Or how not to spend your
hard earned $$$$$ on a book!

Vicky Vickers

Recently, I've had several people ask me "What book do you recommend for learning HTML?" (Hypertext Markup Language). I don't recommend spending money on a book when "everything you need to know" is on the World Wide Web. Like spoken languages around the world, HTML is a growing language, changing as the need changes and web technology becomes more sophisticated. Hypertext Markup Language 3.2 is the current version of the language.

Searching for HTML Websites
I started my search with my current favourite search engine, AltaVista ( Searching for "HTML" found 932,133 links! The very first link had such great information, I never even checked out any of the others.

Webcrawler Recommendations
A quick click on this page took me to WebCrawler's Computers & Internet page where I clicked on HTML in their index to get to ( This page has basic and advanced listings of HTML resources and a short review of what WebCrawler likes about each site. I checked out the basic resources, which are all excellent, and list them below along with Webcrawler's review of each site and a few words of explanation taken directly from the site.

NCSA Beginner's Guide to HTML
WebCrawler: "Tap into "A Beginner's Guide to HTML" to learn the basics of hypertext markup language, the tool you need to write Web documents. Especially valuable for beginners are the sections on "The Minimal HTML Document" and "Linking to Other Documents." Other sections include troubleshooting, in-line images, and character formatting."
Site Comment: "Many people use the NCSA Beginner's Guide to HTML as a starting point to understanding the hypertext markup language used on the World Wide Web. It is an introduction and does not pretend to offer instructions on every aspect of HTML. Links to additional Web-based resources about HTML and other related aspects of preparing files are provided at the end of the guide. You can print the guide for your personal use by using your browser's Print feature. To make downloading the guide easier, you now have several choices: you can access one large file (68K), you can access three shorter (and thus smaller) files in sequence, or you can save or print the PDF (Portable Document Format) version."

D.J. Quad's Ultimate HTML Site
WebCrawler: "A vast tutorial and reference site that aspires to be the only HTML information page you'll ever need. Among the headache savers available here are a slick Table Tutorial, a comprehensive HTML Tag Reference List, and links to other HTML-related pages on the Net. D.J. Quad is a System Administrator for For Wayne Internet."
Site Comment: "Your one-stop HTML resource site, period. Welcome to D.J. Quad's Ultimate HTML Site! This site serves as a one-stop HTML authoring and design site. I will provide you with links to HTML information including tutorials, style guides, HTML editors, HTML Standards and proposed improvements, Netscapisms, mailing lists, Usenet Newsgroups, CGI, Java, ActiveX, reference material, publishing tips including graphic tips and programs, advanced tips including server pushes, browser-specific tags, animation, plugin support, multimedia info, and anything else I can find. This is a free service. Who was it that said that nothing is free? Send him here if you happen to see him!"

How Do They Do That with HTML?
WebCrawler: "Carl Tashian's guide to techniques and tools for adding dazzle to your HTML documents. The site features basic instructions for adding backgrounds and colors, setting fonts and styles, and other simple tricks. More difficult techniques include transparent and interlaced GIFs, access counters, and tables & frames."
Site Comment: "I often come across a web page and say, "Wow..How did they do that?" Most of these "neat-o" pages utilize the many extensions (and sometimes bugs) of Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Today, the greatest looking pages push HTML to its ever-diminishing limits. I have seen bits and pieces of information about HTML tips and tricks, but no comprehensive listing of all of them. So, I'm making an attempt here."

Other Resources
The first three websites below are ones which I found three years ago, when I first became involved in website design. At that time, I printed them and found them to be excellent reference materials. Took a while to find them again, but it was worth the search. The fourth link (Introduction to HTML) was given to me by one of the technical proofreaders of this article.

Sandia National Labs HTML Reference Manual
This page includes an explanation of the history of HTML, what is upcoming, how it is maintained and who maintains it. It also has a list of HTML tags for special characters such as accents. The acknowledgement section at the end contains links to several other HTML sites. However, the most interesting part of the site is a link off this page which takes you to another page describing the elements of HTML at ( Although the site hasn't been updated since January 2, 1996, it contains a lot of very good information. I highly recommend it, especially for beginners.

Web Communications HTML Guide
While the site is aimed mostly at this ISP's members, the explanations and examples ( are very easy for a beginner to follow. They also have a series of three on-line tutorials ( to get you started and an explanation of HTML ( When I was learning how to do ordered and unordered lists, I found their explanation ( on that topic very easy to follow.

HTML Quick Reference
Another excellent resource. It doesn't contain everything, but as the site name suggests, it serves as a quick reference for the most widely used tags.
Site Comment: "This document presents a concise reference guide to HTML, listing the most commonly used elements from Versions 1 and 2 of HTML, and giving a brief description of those elements."

Introduction to HTML
This site is a very well organized reference source. It explains in easy to understand text what the different elements of a webpage are and how to use them.
Site Comment: "This HTML document collection explains how to use the different HTML document description elements, or tags and how to use these elements to write good, well designed HTML documents. This page describes the overall content and organization of the collection, related resources that may be of interest, and the meanings of the navigational "button" used in navigation from page to page."

And finally . . .

World Wide Web Consortium
The Web originated in 1990, with Tim Berners-Lee at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics. The first software was written there, and freely distributed. Development of Web technology is currently overseen by the World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a body of industrial companies. This is probably the definitive place to find up-to-date on the development of HTML and other web design issues.

Their page on HTML ( contains links to seven sites which they believe contain useful information on HTML. This is not an easy site to find information on current HTML tags, but after a little searching around I found a very long index page on Hypertext Markup Language - 2.0 ( which was dated September 22, 1995.

Then finally, I managed to find the HTML 3.2 Reference Specification ( This is a very long, technical document with lots of links to other pages. Its definitely not for beginners to web design! But it does give out a lot of information for the experience web designer.

There is a lot of hype right now about faster methods of accessing the Internet, especially World Wide Web and FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites. Such as an ISDN line from your telephone company and a really fast modem to run on it. Or a special modem to run on the fibre optic lines from your cablevision company. However, you should be aware that these new devices will only be as fast as the site you are visiting. For example, I have a 28,800 BPS (bits per second) modem running on an ordinary phone line. The other day, I was downloading a page and discovered that it was coming in at 50 BPS (that's fifty folks!). The site was so busy that faster modem would not have made any difference, it still would have been V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W-! Its another case of "buyer beware!"

This article was published in the November 1997 issue of the Victoria Macintosh Users Group's monthly newsletter "MACtalk" in Vicky's monthly article "VMUG On-Line" and in the Winter 1997 issue of the Web Enthusiasts Association of Victoria's quarterly on-line newsletter.

Vicky Vickers is the owner of Word Crunchers, Etc. which specializes in website design and HTML training. She is a past-president (1994-6) and former webmaster (1995-8) of Victoria Macintosh Users Group (VMUG). She also founded and was the first president (1996) of the Web Enthusiasts Association of Victoria (WEAV).

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or e-mail me at

Vicky Vickers, Word Crunchers, Etc.
3290 Shelley Street, Victoria, BC, V8P 4A5
Fax: 250-595-7384 (call first)

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