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What CSS and HTML are, and how they work together

CSS means Cascading Style Sheets, and HTML means Hyper Text Markup Language. Not that it explains much, but I thought I'd get that out of the way. And it all started with HTML.

HTML is not a programming language, in spite of its name. Without going into too much detail, it's a simple script. A script is bunch of simple terms that trigger something when read by a program. So HTML, although it has gotten more complex over the years, is actually fairly simplistic. When I first starting teaching HTML, in 2001, many people were surprised, and maybe just a bit disappointed, to find that the script for bold was b, italic was i, that sort of thing. And certain terms, like *decoration* were used because, well, that's what the person who first wrote the term called it back in the 1990s.

HTML is the foundation of every page on the web. And in spite of being thrown together by nerds in the 90s, it seems to work fairly well. Most web browsers can understand it quite well (except, of course Internet Explorer). You can write a simple web page, that does a lot of stuff, just by using HTML.

But in the 21st Century, something was added to how web pages were created, CSS. And like any style sheet, like in a program like Quark, or InDesign, or Adobe Illustrator, it adds style to the foundation of HTML.

Now don't get me wrong, you can do a bit of styling with plain HTML, but CSS takes it to a new level. It's actually a separate file that tells a particular HTML page, or series of pages, what to do. And like using any style sheet, changes made to the CSS need to be only done once, and they affect all of the linked pages, whether there are two or two thousand. It's a very powerful tool for creating large documents, and it's kind'a handy with web design, too!