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HTML5 mastery : semantics, standards, and styling
Bradford A., Haine P., Friends of ED, New York, NY, 2011. 316 pp.  Type: Book (978-1-430238-61-4)
Date Reviewed: Jun 26 2012

The title hits the subject of this book right on the mark. Most reviews start with some dry stuff about the technology, subject, and success of authors in communicating, but here is a book that helped me with the sociology and philosophy of Hypertext Markup Language 5 (HTML5) and what transitioning to it could accomplish, over and above specific technical features. It really helps with “mastery,” the process of getting a grasp of the subject, instead of being yet another cut-and-paste of technical specifications.

The reader is expected to have some exposure to HTML (maybe also CSS and JavaScript). This book takes one through the process, politics, requirements, and status of where HTML5 is today. Just as good fiction holds the reader’s interest with conflict, here it’s interesting that there are two standards groups (the august World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the lither Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG)), with browsers implementing different nuances of features, spicing up what could be boring if everything were in perfect control and harmony.

The first chapter, “Getting Started,” appealed to me because, although I’ve lived the HTML history, I learned talking points and reasons for the new directions. There’s a feeling that the authors are in the room discussing this with me, facing and gesticulating, which helps me understand the “who-done-it” behind the features. This chapter sucked me into a deep and quick read of the next few, which are the sales pitch for why to adopt HTML5.

They got my attention, and didn’t lose it in the next three chapters, the first about features of the elements and attributes (they call it “Using the Right Tag for the Right Job”), the next about the semantics of some features, and the next on the form features. These make up about half the book, but accounted for maybe three-quarters of making me feel comfortable with HTML5. They don’t replace real specifications or reference manuals; they give one the orientation to know where to go, what to look for, and why in HTML5 things are really cleaner than before.

The “Right Tag” chapter makes it clear that HTML5 has now built in those originally difficult HTML features, beyond paragraph, table, bold, and italic, that used to be inconsistent between browsers and required tricky markups. Editing, spell checking, value suggestion and typing completion, drag-and-drop, and even styles are vastly cleaner than before. Style is deprecated from elements and isolated in CSS. A table at the end of this chapter identifies the content model categories by feature.

In “Recognizing Semantics,” one learns through examples about document structure and outline, links, and text semantics.

“Form Mastery” begins by showing what has changed from prior HTML in terms of macroscopic features, such as data pickers and specific entry fields (such as date, email, and search). Many other features are now built in. Clear examples put it all together with sufficient (but not excessive) detail on the needed elements. This helps bring those familiar with the most quaint and original HTML features up to date with a mapping to the present.

The second half of the book extends original features to their HTML5 implementation for multimedia, CSS, and JavaScript. Media that started with imaging now builds in video and audio. The chapter clarifies browser issues, licensing issues, and the different formats. Its coverage is sufficient to get started and to know where to dive deeper.

CSS3 may be thought of as a separate language; for HTML5, it peeled away style elements deprecated from the original HTML, putting them into a formal specification of style for HTML5. Features that originally may have required JavaScript are now part of CSS. There’s sufficient information in this chapter for one who has used CSS to begin to use the new features and know how to drill down into the details.

JavaScript used to be something nerdy and totally independent of HTML. It’s now well integrated, and important for implementing behavior that must access the document object model (DOM) (such as changing the display dynamically), respond to events procedurally, and handle drawing. Perhaps the most important role of this chapter may be to interest those who may have stayed away from JavaScript in the past to venture into event handling and well-integrated page behavior. As for the preceding chapters, it’s not a college course in programming, or merely a teaser, but there’s enough to get started and know what you could do as a next step.

The two final chapters are again sociological or philosophical, campfire stories of mobile Web application, of embedding microdata (so formal data extraction can be done precisely from text that is also displayed), and of evolution of the technology.

The authors deserve kudos for providing a good balance between the what and the why, between the technology and the process of getting into the technology, and between the quaint old-school original HTML and the still-evolving HTML5.

Reviewer:  Herman Fischer Review #: CR140313 (1211-1126)
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