The Book of CSS3: A Developer’s Guide to the Future of Web Design book review
written by craig, 3 June 2011
If you’ve been avoiding CSS3, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate that policy. If Peter Gasston’s book doesn’t tempt you to delve into the murky waters, nothing will.
“The Book of CSS3” is the culmination of 5 years effort writing about the technology. Unlike other titles, this isn’t a book about Cascading Style Sheets with a little CSS3 tagged on — it’s a complete overview of the latest techniques. It won’t teach you CSS, but it gives existing web developers an insight into new possibilities.
The CSS3 specifications are in flux but the majority of browsers support some of the properties — abet with vendor prefixes. The book was completed shortly before the release of IE9 and Firefox 4, but those browsers are included in the support summary provided for every module.
Peter eases the reader in gently with a little history (were you aware that work on CSS3
started in 1998?) and a light-hearted rant about HTML5 confusion caused by the media. The remainder of the 278 pages covers specific modules; those with the most reliable and consistent support come first.
Chapter 2 starts with media queries: the basis of responsive design for mobile and desktop devices. Peter recommends creating your basic mobile site first then applying larger layouts and assets for desktop browsers. It’s a sensible approach which is gaining more traction in the industry.
Chapters 3 and 4 describe CSS3 selectors, pseudo-classes and pseudo-elements. These can cause confusion, but Peter adequately covers the basics and more advanced techniques. It’s a section you’ll return to again and again.
Chapter 5 is dedicated to web fonts. If you rarely consider the implications of fonts on the web, Peter delves into the issues, problems and workarounds in fine detail. A bulletproof CSS3 syntax is provided for the widest possible browser support.
Text effects and typographic styles are described in chapter 6. If you were expecting an easy-going section about text shadows, you’ll be amazed to find great information about resizing, wrapping, kerning, rendering, and smoothing.
Chapter 7 is dedicated to multiple columns: a concept CSS developers have struggled with for many years. Fortunately, CSS3 will make our lives easier; Peter describes how the Mozilla and webkit browsers support the standard and the differences you’ll encounter.
Midway through the book, chapter 8 explains background images and other decorative properties. Multiple backgrounds, repeating, resizing, clipping, masks and related topics are succinctly explained.
Chapter 9 reveals border and box effects such as rounded corners, border images, and drop shadows. Chapters 10 and 11 follow this with the new colour definition methods, gradients and opacity.
If you’ve forgotten everything you learnt about trigonometry, chapter 12 will bring it flooding back as Peter covers 2D transformations. Rotating, scaling and skewing soon give way to scary concepts such as matrix transformations.
Chapter 14 will strain your brain as Peter describes 3D transformations and geometric manipulation concepts. It’s early days for the techniques and the properties are only supported by the latest webkit browsers. I doubt anyone will mind if you skip a few pages!
Flexible box layouts are described in chapter 15. Peter admits that implementation remains patchy, but it provides a solution to several common website layout problems.
Finally, chapter 17 discusses the future of CSS with some great ideas which could become commonplace within a few years. This is followed by appendices containing browser support information, online resources and the all-important index.
The book benefits from Peter Gasston’s natural writing style. It’s informal, relaxed, well written and attractively laid out. Complex technical details are explained concisely without relying on jargon or glossing over details.
“The Book of CSS3” is one of the best technology books I’ve read. I’d recommend it to any web developer who’s itching to experiment with the new techniques. At this price, it’s an absolute bargain.