Getting Started

Help Center HTML Getting Started

Before we dive into how to use HTML, let’s discuss exactly what it is (and isn’t) and what exactly we use it for.

What is HTML?

HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. Read the name carefully: it is a language used to mark up something called hypertext. We call any text on the internet Hypertext (the hyper- is a prefix meaning high, beyond, excessive, above normal).

Putting that all together, HTML is way to mark up (add additional information about) text on the internet.

HTML is what tells us that certain text is a header and not a paragraph. It’s what draws the line between a paragraph and an item on your menu. It defines your content.

A Note on HTML Versions

This workshop teaches a special variant of HTML called ‘XHTML Version 1.0 Strict’. This version of HTML is actually a proper subset of traditional HTML (which is currently) and is designed to conform to XML standards. More information on XML is covered in our Podcasting Curriculum.

XHTML Version 1.0 Strict stands along with XHTML Version 1.1 Transitional, HTML Version 4.0 Transitional, and many other versions of HTML and XHTML that are each suited for a particular purpose. For practically all purposes, XHTML Version 1.0 Strict (what this workshop teaches) is a good choice. It does not have support for frames or certain embedded objects, but these features can be implemented using CSS and JavaScript and really should be done as such to ensure that your content is accessible to the widest audience possible.

What isn’t HTML?

HTML is not a way to lay-out or change the appearance of your content. We don’t use HTML to say that content should be red or blue or centered. We do, however, use HTML to say that some content is our page header. We can then use a technology called CSS (covered in the next workshop in this series) to use that information to decide how to display it. That is, once we say what it is with HTML, we can use CSS to change how it’s displayed.

HTML is not a programming language. There are no variables, for or while loops, methods, or functions. Sometimes we wish there were these features, and sometimes we use Javascript or PHP to emulate them, but HTML is nothing more than a box of highlighters that we use to carefully describe our text.

So… What?

What this all means is that you should never think to yourself, "what’s the HTML to make my text red?" or, "what’s the HTML to make my text bold?". If you ever find yourself wondering how to change the appearance of your content, stop. We use HTML to say that text is important. We use CSS to say that important text should be bold or red or what-have-you.

Where Does This HTML Go?

You’ll need a text editor to type your HTML (and your content) into. Some good, free text editors are covered on the Tools page from Web Publishing at the UW. Take note, though, of the following:

  • Always save your HTML files using a plain-text editor. That is, do not save your HTML files using a word-processing program (e.g. Microsoft Word or OpenOffice Writer). These editors have their own markup languages that are generally not HTML. You should only write HTML in a text editor that is capable of saving as plain text.
  • Always use proper naming conventions when you save your files. More information on conventions is available on the Internet File Management page from Web Publishing At the UW.
  • To open up an HTML document for editing, you might have to right-click on the file and select "open with" and then click on your text editor. (Mac users will have to control-click and select "open with".) Most computers like to open up HTML documents in a web browser (e.g. Firefox or Internet Explorer) when the files are double-clicked.

Review of Web Publishing at the UW

It’s important to note that we have set up the Web Publishing series is designed to be taken “in order” to a certain degree. This workshop assumes that you have taken Web Publishing at the UW.

At this point, it’s pertinent to review the information from the Tools of the Trade page where information on what sorts of text editor you might be interested in using. It’s also pertinent to look at the Internet File Management page so you’ll know how to upload your HTML files.

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