Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

September 24th, 2008:

CSS Progress

I'm continuing my re-exploration of CSS in my spare moments, and it's worked out very well so far. If you're doing static pages that don't need Javascript or other fancy stuff, CSS can make very slick layouts with only a handful of rules. The problem of many people using old browsers that don't fully support CSS still exists (especially for IE) but to some extent it always will. CSS-challlenged IE6 still has 32% of the browser market, which means that at least 32% of people will not see your pages render correctly, and that seems like an awful lot to me. I thought I was alone in grumbling about this, but I'm not—and this guy does webstuff for a living.

Anyway. The browsers aren't there yet, but they do enough to support my modest goals. First of these is to get rid of table-based layouts in my Web articles. Tables are a kluge, but they were the best that the Web could do for its first ten years. Another goal is to create an “imprint style” defined in a single external style sheet. I've taken my several articles about kites and have been CSS-izing them to a common imprint style. These three articles work off the same style sheet:

(The Hi-Flier article is the biggest and messiest, and is still on the workbench.) The headers are custom-made images for the sake of the decorative title fonts. One of the Web's biggest defects is not having embeddable fonts. If you want to use fancy fonts, you have to render the font text in graphics and treat the rendered titles as images. I don't mind doing that at all; the page title is present in the META information, so the Semantic Web, wherever the hell it's hiding, will not be deprived of its due.

I'm still interviewing CSS editors. I've already gone through a bunch of them. The biggest disappointment was Amaya, an editor/validator that goes way back and was created by the W3C. Something that old (it's been around since 1996!) should be much better by now. Six of the toolbar icons are empty holes, and it crashes with the same unenlightening error on Win2K that Kompozer does. It did help me clean up my markup between crashes, but there are other ways to do that. Another major disappointment was TopStyle, an $80 commercial product with a downloadable trial version. The trial version is a good thing, because the only supported preview browser is IE. You can rig it to preview with Firefox, but there's a three-year-old message claiming that the Mozilla embedding technology is “experimental” and not supported, with warnings that border on those against crossing the streams. No way to preview in Opera or anything else. This is the kind of lazy-ass nonsense I will sometimes forgive on free products, but it's most of the way to 2009, and anything that costs money and claims a preview feature had better do IE, Firefox, and Opera, or it gets the hook. TopStyle got the hook.

In the meantime, I'm using Kompozer every day downstairs on my XP machine, and it hasn't crashed yet. It's got some thin spots—by default it creates internal style sheets, and you have to manually insert a link to an external sheet—but now that I've gotten to know it, my productivity is way up. Kompozer is a cleaned-up version of Nvu, and the French chap who wrote Nvu is working on a successor. (Having a little French helps here, though most of his posts are at least mostly in English.) Kompozer/Nvu's heart is definitely in the right place, and if I have to use it for awhile until M. Glazman releases its successor, I should at least be able to get some work done.

Other odds and ends associated with my efforts to transcend Webfossilhood:

  • I tried to upload WordPress to Sectorlink using a product called ZipDeploy. Apart from the arrogance of having a three hour trial period (!!!) the damned thing got partway through the longish upload and…vanished. It didn't show an error dialog. It didn't even beep. The app window simply disappeared, leaving the upload incomplete. There was nothing running in Task manager. It Died And Made No Sign. Hook!
  • Sectorlink being unhelpful in this regard (and I will not be renewing the contract for next year there) I went over to my Fused Network account and installed WordPress through their Installatron utility. It took 2 minutes and worked flawlessly. I've had difficulty installing Gallery 2 there, but it's looking like the problem is with Gallery and not Installatron.
  • Contra will be moving to WordPress sometime around the first of the year, depending on how quickly I learn it and how long it takes to sort out the hosting equation. There is a plug-in to do automatic cross-posts to LiveJournal, so I will be keeping my LiveJournal mirror. But this hand-edited table monster will (finally) be laid to rest. My WordPress install is browsable, but don't bookmark it, and don't expect it to be a mirror. It's just test posts. I have it on right now, but it will be on when it “goes live.”

And so to work.