What's Missing? - Book Review 2 of n. CSS: The Missing Manual

Just like my last ‘review’ this is un-review like. That’s just how I roll with these things.

So, CSS: The Missing Manual. I think the last time I read a book on CSS was in 2001? My chief competency and love for development has never been (at least by choice) rooted in the web. Certainly making a rich, interactive, incredibly beautiful UX for the web has never been something I’ve achieved with resounding success. That said I’ve written plenty of usable web applications and I’m plenty comfortable whipping up the styles and markup needed to do it.

So why crack open a slightly dated and very introductory CSS book? Well, making web pages really elegant has always been a little frustrating for me. The inner workings of why layout happens the way it does in a web browser can sometimes seem like a black art. So my assumption was that maybe it was time to get back to basics and take a look at a reference that assumes nothing. I wanted to parse through all the “yeah, I get that” moments and pick up as many of the fine details that I may have either known and forgotten, or just plain missed from the get go.

I don’t think that’s an uncommon experience, especially in the software industry. We operate on multi-faceted projects that can span three, four, (or more ???) technologies at a time. Then after a few months we move on to something else and do it again. It’s impossible to be an expert at more than a couple languages and frameworks and understand the minutia of each. It’s probably not reasonable to be a true expert at more than one. So there are always holes to fill here and there, and sometimes it takes a while to get to filling them. So that’s the long answer to why an intro CSS book. It’s one of the techs I know I could use a little more work on at a fundamental level. Better late than never. I encourage you to think about a few places you’d like to hone your skills, take some time out and fill in what’s missing.

As for the book, it was a solid read. It’s a bit dated, (August 2009) and that shows. As expected there was a lot of content that I already knew. There were quite a few discussions of dealing with rendering problems in certain older browsers (yeah, that one) that I glossed over. But in between all that I picked up on the minutia that I was looking for. There are a lot good nuggets of information that really cleared things up, especially where layout is concerned.

In particular, I found the code examples to be highly useful. If you’re interested, they are available for download on the O’Reilly site if you’re in the mood to browse. The web is always nice for being able to see how things were done. These examples are particularly useful because they demonstrate some core concepts without any other cruft.

Having popped this book off the stack I feel just a tad better about my relationship with CSS, but a whole lot better about filling in a nagging gap that’s been there for a long time. Off to the next one…