What an HTML Document Is
HTML documents are plain-text (also known as ASCII) files that can be created using any text editor (e.g., Emacs or vi on UNIX machines; SimpleText on a Macintosh; Notepad on a Windows machine). You can also use word-processing software if you remember to save your document as "text only with line breaks".
Some WYSIWYG editors are also available (e.g., Claris Home Page or Adobe PageMill, both for Windows and Macintosh). You may wish to try one of them after you learn some of the basics of HTML tagging. WYSIWYG is an acronym for "what you see is what you get"; it means that you design your HTML document visually, as if you were using a word processor, instead of writing the markup tags in a plain-text file and imagining what the resulting page will look like. It is useful to know enough HTML to code a document before you determine the usefulness of a WYSIWYG editor, in case you want to add HTML features that your editor doesn't support.
If you haven't already selected your software, refer to Tom Magliery's online listing of HTML editors (organized by platform) to help you in your search for appropriate software.
Getting Your Files on a Server
If you have access to a Web server at school or work, contact your webmaster (the individual who maintains the server) to see how you can get your files on the Web. If you do not have access to a server at work or school, check to see if your community operates a FreeNet, a community-based network that provides free access to the Internet. Lacking a FreeNet, you may need to contact a local Internet provider that will post your files on a server for a fee. (Check your local newspaper for advertisements or with your Chamber of Commerce for the names of companies.)
An element is a fundamental component of the structure of a text document. Some examples of elements are heads, tables, paragraphs, and lists. Think of it this way: you use HTML tags to mark the elements of a file for your browser. Elements can contain plain text, other elements, or both.
To denote the various elements in an HTML document, you use tags. HTML tags consist of a left angle bracket (<), a tag name, and a right angle bracket (>). Tags are usually paired (e.g.,
and) to start and end the tag instruction. The end tag looks just like the start tag except a slash (/) precedes the text within the brackets. HTML tags are listed below.
Some elements may include an attribute, which is additional information that is included inside the start tag. For example, you can specify the alignment of images (top, middle, or bottom) by including the appropriate attribute with the image source HTML code. Tags that have optional attributes are noted below.
NOTE: HTML is not case sensitive.
Not all tags are supported by all World Wide Web browsers. If a browser does not support a tag, it will simply ignore it. Any text placed between a pair of unknown tags will still be displayed, however.
The Minimal HTML Document
Every HTML document should contain certain standard HTML tags. Each document consists of head and body text. The head contains the title, and the body contains the actual text that is made up of paragraphs, lists, and other elements. Browsers expect specific information because they are programmed according to HTML and SGML specifications.
Required elements are shown in this sample bare-bones document:
HTML is Easy To Learn
Welcome to the world of HTML.
This is the first paragraph. While short it is
still a paragraph!
And this is the second paragraph.
The required elements are the , ,
Click to see the formatted version of the example. A longer example is also available but you should read through the rest of the guide before you take a look. This longer-example file contains tags explained in the next section.
A Teaching Tool
To see a copy of the file that your browser reads to generate the information in your current window, select View Source (or the equivalent) from the browser menu. (Most browsers have a "View" menu under which this command is listed.) The file contents, with all the HTML tags, are displayed in a new window.
This is an excellent way to see how HTML is used and to learn tips and constructs. Of course, the HTML might not be technically correct. Once you become familiar with HTML and check the many online and hard-copy references on the subject, you will learn to distinguish between "good" and "bad" HTML.
Remember that you can save a source file with the HTML codes and use it as a template for one of your Web pages or modify the format to suit your purposes.