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HTML Basics: Introduction to HTML : Page 2

This article is a gentle explanation of HTML, the basic building block of the Web.


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How Does HTML Work?

Hypertext Markup Language—HTML—is a streaming text markup language that uses tags to format text, create hyperlinks to other places, and insert graphic images.

HTML files live on a Web server. Typically the Web server belongs to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or your company—whoever is hosting your pages. The Web server is hooked into the Internet and when people type in the URL of your page, they are actually calling the file from that Web server.



When someone requests an HTML page, the Web server sends one long unbroken string of ASCII text across the Internet to the reader's computer. The reader's browser turns the long string of text into a viewable page.

The browser displays only your text and the tags that it can understand. Any formatting, extra spaces, or unrecognizable characters that you put into your HTML file will be completely ignored by the browser. It turns anything it doesn't understand into a single spaceband.

It is important to know that HTML is evolving. New additions to HTML are addressing some of the layout control issues and adding new features. For example:

The browser manufacturers, however, are not completely consistent in their support of the newer standards such as CSS, JavaScript, and DHTML, so once you go beyond basic HTML you'll need to remember that your pages might not look exactly the same in all browsers.

Plug-ins are another way of adding additional functions to your pages. These applications let you incorporate additional features from other programs seamlessly within your HTML pages. Adobe's Acrobat, Macromedia's Shockware and Flash, Apple's QuickTime and QuickTime VR, and Real Audio's streaming audio player are all examples of ways you can extend your site beyond straight HTML to add graphic control, sound, video and other features—but remember, not everyone on the Web has or can use these plug-ins.

Before you starting worrying about CSS and plug-ins and any of the other newer features, get a good handle on the basic HTML tags. If you understand them well, it will be much easier to understand the potential of the Web and all of its technologies.

Definitions
Hyperlinks A hyperlink is text or an image that perform a specific function. When the reader clicks on the hyperlinked text or graphics, the appropiate action happens.
Hosting Hosting is the service that gives you space to store your Web pages and publish them so others can visit.
URL A URL, the Uniform Resource Locator, is the full, exact file name of a file on the Web. An example is: http://www.projectcool.com.
ASCII Ascii stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It is a standard for representing letters, numbers, punctuation and control codes in a computer file.
CSS Cascading style sheets (CSS) provide separate style rules to format and style HTML documents. CSS allows authors and readers to attach style, color, font-weight and other formatting rules to HTML elements. With CSS, you can change the style in one location and have all applicable documents change.
Javascript JavaScript is a commonly-used scripting language that lets you add additional interactivity to your Web pages.
DHTML DHTML, Dynamic Hyper Text Markup Language, is a way of changing effects, structure, content and formatting on a Web page dynamically or "on the fly".
Plug-ins Plug-Ins are small programs that work with your browser to let you see other types of data besides HTML files.


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