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Understanding descendant selectors

From: Dreamweaver CS5 Essential Training

Video: Understanding descendant selectors

So far, we have used all three basic selector types: Element, Class and ID. Now, while those three will serve as the building blocks for almost every style you write in your CSS, their application will be incomplete without also understanding how to write descendant selectors. I do not exaggerate when I say that over 90% of the styles in your site will be descendant selectors. Descendant selectors target rules based on where an element is found within another element. To target every span tag inside of a paragraph tag, you would only need to write the selector p span, for example.

Understanding descendant selectors

So far, we have used all three basic selector types: Element, Class and ID. Now, while those three will serve as the building blocks for almost every style you write in your CSS, their application will be incomplete without also understanding how to write descendant selectors. I do not exaggerate when I say that over 90% of the styles in your site will be descendant selectors. Descendant selectors target rules based on where an element is found within another element. To target every span tag inside of a paragraph tag, you would only need to write the selector p span, for example.

Descendant selectors are typically used in conjunction with ID selectors. This allows you to style all paragraphs in the sidebar, so that they look different than the main content. Let's create a couple of descendent selectors to finish styling our sample page. So here we have the descendent_selector.htm file. Now, just to kind of refresh your memory about the structure of the page, remember we have a div tag up top with an ID of top. Then we have a div tag down at the bottom of the page with an ID of bottom. In between those, we have two paragraphs, one that has a class attribute of greenText and one that is just a normal paragraph.

Well, let's say we want to target the paragraphs just in this top region; style these guys separately without affecting any other content. If we didn't know about descendant selectors, we would probably be trying to use a class selector to do that. So this is one of those instances where I want to point out how much more efficient a descendant selector is over a class selector. So we're going to do a brand-new CSS Rule, and this time we're not going to choose any of the first three options of selector type. We're going to choose the last one, which is Compound.

Now, Compound is Dreamweaver's way of basically just saying, "Whatever you want to write." Now, you will notice that my selector has already resolved itself for me. That was nice of Dreamweaver, #top p. That's exactly the descendant selector I need to write. Now, how did it know to do that? Well, because I selected this paragraph within this region. So when I selected Compound, Dreamweaver basically wrote the compound selector for me, based on that area. Now, it's not always going to get it right, so don't rely on Dreamweaver to write these selectors for you. Look at it more of a way of saving a little bit of time.

Now, if you need to write that yourself, remember just do #top, and this is the important part, space, p. That space indicates that you're moving from one element to another. So we're looking for any paragraph inside of any region with an ID of top. Again, we're going to do it in This document only, and we're going to go ahead and click OK. So for Color here, I'm going to type in #000. For Font-size, I'm going to type-in 1 em, and then for Font- style I'm going to Italicize that text.

I'm going to go ahead and click OK, and notice that my paragraphs in the top-region restyled. So unlike a class selector, I don't have to do any manual application whatsoever. I'm just telling my browser, "Look inside any region with an ID of top. If you find a paragraph inside that, style it like this." So we're targeting very specific areas. Now, let's tackle the heading 1 in our bottom region. Now, if we looked at this on a page again, and we said, "Hey. We want this heading to look slightly different than any other heading on the page," again, a lot of people would resort to a Class Selector, but we can use the structure of the page to our advantage.

We notice that this is the only heading 1, and the only one inside of a region with an ID of bottom. So we're going to use that to write our descendant selector. Once again, I'm going to choose New CSS Rule. I am going to make sure it says Compound, and once again, because I placed my cursor into that element, you'll notice that Dreamweaver resolved it for me, #bottom h1. I'm going to go ahead and click OK, making sure it's being defined in this document only. For Color, I'm going to choose #FF0, which is the yellow color. For Font-size, I'm going to choose 1.6 ems.

So maybe a good bit larger there. Font-weight is going to be normal. So headings are normally bold, so by changing Font-weight to normal this particular heading will not be bold. For Line-height, I'm going to choose 1.2, and we're going to do a multiple. Now, again, later on in Chapter 07 when we do typography, we'll go into what a multiple, what an em is, those things in a little bit more detail. So I'm going to go ahead and click OK, and now I see the heading looks totally different than the one above it, and no class selectors are involved in that at all.

Now, finally, we've been using IDs for our descendant selectors, and they are commonly found within descendant selectors, but you don't have to use them. You can use any selectors you want to do a descendant selector. You can also do more than two. You can have as many elements as you want in a row, so you could say, body, space form, space table, space paragraph, and that would target any paragraph inside of a table, inside of a form, inside of the body tag. So you can go as deep into that as you want. Let's go ahead and do another New CSS Rule. Now, again, this time I'm going to choose Compound, and because I didn't have anything focused on the page, I now have to write this compound selector myself.

Now, again, don't be confused by the term Compound versus Descendant. Descendant selectors are also sometimes referred as Contextual Selectors. The word Compound here really doesn't have any meaning to CSS. In Dreamweaver, it just basically means you can do something beyond the basic three types of selectors. So for Selector Name here, I'm going to type in body, and then space, remember that space is important, and then p, and then space, and then span. Now, I want to point out something else that Dreamweaver is doing for us here.

If you're learning how to write these selectors, there is a really nice tool that Dreamweaver has given you guys right below the name of the selector. Notice that it says, This selector name will apply your rule to all elements that are within any paragraph elements, that are within any body elements. So if you write a descendant selector, you're going to get a description down below it of what you're going to be targeting. If that reads a little bit different than your intent, then perhaps your selector needs a little bit of refining them. Now, again, I'm going to go ahead and click OK. I'm going to make a very simple change to this.

I'm just going to change the Font- weight to bold, and then click OK. Again, notice the word "alone" is now bold, because it is in a tag, which is also inside the tag. Perfect! Now, this page is not going to win any design contest, but we've successfully created individual looks for each element, based on its position and type. Once you do a few descendant selectors, it's very easy to see how powerful, and how useful they are. You'll find they control an overwhelming majority of the styling in your sites.

Properly structuring, and naming elements inside your site, and consistently using those standards, makes it easy to create descendant selectors that do all the work for you, eliminating the need to rely on class selectors for everything that you do.

Show transcript

This video is part of

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Dreamweaver CS5 Essential Training

135 video lessons · 89031 viewers

James Williamson
Author

 
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  1. 2m 57s
    1. Welcome
      1m 8s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 49s
  2. 7m 50s
    1. What is Dreamweaver?
      3m 16s
    2. Learning web design
      2m 22s
    3. Current web standards
      2m 12s
  3. 43m 9s
    1. The Welcome screen
      4m 5s
    2. Windows and Mac interface differences
      2m 23s
    3. The Application toolbar
      4m 7s
    4. The Document toolbar
      4m 40s
    5. Arranging panels
      8m 19s
    6. Managing workspaces
      7m 32s
    7. The Properties Inspector
      5m 54s
    8. The Insert panel
      6m 9s
  4. 25m 45s
    1. Basic site structure
      3m 11s
    2. File naming conventions
      1m 49s
    3. Defining a new site
      4m 35s
    4. Managing sites
      4m 51s
    5. Managing files and folders
      6m 36s
    6. Working with browsers
      4m 43s
  5. 27m 21s
    1. Creating new documents
      5m 16s
    2. New document preferences
      3m 6s
    3. Setting accessibility preferences
      4m 56s
    4. Working with starter pages
      3m 46s
    5. Managing starter pages
      10m 17s
  6. 30m 2s
    1. Basic tag structure
      2m 15s
    2. Adding structure to text
      8m 20s
    3. Creating lists
      9m 59s
    4. Getting text into Dreamweaver
      5m 59s
    5. Importing Word documents
      3m 29s
  7. 1h 17m
    1. Understanding style sheets
      2m 16s
    2. The anatomy of a CSS rule
      1m 48s
    3. Setting CSS preferences
      6m 36s
    4. The CSS Styles panel
      10m 2s
    5. Controlling CSS through the Properties Inspector
      5m 14s
    6. Using the Code Navigator
      7m 21s
    7. Using CSS Enable
      6m 45s
    8. Understanding element selectors
      8m 11s
    9. Understanding class selectors
      8m 49s
    10. Understanding ID selectors
      5m 59s
    11. Understanding descendant selectors
      6m 51s
    12. Attaching external style sheets
      7m 44s
  8. 1h 47m
    1. Working with units of measurement
      7m 11s
    2. Declaring font families
      9m 39s
    3. Controlling font sizing
      9m 9s
    4. Controlling weight and style
      8m 0s
    5. Controlling line height
      8m 29s
    6. Controlling vertical spacing with margins
      12m 3s
    7. Controlling spacing with padding
      5m 39s
    8. Aligning text
      8m 26s
    9. Transforming text
      5m 36s
    10. Writing global styles
      15m 42s
    11. Writing targeted styles
      17m 37s
  9. 1h 32m
    1. Understanding image types
      5m 3s
    2. Managing assets in Dreamweaver
      12m 51s
    3. Setting image accessibility preferences
      4m 20s
    4. Setting external image editing preferences
      3m 52s
    5. Placing images on the page
      7m 37s
    6. Photoshop integration
      5m 54s
    7. Modifying Smart Objects
      5m 51s
    8. Alternate Photoshop workflows
      8m 8s
    9. Modifying image properties
      11m 14s
    10. Styling images with CSS
      7m 11s
    11. Using background graphics
      9m 3s
    12. Positioning background graphics
      11m 6s
  10. 55m 16s
    1. Link basics
      3m 37s
    2. Setting site linking preferences
      2m 14s
    3. Creating links in Dreamweaver
      11m 1s
    4. Absolute links
      5m 8s
    5. Using named anchors
      11m 19s
    6. Linking to named anchors in external files
      2m 44s
    7. Creating an email link
      5m 24s
    8. Creating CSS-based rollovers
      13m 49s
  11. 1h 34m
    1. CSS structuring basics
      2m 56s
    2. The Box Model
      13m 21s
    3. Understanding floats
      6m 53s
    4. Clearing and containing floats
      8m 56s
    5. Using relative positioning
      4m 8s
    6. Using absolute positioning
      7m 18s
    7. Creating structure with div tags
      12m 7s
    8. Styling basic structure
      10m 34s
    9. Creating a two-column layout
      10m 37s
    10. Using Live View and CSS Inspect
      7m 51s
    11. Using Browser Lab
      9m 39s
  12. 56m 22s
    1. Reviewing table structure
      7m 41s
    2. Importing tabular data
      5m 13s
    3. Creating accessible tables
      9m 56s
    4. Using thead and tbody tags
      4m 0s
    5. Basic table styling
      8m 45s
    6. Styling table headers
      7m 52s
    7. Styling column groups
      4m 22s
    8. Creating custom table borders
      5m 1s
    9. Styling table captions
      3m 32s
  13. 1h 43m
    1. How forms work
      3m 0s
    2. Reviewing form design
      3m 2s
    3. Creating accessible forms
      7m 33s
    4. Setting form properties
      4m 6s
    5. The fieldset and legend tags
      4m 32s
    6. Inserting text fields
      5m 58s
    7. Inserting list menu items
      5m 26s
    8. Inserting checkboxes
      7m 50s
    9. Inserting radio button groups
      6m 22s
    10. Inserting text areas
      4m 12s
    11. Inserting submit buttons
      3m 37s
    12. Basic form styling
      12m 0s
    13. Form element styling
      8m 52s
    14. Styling form layout
      11m 49s
    15. Adding form interactivity
      2m 47s
    16. Using Spry validation widgets
      12m 49s
  14. 1h 23m
    1. Planning for templates
      10m 51s
    2. Creating a new template
      10m 37s
    3. Using editable attributes
      13m 43s
    4. Creating optional regions
      6m 23s
    5. Creating new pages from a template
      9m 17s
    6. Applying templates to existing pages
      6m 9s
    7. Working with nested templates
      7m 56s
    8. Working with repeating regions
      12m 58s
    9. Modifying templates
      5m 41s
  15. 40m 14s
    1. Behaviors overview
      3m 47s
    2. Hiding and showing elements
      9m 18s
    3. Spry overview
      4m 4s
    4. Using Spry widgets
      11m 36s
    5. Adding Spry effects
      3m 6s
    6. Using the Widget Browser
      8m 23s
  16. 28m 18s
    1. Inserting Flash files
      5m 4s
    2. Setting properties for Flash
      6m 27s
    3. Dreamweaver and Flash integration
      6m 6s
    4. Encoding Flash video
      6m 10s
    5. Adding Flash video
      4m 31s
  17. 45m 28s
    1. Running site-wide reports
      6m 33s
    2. Checking for broken links
      5m 41s
    3. Checking for browser compatibility
      8m 3s
    4. Adding remote servers
      8m 0s
    5. Uploading files
      7m 20s
    6. Managing remote sites
      9m 51s
  18. 34s
    1. Goodbye
      34s

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