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The universal selector

The universal selector provides you with in-depth training on Web. Taught by James Williamson as par… Show More

CSS: Core Concepts

with James Williamson

Video: The universal selector

The universal selector provides you with in-depth training on Web. Taught by James Williamson as part of the CSS: Core Concepts
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  1. 4m 54s
    1. Welcome
    2. Using the exercise files
      4m 2s
  2. 1h 8m
    1. Exploring default styling
      4m 56s
    2. CSS authoring tools
      2m 29s
    3. CSS syntax
      4m 45s
    4. Writing a selector
      4m 10s
    5. Setting properties
      8m 40s
    6. Common units of measurement
      7m 47s
    7. Inline styles
      5m 1s
    8. Embedded styles
      5m 19s
    9. Using external style sheets
      10m 35s
    10. Checking for browser support
      8m 48s
    11. Dealing with browser inconsistencies
      5m 30s
  3. 2h 15m
    1. Structuring HTML correctly
      2m 51s
    2. Element selectors
      4m 52s
    3. Class selectors
      6m 4s
    4. ID selectors
      3m 27s
    5. Using classes and IDs
      10m 7s
    6. Element-specific selectors
      4m 35s
    7. The universal selector
      5m 42s
    8. Grouping selectors
      4m 49s
    9. Descendent selectors
      7m 32s
    10. Child selectors
      5m 7s
    11. Adjacent selectors
      5m 30s
    12. Attribute selectors
      12m 43s
    13. Pseudo-class selectors
      3m 54s
    14. Dynamic pseudo-class selectors
      8m 29s
    15. Structural pseudo-class selectors
      6m 45s
    16. Nth-child selectors
      13m 10s
    17. Pseudo-element selectors
      12m 40s
    18. Targeting page content: Lab
      8m 56s
    19. Targeting page content: Solution
      7m 59s
  4. 44m 54s
    1. What happens when styles conflict?
      4m 0s
    2. Understanding the cascade
      5m 47s
    3. Using inheritance
      8m 26s
    4. Selector specificity
      6m 55s
    5. The !important declaration
      4m 5s
    6. Reducing conflicts through planning
      3m 33s
    7. Resolving conflicts: Lab
      6m 45s
    8. Resolving conflicts: Solution
      5m 23s
  5. 1h 47m
    1. Setting a font family
      7m 10s
    2. Using @font-face
      9m 19s
    3. Setting font size
      7m 35s
    4. Font style and font weight
      6m 52s
    5. Transforming text
      3m 58s
    6. Using text variants
      2m 49s
    7. Text decoration options
      4m 26s
    8. Setting text color
      3m 2s
    9. Writing font shorthand notation
      8m 49s
    10. Controlling text alignment
      6m 33s
    11. Letter and word spacing
      9m 11s
    12. Indenting text
      4m 30s
    13. Adjusting paragraph line height
      10m 30s
    14. Controlling the space between elements
      6m 41s
    15. Basic text formatting: Lab
      8m 45s
    16. Basic text formatting: Solution
      7m 14s
  6. 2h 1m
    1. Understanding the box model
      16m 53s
    2. Controlling element spacing
      14m 29s
    3. Controlling interior spacing
      10m 50s
    4. Margin and padding shorthand notation
      6m 27s
    5. Adding borders
      8m 57s
    6. Defining element size
      10m 7s
    7. Creating rounded corners
      6m 58s
    8. Background properties
      2m 51s
    9. Using background images
      5m 11s
    10. Controlling image positioning
      10m 25s
    11. Using multiple backgrounds
      7m 5s
    12. Background shorthand notation
      5m 25s
    13. Styling container elements: Lab
      7m 56s
    14. Styling container elements: Solution
      8m 17s
  7. 47m 51s
    1. Color keyword definitions
      5m 4s
    2. Understanding hexadecimal notation
      6m 5s
    3. Using RGB values
      4m 58s
    4. Using HSL values
      5m 17s
    5. Working with opacity
      2m 23s
    6. Using RGBa and HSLa
      3m 8s
    7. Styling drop shadows
      5m 38s
    8. CSS gradients
      6m 32s
    9. Working with color: Lab
      4m 26s
    10. Working with color: Solution
      4m 20s
  8. 1m 58s
    1. Additional resources
      1m 58s

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The universal selector
Video Duration: 5m 42s 8h 52m Beginner


The universal selector provides you with in-depth training on Web. Taught by James Williamson as part of the CSS: Core Concepts

View Course Description

In this hands-on course, James Williamson demonstrates the concepts that form the foundation of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), including styling text, adding margins and padding, and controlling how images display. The course also explores the tools needed to work with CSS, the differences between embedded and external styles, how to use selectors to target elements, and what to do when styles conflict.

Topics include:
  • Exploring default styling
  • Writing a selector
  • Setting properties
  • Working with common units of measurement, including ems and pixels
  • Structuring HTML correctly
  • Understanding the cascade and inheritance
  • Setting a font family, font size, text color, and more
  • Understanding the box model
  • Styling container elements
  • Working with RGB vs. HSL values
  • Styling drop shadows

The universal selector

The universal selector is one that is often overlooked as people learn CSS. It's one of the most basic and most powerful selectors available to you, yet few people use it. Now there is of course a reason for that, so let's examine what the universal selector is and why people tend to avoid it. So I have the universal.htm file open in the 02_07 folder. And the easiest thing to do with the universal selector to experiment with it is just to try it. So it's called the universal selector because it affects every element on the page.

And I am just going to go right here to line number 11, right below the add styling here, and I am just going to write a rule that uses the universal selector. The universal selector is basically the asterisk. It's kind of the wildcard character, if you will, and that means everything, every element on the page. So if I go ahead and open up my curly braces, I am just going to set a color here. So I am just going to say color, and I will just use blue. So if I save this and preview this in one of my browsers, I can see that every single thing on the page is now blue, so boom, one shot, you get everything.

Now a lot of people sort of confuse this with inheritance, and let me show you the big difference for this. We will talk about inheritance a little bit more later on, but inheritance basically says that if you apply a property to a parent tag, if it's a property that the child can inherit, it will. Let me show you what I mean. So if I go over here and I change universal selector to body--remember body is our main parent element here for everything-- if I save this and preview that in the browser, I see no styling change.

So they act exactly the same, or do they? Let's find out. I am going to go back into my code, and I notice that in the content here I have several sections of content. So if I wanted each of these sections to look a little bit different, one of the things I could do is come up and say, okay, in this section, or in any section, I want the color to be red. It's a very simple element selector there. Now if I save this, I can preview this in my browser. I can see that now my section is overwriting body because it's a child style that's overriding the parent style.

That's kind of how inheritance works. Parent styles inherent, then child styles are allowed to overwrite them. However, I want to show you a really big difference between inheritance and the universal selector. So I am back in my code and I am going to change the body selector back to that universal selector. Now if I save n this and test it, wow! All of a sudden, that section content where the color is told to be red is being overwritten. Okay, so what is happening there? Well, essentially the universal selector applies to every single element on the page, so all paragraphs, headings, unordered lists, sections aside, articles. Then I am going to go back into the code here.

So because each of those sections has child elements inside of it--a paragraph here or a paragraph here--the universal selector is going through each one of these and saying you are blue, you are blue, you are blue. So even though this section says, no, I'd like to be red, the universal selector is countering that out. Now it can be put to good effect, so, for example, I could come in here and get rid of the color, and I could say margin: 0 padding: 0. Now you may have remembered earlier on and we talked bout how browsers have their own default margins and padding and things like that for elements on the page.

A lot of times you want to try to get rid of those so that then you can go ahead and add your own margins and padding for elements and not worry about the browser's default. So if I save this and test it, you can see that it does just that. We now no longer have any spacing between the elements on the page. They are all just budded up right against each other, and we can now go in and rewrite that on our own margins and paddings and that sort of thing. There is a downside of this, however. I've seen the universal selector used like this for what we call a CSS reset, so this is essentially just a very simple CSS reset.

Remember from earlier, CSS resets just sort of strip out all that default margins and padding. But the problem with the universal selector is again, remember, it applies to every single element. That can include form elements, like buttons, and input, text fields, and checkboxes, and radio buttons. And in some browsers, stripping out those sorts of default margins and paddings without adding them back can cause some really, really bad styling issues. And if you don't know that those elements sort of need that default margins and paddings, a lot times you sort of forget to put it back in there.

So the universal selector is sort of a scorched earth selector, so you should really use caution when using it. And I am going to be honest with you. I've never used the universal selector in any of my styles ever. I just have never really needed it. A little later on we are going to learn about what we call descendent selectors, which involves combining selectors together for more precise targeting. And in those cases, I've seen a few people use the universal selector to target a really complex range of selectors, to say, like, go inside of a div and everything inside that that's also part of the section, do this.

So you can sort of combine it with other selectors to do that, but to be honest with you, I've never had a situation arise that I couldn't style that another way. Really, it's just another selector, and whether you use it or not is entirely up to you. You just want to be sure that you understand the effect it's going to have on every single element within your site before you decide to use it.

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