Posted by: jimmydlg | December 6, 2008


It’s almost harder to talk about a technology I use in my everyday life than it is to talk about a technology I’m just learning about. I do make frequent “use” of XHTML and CSS, but to talk about it as something I’m actively experiencing is similar to someone talking about how handwriting is important. My job is a software developer, and I do use a WYSIWYG (Visual Studio 2008,) but I didn’t always, and I am in markup mode as much if not more than I am in designer mode.

Of course, just like with my handwriting, there is always room for improvement and understanding of the matter. I think one of the reasons it is harder for me to talk about XHTML and CSS is because I’ve become “set in my ways” when it comes to using both technologies, and I also take a lot of things for granted. For example, my default compatibility level is set to XHTML 1.0 Transitional. Now I know this is a flavor of the XHTML Standards, but I also have the option of using XHTML 1.1, and I had never really given much thought about their differences.

For that matter, I have been using XHTML 1.0 Transitional for quite a while, but never gave though as to when I switched to it from HTML4. Well here are the main differences.

First, XHTMLis different from HTML in that XHTML conforms to XML standards. This means all tags must be closed, and tagnames are case sensitive. It also means that tag attributes must have values enclosed in quotes. Even simple tags that didn’t require closing before must be closed, for example <br />. The slash at the end is actually a shortcut for closing a tag without create a seperate closing tag.

XHTML 1.0 Transitional is different from XHTML 1.0 strict in that it is designed to bridge the gap between HTML and XHTML 1.0 strict by allowing tags that control presentation. XHTML 1.0 strict is free of any markup used to define layout.

I haven’t been using XHTML nearly as long as I’ve been using CSS. Both technologies are extremely important, and the adoption of strict compliance towards both is also important. I primarily use Internet Explorer, and it has a history of allowing developers to use both proprietary tags and internally reformatting tags that are out of compliance so pages still render correctly. IE isn’t alone in this as (moreso in the past versions of browsers than now) many other browsers interpret these standards in slightly different ways. All of them seem to be moving towards compliance (even IE, which will ship in “standards compliance” mode by default) which is a great thing for developers, because rather than having to detect Safari, IE, or older browsers to reformat pages or change code so that it still works, we will be able to develop a site once and have it display properly among all the compliant browsers.

In the past, addressing these slight differences has been a large time-sink. It’s gotten easier with many of the subtle nuances being well documented, and there are very valuable tools that check a pages final rendering across many different browsers, so gone are the days of labs with a dozen computers (and later just dozens of virtual machines) and OS’s with different browsers on each (which I’ve set up before.) But it would still be wonderful if developing a site was all about the design and content, and much less about its delivery.



  1. OMG you did the homework! You are the only one I can comment to right now and its past 5pm on sunday. I like how you said you’re more markup then designer. I think in some ways I am too. But I think its pretty balanced.

  2. Jimmy, I think I understand your writing better than the one I found in most sites. Or probably that I just chose the articles which way beyond my knowledge. Article which is not intended for the beginner. Do you suppose have any recomendation of any books or sites ?

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