A Beginner's Guide to HTML Part I: (a brief reference)

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     You can't get too far in ASP without an intimate knowledge of HTML, so this tutorial will take a newbie through the ABC's of step at a time. It's also a great reference for pros who forget how to use little known tags! By


A Beginner's Guide to HTML

This is a primer for producing documents in HTML, the hypertext markup
language used on the World Wide Web. This guide is intended to be an
introduction to using HTML and creating files for the Web. Links are
provided to additional information. You should also check your local
bookstore; there are many volumes about the Web and HTML that could be

   * Getting Started
        o Terms to Know
        o What Isn't Covered
        o HTML Version
   * HTML Documents
        o What an HTML Document Is
        o Tags Explained
        o The Minimal HTML Document
        o A Teaching Tool
   * Markup Tags
        o HTML
        o HEAD
        o TITLE
        o BODY
        o Headings
        o Paragraphs
        o Lists
        o Preformatted Text
        o Extended Quotations
        o Addresses
        o Forced Line Breaks/Postal Addresses
        o Horizontal Rules
   * Character Formatting
        o Logical Versus Physical Styles
        o Escape Sequences
   * Linking
        o Relative Pathnames Versus Absolute Pathnames
        o URLs
        o Links to Specific Sections
        o Mailto
   * Inline Images
        o Image Size Attributes
        o Aligning Images
        o Alternate Text for Images
        o Background Graphics
        o Background Color
        o External Images, Sounds, and Animations
   * Tables
        o Table Tags
        o General Table Format
        o Tables for Nontabular Information
   * Fill-out Forms
   * Troubleshooting
        o Avoid Overlapping Tags
        o Embed Only Anchors and Character Tags
        o Do the Final Steps
        o Commenting Your Files
   * For More Information
        o Style Guides
        o Other Introductory Documents
        o Additional Online References


                              Getting Started

Terms to Know

WWW  World Wide Web
Web  World Wide Web
     Standard Generalized Markup Language--a standard for describing markup
DTD  Document Type Definition--this is the formal specification of a markup
     language, written using SGML
     HyperText Markup Language--HTML is an SGML DTD
     In practical terms, HTML is a collection of platform-independent styles
     (indicated by markup tags) that define the various components of a
     World Wide Web document. HTML was invented by Tim Berners-Lee while at
     CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva.

What Isn't Covered

This primer assumes that you:

   * know how to use NCSA Mosaic or some other Web browser
   * have a general understanding of how Web servers and client browsers
   * have access to a Web server (or that you want to produce HTML documents
     for personal use in local-viewing mode)

HTML Version

This guide reflects the most current specification--HTML Version 2.0-- plus
some additional features that have been widely and consistently implemented
in browsers. Future versions and new features for HTML are under

                               HTML Documents

What an HTML Document Is

HTML documents are plain-text (also known as ASCII) files that can be
created using any text editor (e.g., Emacs or vi on UNIX machines; BBEdit on
a Macintosh; Notepad on a Windows machine). You can also use word-processing
software if you remember to save your document as "text only with line

Tags Explained

An element is a fundamental component of the structure of a text document.
Some examples of elements are heads, tables, paragraphs, and lists. Think of
it this way: you use HTML tags to mark the elements of a file for your
browser. Elements can contain plain text, other elements, or both.

To denote the various elements in an HTML document, you use tags. HTML tags
consist of a left angle bracket (<), a tag name, and a right angle bracket
(>). Tags are usually paired (e.g., <H1> and </H1>) to start and end the tag
instruction. The end tag looks just like the start tag except a slash (/)
precedes the text within the brackets. HTML tags are listed below.

Some elements may include an attribute, which is additional information that
is included inside the start tag. For example, you can specify the alignment
of images (top, middle, or bottom) by including the appropriate attribute
with the image source HTML code. Tags that have optional attributes are
noted below.

NOTE: HTML is not case sensitive. <title> is equivalent to <TITLE> or
<TiTlE>. There are a few exceptions noted in Escape Sequences below.

Not all tags are supported by all World Wide Web browsers. If a browser does
not support a tag, it (usually) just ignores it.

The Minimal HTML Document

Every HTML document should contain certain standard HTML tags. Each document
consists of head and body text. The head contains the title, and the body
contains the actual text that is made up of paragraphs, lists, and other
elements. Browsers expect specific information because they are programmed
according to HTML and SGML specifications.

Required elements are shown in this sample bare-bones document:

    <TITLE>A Simple HTML Example</TITLE>
    <H1>HTML is Easy To Learn</H1>
    <P>Welcome to the world of HTML.
    This is the first paragraph. While short it is
    still a paragraph!</P>
    <P>And this is the second paragraph.</P>

The required elements are the <html>, <head>, <title>, and <body> tags (and
their corresponding end tags). Because you should include these tags in each
file, you might want to create a template file with them. (Some browsers
will format your HTML file correctly even if these tags are not included.
But some browsers won't! So make sure to include them.)

Click to see the formatted version of the example. A longer example is also
available but you should read through the rest of the guide before you take
a look. This longer-example file contains tags explained in the next

A Teaching Tool

To see a copy of the file that your browser reads to generate the
information in your current window, select View Source (or the equivalent)
from the browser menu. The file contents, with all the HTML tags, are
displayed in a new window.

This is an excellent way to see how HTML is used and to learn tips and
constructs. Of course, the HTML might not be technically correct. Once you
become familiar with HTML and check the many online and hard-copy references
on the subject, you will learn to distinguish between "good" and "bad" HTML.

Remember that you can save a source file with the HTML codes and use it as a
template for one of your Web pages or modify the format to suit your

                                 Markup Tags


This element tells your browser that the file contains HTML-coded
information. The file extension .html also indicates this an HTML document
and must be used. (If you are restricted to 8.3 filenames (e.g.,
LeeHome.htm, use only .htm for your extension.)


The head element identifies the first part of your HTML-coded document that
contains the title. The title is shown as part of your browser's window (see


The title element contains your document title and identifies its content in
a global context. The title is displayed somewhere on the browser window
(usually at the top), but not within the text area. The title is also what
is displayed on someone's hotlist or bookmark list, so choose something
descriptive, unique, and relatively short. A title is also used during a
WAIS search of a server.

For example, you might include a shortened title of a book along with the
chapter contents: NCSA Mosaic Guide (Windows): Installation. This tells the
software name, the platform, and the chapter contents, which is more useful
than simply calling the document Installation. Generally you should keep
your titles to 64 characters or fewer.


The second--and largest--part of your HTML document is the body, which
contains the content of your document (displayed within the text area of
your browser window). The tags explained below are used within the body of
your HTML document.


HTML has six levels of headings, numbered 1 through 6, with 1 being the most
prominent. Headings are displayed in larger and/or bolder fonts than normal
body text. The first heading in each document should be tagged <H1>.

The syntax of the heading element is:
<Hy>Text of heading </Hy>
where y is a number between 1 and 6 specifying the level of the heading.

Do not skip levels of headings in your document. For example, don't start
with a level-one heading (<H1>) and then next use a level-three (<H3>)


Unlike documents in most word processors, carriage returns in HTML files
aren't significant. So you don't have to worry about how long your lines of
text are (better to have them fewer than 72 characters long though). Word
wrapping can occur at any point in your source file, and multiple spaces are
collapsed into a single space by your browser.

In the bare-bones example shown in the Minimal HTML Document section, the
first paragraph is coded as

    <P>Welcome to the world of HTML.
    This is the first paragraph.
    While short it is
    still a paragraph!</P>

In the source file there is a line break between the sentences. A Web
browser ignores this line break and starts a new paragraph only when it
encounters another <P> tag.

Important: You must indicate paragraphs with <P> elements. A browser ignores
any indentations or blank lines in the source text. Without <P> elements,
the document becomes one large paragraph. (One exception is text tagged as
"preformatted," which is explained below.) For example, the following would
produce identical output as the first bare-bones HTML example:

    <H1>Level-one heading</H1> <P>Welcome to the world of HTML. This is the
    first paragraph. While short it is still a
    paragraph! </P> <P>And this is the second paragraph.</P>

To preserve readability in HTML files, put headings on separate lines, use a
blank line or two where it helps identify the start of a new section, and
separate paragraphs with blank lines (in addition to the <P> tags). These
extra spaces will help you when you edit your files (but your browser will
ignore the extra spaces because it has its own set of rules on spacing that
do not depend on the spaces you put in your source file).

NOTE: The </P> closing tag can be omitted. This is because browsers
understand that when they encounter a <P> tag, it implies that there is an
end to the previous paragraph.

Using the <P> and </P> as a paragraph container means that you can center a
paragraph by including the ALIGN=alignment attribute in your source file.

    This is a centered paragraph. [See the formatted version below.]

                       This is a centered paragraph.


HTML supports unnumbered, numbered, and definition lists. You can nest lists
too, but use this feature sparingly because too many nested items can get
difficult to follow.

Unnumbered Lists

To make an unnumbered, bulleted list,

  1. start with an opening list <UL> (for unnumbered list) tag
  2. enter the <LI> (list item) tag followed by the individual item; no
     closing </LI> tag is needed
  3. end the entire list with a closing list </UL> tag

Below is a sample three-item list:

    <LI> apples
    <LI> bananas
    <LI> grapefruit

The output is:

   * apples
   * bananas
   * grapefruit

The <LI> items can contain multiple paragraphs. Indicate the paragraphs with
the <P> paragraph tags.

Numbered Lists

A numbered list (also called an ordered list, from which the tag name
derives) is identical to an unnumbered list, except it uses <OL> instead of
<UL>. The items are tagged using the same <LI> tag. The following HTML code:

    <LI> oranges
    <LI> peaches
    <LI> grapes

produces this formatted output:

  1. oranges
  2. peaches
  3. grapes

Definition Lists

A definition list (coded as <DL>) usually consists of alternating a
definition term (coded as <DT>) and a definition definition (coded as <DD>).
Web browsers generally format the definition on a new line.

The following is an example of a definition list:

    <DT> NCSA
    <DD> NCSA, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications,
         is located on the campus of the University of Illinois
         at Urbana-Champaign.
    <DT> Cornell Theory Center
    <DD> CTC is located on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca,
         New York.

The output looks like:

     NCSA, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, is located
     on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Cornell Theory Center
     CTC is located on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

The <DT> and <DD> entries can contain multiple paragraphs (indicated by <P>
paragraph tags), lists, or other definition information.

The COMPACT attribute can be used routinely in case your definition terms
are very short. If, for example, you are showing some computer options, the
options may fit on the same line as the start of the definition.

<DT> -i
<DD>invokes NCSA Mosaic for Microsoft Windows using the
initialization file defined in the path
<DT> -k
<DD>invokes NCSA Mosaic for Microsoft Windows in kiosk mode

The output looks like:

-i   invokes NCSA Mosaic for Microsoft Windows using the initialization file
     defined in the path.
-k   invokes NCSA Mosaic for Microsoft Windows in kiosk mode.

Nested Lists

Lists can be nested. You can also have a number of paragraphs, each
containing a nested list, in a single list item.

Here is a sample nested list:

    <LI> A few New England states:
        <LI> Vermont
        <LI> New Hampshire
        <LI> Maine
    <LI> Two Midwestern states:
        <LI> Michigan
        <LI> Indiana

The nested list is displayed as

   * A few New England states:
        o Vermont
        o New Hampshire
        o Maine
   * Two Midwestern states:
        o Michigan
        o Indiana

Preformatted Text

Use the <PRE> tag (which stands for "preformatted") to generate text in a
fixed-width font. This tag also makes spaces, new lines, and tabs
significant (multiple spaces are displayed as multiple spaces, and lines
break in the same locations as in the source HTML file). This is useful for
program listings, among other things. For example, the following lines:

      cd $SCR
      cfs get mysrc.f:mycfsdir/mysrc.f
      cfs get myinfile:mycfsdir/myinfile
      fc -02 -o mya.out mysrc.f
      cfs save myoutfile:mycfsdir/myoutfile
      rm *

display as:

      cd $SCR
      cfs get mysrc.f:mycfsdir/mysrc.f
      cfs get myinfile:mycfsdir/myinfile
      fc -02 -o mya.out mysrc.f
      cfs save myoutfile:mycfsdir/myoutfile
      rm *

The <PRE> tag can be used with an optional WIDTH attribute that specifies
the maximum number of characters for a line. WIDTH also signals your browser
to choose an appropriate font and indentation for the text.

Hyperlinks can be used within <PRE> sections. You should avoid using other
HTML tags within <PRE> sections, however.

Note that because <, >, and & have special meanings in HTML, you must use
their escape sequences (&lt;, &gt;, and &amp;, respectively) to enter these
characters. See the section Escape Sequences for more information.

Extended Quotations

Use the <BLOCKQUOTE> tag to include lengthy quotations in a separate block
on the screen. Most browsers generally change the margins for the quotation
to separate it from surrounding text.

In the example:

    <P>Omit needless words.</P>
    <P>Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no
    unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the
    same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a
    machine no unnecessary parts.</P>
    --William Strunk, Jr., 1918

the result is:

     Omit needless words.

     Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no
     unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the
     same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a
     machine no unnecessary parts.

     --William Strunk, Jr., 1918


The <ADDRESS> tag is generally used to specify the author of a document, a
way to contact the author (e.g., an email address), and a revision date. It
is usually the last item in a file.

For example, the last line of the online version of this guide is:

    A Beginner's Guide to HTML / NCSA / / revised April 96

The result is:
A Beginner's Guide to HTML / NCSA / / revised April 96

NOTE: <ADDRESS> is not used for postal addresses. See "Forced Line Breaks"
below to see how to format postal addresses.

Forced Line Breaks/Postal Addresses

The <BR> tag forces a line break with no extra (white) space between lines.
Using <P> elements for short lines of text such as postal addresses results
in unwanted additional white space. For example, with <BR>:

    National Center for Supercomputing Applications<BR>
    605 East Springfield Avenue<BR>
    Champaign, Illinois 61820-5518<BR>

The output is:

National Center for Supercomputing Applications
605 East Springfield Avenue
Champaign, Illinois 61820-5518

Horizontal Rules

The <HR> tag produces a horizontal line the width of the browser window. A
horizontal rule is useful to separate sections of your document. For
example, many people add a rule at the end of their text and before the
<address> information.

You can vary a rule's size (thickness) and width (the percentage of the
window covered by the rule). Experiment with the settings until you are
satisfied with the presentation. For example:

<HR SIZE=4 WIDTH="50%">

displays as:

                            Character Formatting

HTML has two types of styles for individual words or sentences: logical and
physical. Logical styles tag text according to its meaning, while physical
styles indicate the specific appearance of a section. For example, in the
preceding sentence, the words "logical styles" was tagged as a "definition."
The same effect (formatting those words in italics) could have been achieved
via a different tag that tells your browser to "put these words in italics."

NOTE: Some browsers don't attach any style to the <DFN> tag, so you might
not see the indicated phrases in the previous paragraph in italics.

Logical Versus Physical Styles

If physical and logical styles produce the same result on the screen, why
are there both?

In the ideal SGML universe, content is divorced from presentation. Thus SGML
tags a level-one heading as a level-one heading, but does not specify that
the level-one heading should be, for instance, 24-point bold Times centered.
The advantage of this approach (it's similar in concept to style sheets in
many word processors) is that if you decide to change level-one headings to
be 20-point left-justified Helvetica, all you have to do is change the
definition of the level-one heading in your Web browser. Indeed many
browsers today let you define how you want the various HTML tags rendered

Another advantage of logical tags is that they help enforce consistency in
your documents. It's easier to tag something as <H1> than to remember that
level-one headings are 24-point bold Times centered or whatever. For
example, consider the <STRONG> tag. Most browsers render it in bold text.
However, it is possible that a reader would prefer that these sections be
displayed in red instead. Logical styles offer this flexibility.

Of course, if you want something to be displayed in italics (for example)
and do not want a browser's setting to display it differently, use physical
styles. Physical styles, therefore, offer consistency in that something you
tag a certain way will always be displayed that way for readers of your

Try to be consistent about which type of style you use. If you tag with
physical styles, do so throughout a document. If you use logical styles,
stick with them within a document. Keep in mind that future releases of HTML
might not support physical styles, which could mean that browsers will not
display physical style coding.

Logical Styles

     for a word being defined. Typically displayed in italics. (NCSA Mosaic
     is a World Wide Web browser.)
     for emphasis. Typically displayed in italics. (Consultants cannot reset
     your password unless you call the help line.)
     for titles of books, films, etc. Typically displayed in italics. (A
     Beginner's Guide to HTML)
     for computer code. Displayed in a fixed-width font. (The <stdio.h>
     header file)
     for user keyboard entry. Typically displayed in plain fixed-width font.
     (Enter passwd to change your password.)
     for a sequence of literal characters. Displayed in a fixed-width font.
     (Segmentation fault: Core dumped.)
     for strong emphasis. Typically displayed in bold. (NOTE: Always check
     your links.)
     for a variable, where you will replace the variable with specific
     information. Typically displayed in italics. (rm filename deletes the

Physical Styles

<B>  bold text
<I>  italic text
     typewriter text, e.g. fixed-width font.

Escape Sequences (a.k.a. Character Entities)

Character entities have two functions:

   * escaping special characters
   * displaying other characters not available in the plain ASCII character
     set (primarily characters with diacritical marks)

Three ASCII characters--the left angle bracket (<), the right angle bracket
(>), and the ampersand (&)--have special meanings in HTML and therefore
cannot be used "as is" in text. (The angle brackets are used to indicate the
beginning and end of HTML tags, and the ampersand is used to indicate the
beginning of an escape sequence.) Double quote marks may be used as-is but a
character entity may also be used (&quot;).

To use one of the three characters in an HTML document, you must enter its
escape sequence instead:

     the escape sequence for <
     the escape sequence for >
     the escape sequence for &

Additional escape sequences support accented characters, such as:

     the escape sequence for a lowercase o with an umlaut:
     the escape sequence for a lowercase n with an tilde:
     the escape sequence for an uppercase E with a grave accent:

You can substitute other letters for the o, n, and E shown above. Check this
online reference for a longer list of special characters.

NOTE: Unlike the rest of HTML, the escape sequences are case sensitive. You
cannot, for instance, use &LT; instead of &lt;.


The chief power of HTML comes from its ability to link text and/or an image
to another document or section of a document. A browser highlights the
identified text or image with color and/or underlines to indicate that it is
a hypertext link (often shortened to hyperlink or link).

HTML's single hypertext-related tag is <A>, which stands for anchor. To
include an anchor in your document:

  1. start the anchor with <A (include a space after the A)
  2. specify the document you're linking to by entering the parameter
     HREF="filename" followed by a closing right angle bracket (>)
  3. enter the text that will serve as the hypertext link in the current
  4. enter the ending anchor tag: </A> (no space is needed before the end
     anchor tag)

Here is a sample hypertext reference in a file called US.html:

    <A HREF="MaineStats.html">Maine</A>

This entry makes the word Maine the hyperlink to the document
MaineStats.html, which is in the same directory as the first document.

Relative Pathnames Versus Absolute Pathnames

You can link to documents in other directories by specifying the relative
path from the current document to the linked document. For example, a link
to a file NYStats.html located in the subdirectory AtlanticStates would be:

    <A HREF="AtlanticStates/NYStats.html">New York</A>

These are called relative links because you are specifying the path to the
linked file relative to the location of the current file. You can also use
the absolute pathname (the complete URL) of the file, but relative links are
more efficient in accessing a server.

Pathnames use the standard UNIX syntax. The UNIX syntax for the parent
directory (the directory that contains the current directory) is "..". (For
more information consult a beginning UNIX reference text such as Learning
the UNIX Operating System from O'Reilly and Associates, Inc.)

If you were in the NYStats.html file and were referring to the original
document US.html, your link would look like this:

    <A HREF="../US.html">United States</A>

In general, you should use relative links because:

  1. it's easier to move a group of documents to another location (because
     the relative path names will still be valid)
  2. it's more efficient connecting to the server
  3. there is less to type

However use absolute pathnames when linking to documents that are not
directly related. For example, consider a group of documents that comprise a
user manual. Links within this group should be relative links. Links to
other documents (perhaps a reference to related software) should use full
path names. This way if you move the user manual to a different directory,
none of the links would have to be updated.

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