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Understanding tags and containers

From: HTML Essential Training

Video: Understanding tags and containers

Tags form the basis of most HTML, so let's take a moment and see how they work. Let's make a working copy of structure.html from Chapter 01 folder in our exercise files. I am going to name that structure-working.html, and I am going to open it in my text editor. I am using TextWrangler here on this Mac. You can use any text editor that you like or any platform that you like as long as this is not a word processor or an HTML editor. You want to make sure it's a text editor that doesn't add anything, any weird formatting characters or something to the document.

Understanding tags and containers

Tags form the basis of most HTML, so let's take a moment and see how they work. Let's make a working copy of structure.html from Chapter 01 folder in our exercise files. I am going to name that structure-working.html, and I am going to open it in my text editor. I am using TextWrangler here on this Mac. You can use any text editor that you like or any platform that you like as long as this is not a word processor or an HTML editor. You want to make sure it's a text editor that doesn't add anything, any weird formatting characters or something to the document.

So this is a simple HTML document and you will notice that it has a number of tags in it. The DOCTYPE at the top looks like a tag and is actually not a tag. That's just the DOCTYPE declaration as its own syntax, its own format and its own rules, and that's not what we're talking about here in this movie. So for example, let's take a look at this title tag here. So the tag itself consists of the left angle bracket and the name of the tag, which is the word title, and a right angle bracket, and that creates the tag that's called title.

You will notice that there is another tag here that looks just the same except that it has this extra little slash character there between the left angle bracket and the name of the tag, and that's called an end tag, and so the title element is everything from the beginning of the title begin tag to the end of the title end tag, and everything in between including the contents of the element. So the element itself is that whole thing. So the title element is what we call a container because it has a begin tag and an end tag and it has contents.

In contrast, this meta tag up above is not a container. It's what's called a standalone tag and so you see it starts with the left angle bracket and it has the name of the tag, and then it has some attributes and values and we'll get into that later. And then instead of an end tag, it has this shortcut over here. We are going to talk about that a little bit. The other way to do this would be like this, with a begin tag and an end tag and nothing in between. So that makes it an empty tag, and that's fine.

You can certainly do it that way, but borrowed from XML and from SGML, is this shortcut with a slash and a right angle bracket and that means this is an empty tag and let's just pretend that it has an end tag and no content. Now technically in HTML, that's not even required. You could just do this. Just have the meta tag like that, without any end tag and without any shortcut, and that's perfectly acceptable. It's perfectly legal and it works just fine in HTML.

I tend to go the extra mile and use the shortcut because occasionally what HTML I write, may end up in the context of XHTML, which is an XML version of HTML, and it's almost exactly the same as HTML, only it's stricter about some things. And so I tend to do those some things that it's stricter about even in my HTML, just to make it less trouble if and when I ever have to use this same code in an XHTML context.

It doesn't cost me anything to type the extra characters. It doesn't cost me anything to remember a few extra rules, and so I just do it and it makes it easier for me in the long run. The HTML standard has a word for this. It's called Polyglot code. It's code that will work in either context, in either the HTML context or the XHTML context. Now the other thing we'll notice about this meta tag is that it has what's called an attribute. The attribute in this case is charset, C-H-A-R-S-E-T, and the value is UTF-8, and you notice it has an equals sign here, so the name of the attribute is followed by an equals sign and the value, and you notice that I have the value in quotes.

So tags have attributes to provide necessary information for implementing the tag whatever that tag may be. In this case, this meta tag is here to describe the character set of the document and the character set of the document is UTF-8, and so we have the name of the tag meta, the name of the attribute charset and the value for that attribute which is UTF-8. You'll notice that I have quotes around the string UTF-8. The quotes are technically optional in HTML.

I could do it like this and it would be perfectly legal HTML and it would work, and the browser would recognize it, and everything would be hunky-dory. But I tend to use the quotes and again this is one of these Polyglot things. It makes it legal in the XHTML context. In XHTML, the quotes are not optional. They are required. The only other rule about the quotes is that if you use the quotes, your beginning quote and your ending quote have to be the same. I can't use a double quote to begin with and a single quote to end with.

That won't work. Instead, if I am using a double quote at the beginning, I have to use double quote at the end, or as in the case of this language attribute up here, if I am using a single code at the beginning, I have to use a single quote at the end. So just like with the shortcut end tag, I pretend that these quotes are a rule. I always try to remember to put them in and sometimes I actually do forget, but I always try to remember to put them in because it's going to make my job easier in other contexts.

So again I am using the Polyglot rules, which is HTML, but with the more stricter rules that make it legal XHTML as well. Tags are the basis of HTML so it's important to understand how they are properly constructed. Using good form and creating your tags will go a long way toward making your HTML portable across devices, contexts, and even time as future versions of HTML are developed.

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This video is part of

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HTML Essential Training

82 video lessons · 97381 viewers

Bill Weinman
Author

 
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  1. 5m 24s
    1. Welcome
      56s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 37s
    3. What you need to know about this course
      2m 51s
  2. 22m 0s
    1. What is HTML?
      4m 12s
    2. Examining the structure of an HTML document
      7m 50s
    3. Understanding tags and containers
      6m 4s
    4. Exploring content models in HTML5
      2m 23s
    5. Looking at obsolete elements
      1m 31s
  3. 27m 19s
    1. Understanding whitespace and comments
      3m 53s
    2. Displaying text with paragraphs
      3m 37s
    3. Applying style
      8m 5s
    4. Using block and inline tags
      6m 34s
    5. Displaying characters with references
      5m 10s
  4. 16m 36s
    1. Exploring the front matter of HTML
      2m 9s
    2. Applying CSS to your document
      3m 59s
    3. Adding scripting elements
      4m 54s
    4. Using the meta tag
      3m 34s
    5. Optimizing your page for search engines
      2m 0s
  5. 24m 59s
    1. Controlling line breaks and spaces
      2m 46s
    2. Exploring phrase elements
      1m 44s
    3. Using font markup elements
      1m 5s
    4. Highlighting text with mark
      1m 29s
    5. Adding headings
      1m 38s
    6. Using quotations and quote marks
      3m 2s
    7. Exploring preformatted text
      1m 45s
    8. Formatting lists
      2m 28s
    9. Forcing text direction
      3m 49s
    10. Suggesting word-break opportunities
      2m 29s
    11. Annotating East Asian languages
      2m 44s
  6. 29m 15s
    1. Introducing CSS
      55s
    2. Understanding CSS placement
      6m 55s
    3. Exploring CSS syntax
      10m 34s
    4. Understanding CSS units of measure
      3m 3s
    5. Some CSS examples
      7m 48s
  7. 22m 5s
    1. Using images
      4m 13s
    2. Flowing text around an image
      4m 55s
    3. Breaking lines around an image
      3m 3s
    4. Aligning images
      5m 25s
    5. Mapping links in an image
      4m 29s
  8. 22m 28s
    1. Understanding URLs
      2m 41s
    2. Working with hyperlinks
      3m 28s
    3. Using relative URLs
      4m 20s
    4. Specifying a base URL
      2m 19s
    5. Linking within a page
      4m 12s
    6. Using image links
      5m 28s
  9. 17m 2s
    1. Exploring list types
      3m 52s
    2. List elements in depth
      7m 44s
    3. Using text menus with unordered lists
      5m 26s
  10. 15m 30s
    1. Introduction to HTML semantics
      4m 9s
    2. Exploring an example
      4m 56s
    3. Marking up figures and illustrations
      2m 33s
    4. Creating collapsible details
      3m 52s
  11. 11m 18s
    1. Embedding audio
      5m 19s
    2. Embedding video
      5m 59s
  12. 11m 53s
    1. Creating ad-hoc Document Object Model (DOM) data with the data-* attribute
      4m 53s
    2. Displaying relative values with meter
      2m 57s
    3. Creating dynamic progress indicators
      4m 3s
  13. 4m 49s
    1. Overview of HTML5 microdata
      1m 8s
    2. Exploring an example with microdata
      3m 41s
  14. 7m 3s
    1. Understanding outlines
      52s
    2. A demonstration of outlining
      6m 11s
  15. 13m 1s
    1. Table basics
      7m 29s
    2. Exploring the semantic parts of a table
      2m 32s
    3. Grouping columns
      3m 0s
  16. 9m 55s
    1. Frames overview
      54s
    2. Using traditional frames
      4m 26s
    3. Exploring inline frames using iframe
      2m 7s
    4. Simulating frames with CSS
      2m 28s
  17. 53m 7s
    1. Introducing forms
      10m 24s
    2. Using text elements
      10m 12s
    3. Using checkboxes and radio buttons
      2m 37s
    4. Creating selection lists and dropdown lists
      5m 14s
    5. Submit and button elements
      8m 48s
    6. Using an image as a submit button
      2m 15s
    7. Keeping context with the hidden element
      3m 0s
    8. Setting tab order
      2m 7s
    9. Preloading an autocomplete list using the datalist feature
      5m 26s
    10. Displaying results with output
      3m 4s
  18. 19m 47s
    1. Touring a complete site
      2m 14s
    2. Touring the HTML
      8m 44s
    3. Touring the CSS
      8m 49s
  19. 29s
    1. Goodbye
      29s

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