to refer back to an actual book. In light of this, I am going to do a whole series of web development book reviews over the course of the next few months.

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I want to start with Sitepoint’s The Ultimate CSS Reference. Sitepoint is a great resource for all kinds of information, they have a large amount of online web development content, but I still prefer to use physical books. This book is hardcover, which is rare to see in a tech book. I like the hard cover, because it doesn’t show wear and tear as easy as softcover books. For those that don’t know, CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets, which is a web based language that allows you to attach style to other web languages. I currently code CSS at a 2.1 level which is the version of CSS that is most widely accepted by web browsers today.

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While I don’t have any other CSS books to compare it to, I can say that I am very happy with this reference guide. The Ultimate CSS Reference explains CSS elements using a 4 part system, Syntax, Compatibility, Other Relevant Stuff, and Usage Examples.

The book starts with a very easy to follow introduction chapter on what CSS is. This chapter introduces beginners to exactly what CSS is, how it works, and how you link to style sheets. This chapter is not just for beginners, it also goes in to more advanced items like how to have style sheets for different media types (i.e. hand held, print, screen, …) and how to reference an external style sheet using XML PI. I would recommend everyone read this chapter regardless of your current CSS skill level, everyone is bound to learn something new from this chapter.

The next few chapters introduce you to general CSS syntax. You will learn how to layout selectors and general CSS syntax. These are great chapters to refer back to when you have a brain fart while trying to code CSS. To this day, I still have problems remembering how to layout HTML tag specific CSS code when being reference inside the tag which is linked and enclosed in an ID styled DIV.

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The guts of the book are the chapters on the properties, this is where the 4 part’s I spoke of earlier comes into effect. Each property has 4 sections of explanation, starting with the Syntax section which gives you the property layout, and all its different property values.  The second section you will see is a Compatibility Chart. This chart includes IE 5.5, IE 6.0, IE 7.0, FF 1.0, FF 1.5, FF 2.0, Safari 1.3, Safari 2.0, and Safari 3.0. Compatibility is measured with 3 variables, Full, Buggy, and None. I find the compatibility very useful when you design at a professional level and need full cross browse compatibility. The 3rd section is Other Relevant Stuff, this section is used to explain how other relevant elements might interact with the one you are currently reading about. The final section, is Usage Examples, this of course is where you can explore the element syntax in a real world example.

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The last few chapters go into more advanced level detail. This advanced information includes vendor-specific properties, which walks you though elements that are specific to certain browsers. You will also learn how to work with multiple style sheets for browser specific compatibility, Workarounds, Filters, and Hacks that will help you to solve some cross browser CSS issues.

The book is available for about $30.00 on Amazon: The Ultimate CSS Reference. I highley recommend you pick it up, it is a great resource that will defiantly improve the level to which you code CSS.