• 200717 Dec

    I’m working on the CSS3 Backgrounds and Borders module with Bert Bos, and I’d like to start a new Q&A series because I think we need some help: This time I’ll ask the questions, and you give me answers. Ok? :) Since the CSS Working Group Blog currently doesn’t accept comments, CSS3.info has kindly allowed me to cross-post so you can write back. The first issue is a complicated one, so I’ll start with an easy question. The topic is drop shadows.

    In the latest public working draft we have a box-shadow property. The point is, obviously, to be able to draw a drop-shadow for a CSS box. It starts to get complicated once you ask “what happens when there are semi-transparent parts of the box?” At first we figured ‘box-shadow’ should just draw the shadow as if the box was opaque. Then Dave Hyatt, who had started implementing this, started questioning that logic. We’ve got proposals for a ‘border-shadow’ property to shadow just the border and a ‘background-shadow’ property to shadow just the background color (but not the image?), etc. We could also just “shadow everything drawn in this element”. This all sounds rather complicated to me so I want to step back and ask:

    What do you, the web designers of the world, want to do with shadows? What’s the end result you want to get?

    Show me. Post a few links to stuff from your portfolio that uses anything beyond pure text shadows, even if it’s all done with pure Photoshop(/Painter/GIMP) graphics. Draw (or explain) a picture of what you want to achieve. Then maybe we can figure out how best to make it happen in CSS.

  • 200721 Oct

    As we mentioned at the end of last month, the W3C have released a working draft of their first annual snapshot. The snapshots are intended to show which specs are stable enough to be considered part of the current state CSS.

    The 2007 snapshot is:

    The browser with the least support for the snapshot is, as you’ve probably already guessed, Internet Explorer. Opera has implemented all of the new selectors, but doesn’t yet have support for RGBA & HSL/A colours, which both the forthcoming Safari 3 (Webkit) and Firefox 3 (Gecko 1.9) have implemented. FF3 doesn’t do well with many of the new selectors, however, which Safari does.

    While it would be nice to have included text effects and backgrounds & borders in this snapshot, differing browser implementations means they’re just not ready yet.

    Even if this working draft becomes a recommendation shortly, no current or imminent browser fully supports the modules contained within; and with Firefox 3, Safari 3, and Opera 9.5 due for release over the next few months, it’s not impossible that none will do so until the latter half of next year. It could even be the case that IE.Next swoops in to beat the others!

    With the CSS Eleven set to provide feedback to the W3C over the next few months, the 2008 snapshot could be a little more adventurous than that of 2007.

  • 200712 Oct

    The announcement of the formation of the CSS Eleven has caused quite a stir in the web development community, with a few questions raised over the self-appointed nature of the group and the way the announcement has been presented. One thing that everyone agrees on, however, is that there’s a clear and obvious need for their existence.

    We spoke to Andy Clarke, respected designer and author, who announced the group’s formation (and explained it further here), and asked him a few questions about what we can expect from the CSS Eleven.

    1. Please could you sum up very briefly for anyone who hasn’t read your introduction what the CSS Eleven is, and what you aim to do.

      One of the biggest challenges that the CSS Working Group faces is engineering solutions that meet the expectations of visual designers and developers. Leaving aside for a moment their other difficult tasks such as internationalization, understanding what designers need is a tough job; particularly as CSS gets more complex in the areas of layout, typography and other design related areas. The members of the working group, largely technical people, need help. They need practical help to understand what designers need, and in detail. This help cannot come simply from reading emails that are sent to them with suggestions. So far, the channels of communication between creative people and the CSS Working Group have been difficult and many people that I speak to feel that a new way needs to be found to get the designer’s voice heard and their needs understood.

      CSS Eleven is an informal group of visual designers and developers who have agreed to give up a little of their time to helping the CSS Working Group to understand what we need from CSS in the future. We will help by making suggestions, but more importantly by providing clear, real-world, visual, graphical examples of the results of the CSS that we need and helping with making test suites; two areas that have proven very time consuming in the past.

      Are we the only group that the Working Group will listen to? I hope not. We’re simply the first of what I hope will many ways that visual designers and developers get together to help make sure that CSS3 is what designers deserve it to be.

    2. How will you arrive at the decisions as to which modules are most keenly needed?

      The decision to look at CSS Multi-Columns was purely mine as it is a mature draft with some features already available to test in some browsers. In the future I’m sure that efforts will be focussed on the modules that matter most to us as visual designers (personally, I’m particularly looking forward to seeing what happens with Advanced Layout). I’m sure that we’ll get lots of feedback and suggestions from the industry at large too.

    3. Won’t it be hard to make judgements about implementation when there are no browsers available to test the more advanced features on?

      Of course implementation is important, and we would hope that the browser makers on the CSS Working Group will help us all they can by continuing to implement new features. For me as a visual designer, describing the features that I need from CSS visually is one of the most important jobs that I can do to help the development of CSS. We need clear, real-world visual examples from people who also understand CSS from an everyday working perspective. I’m sure that with so many great people volunteering, there will be plenty to work on.

    4. What kind of timescale are you looking at for releasing the first batch of recommendations?

      I would think that we will two months working collaboratively on CSS Multi-Columns, after which I expect that we will open the wiki (or some similar facility) to a wider audience for a month before wrapping things up and handing it to the CSS Working group. Of course everybody involved is volunteering some of their valuable time, so time-scales may change.

    5. Which aspect of CSS 3 are you personally most looking forward to?

      Grid Positioning and Advanced Layout will help to solve many of the problems that designers face every day using CSS. There has been a little confusion about the role of Grid Positioning and its relationship to Advanced Layout, but both are exciting developments that I am looking forward to seeing.

  • 200704 Sep

    Here’s the concluding part of our interview with Håkon (you can read the first part here).

    1. Name the top five CSS3 features you’d like all major browsers to support in their next major release.

      Here’s some of my favorites:

      Also, we must not forget Generated content, and tables from CSS2.1. These are great features that still can’t be used due to lack of support from one browser.

    2. Do you think there should be a Acid3 that focuses on CSS3 features that designs want supported as soon as possible?

      Yes, I think it’s time for another Acid test — all major browsers but one (guess which one!) support Acid2 by now. I believe Acid3 should test CSS3 features that a critical mass of browsers can agree to implement. Also, it should probably test features from the upcoming HTML5 and the DOM.

    3. Do you have a favourite designer who you admire their work, either from a design or technical respect?

      I can’t give you one name. I often show designs from the CSS Zen garden when I give talks; I like many of them.

      I can name two favorite fonts designers, though: Ray Larabie and Dieter Steffmann.

    4. How do you think designers can get more involved with the CSS3 progress, to make sure features designed by designers themselves are added to the spec, instead of the features the spec writers might think are important? Is there a way this can be done without designers (many who don’t have much free time to spare) having to read through long mailing list histories and understanding a lot of very technical implementation details (I’m thinking such as having a appointed advisory board of designers for example that advise what features they want, and gather feedback from others, then the implementers can discuss this and come back with issues or start to draft specs for those features)?

      We’ve always encouraged designers to be part of the CSS Working Group, and there has always been strong designer presence in www-style. Many of the choices we’ve made along the way are based on input from designers. For example, you wouldn’t find Backgrounds and borders on top of my list if it hadn’t been for designers. The idea of an advisory board may be a good one.

    5. How do you feel about being nicknamed “the father of css”?

      I often refer to CSS as my baby, and I’m fine with being called the father :-) It must be emphasized, though, that the child was shaped by a community. Bert Bos was the first to join the efforts, he came with a proposal of his own that we worked into CSS. Thomas Reardon and Chris Wilson of Microsoft were also influential in the time before the CSS WG and and the www-style mailing list was started.

    6. What do you think of the Brazilian band CSS?

      Wow. Right. Change of mindset. Music, right? When it comes to music, I prefer Opera!

  • 200704 Sep

    We’ve had some great interviews with luminaries of CSS-based design here on CSS3.info already, but this one is my personal favourite! Håkon Wium Lie, ‘the father of CSS’*, spared us some time to answer a few questions about the evolution of web design and the future of CSS. I’m so excited by this, I’ve almost forgiven our friends at Opera for not letting us have an early preview of Opera 9.5!

    1. Is the use of web fonts the next big step in web design?

      Yes! Web fonts will be the next big thing if browsers start supporting them. Fonts are one of the core ingredients of design, along with space and colors. CSS is pretty good with space, colors, and fonts, but in the case of fonts the raw materials — the font files — are in short supply. Interestingly, there are lots of freely available TrueType font that authors allow us to use for free. So, I’m trying to connect the dots between web pages and the available fonts. I’ve written more about this in an article in Alistapart and you can play with web fonts in Prince.

    2. With the current battles over copyright infringement with music and video on the web, can you imagine something similar occurring over the misuse of rights-protected fonts?

      Almost all the content on the web is copyrighted. It’s still available because copyright holders want it to be available. Sure, there are cases when the copyright holder has not given permission. But I don’t think anyone would argue that we should remove all images, video or music from the web for this reason? There are plenty of freely available fonts out there and no need to use fonts with resistant owners. Also, plenty of new font will be created open-source style if browsers start supporting web fonts.

    3. Has web design turned out more or less the way you imagined when you wrote the CSS spec so many years ago?

      CSS was partly about design, and partly about markup. We — Bert Bos and I in the beginning, soon others — wanted to improve web design, but also to keep markup clean. I think the first part has succeeded quite well; I continue to be amazed by the things people are able to do with CSS. I’m less certain about the markup. But you didn’t ask me about markup, so I don’t have to answer for it :-)

    4. Outside of web fonts, which part of css needs most work in your opinion? And why?

      Lots of work has gone into the CSS specifications. That will continue, but it’s not where work is most needed. What we need now are implementations — interoperable implementations. In order to get them, we need tests and testers. Lots of them. People who are interested in this subject should join the CSS testsuite mailing list.

    5. If you could start all over again, what would you do differently in CSS?

      I’ve written a long PhD thesis, in part on that subject. That’s the long answer. The short answer is that we should have published a test suite earlier. We worked hard to get the CSS1 specification right, but implementors don’t really like to read specifications. They will work long hours, however, for so that their code passes a well-designed test. Eric Meyer came to our rescue and made sure CSS1 got a the test suite.

    Part two of this interview, where Håkon discusses CSS3 and web design, will be available shortly.

    * Maybe we should have asked him what he thinks of that nickname!

  • 200711 Aug

    The CSS Advanced Layout module (explanation here) has been updated. After a quick read through, I’ve found only a few changes.

    The first is the introduction of the ::slot() pseudo element, which allows (limited) styling of – obviously – a slot. That is, if you had your layout set up like this:

    body { display: "ab" "cc"; }
    div#div1 { position: a }
    div#div2 { position: b }
    div#div3 { position: c }

    You could style #div2 either with its id, or with:

    body::slot(b) {}

    This pseudo-element is still at an early stage of definition, and may be changed – or dropped altogether.

    Another, more minor change is that the way to define templates, which was previously undecided between display-model or display, seems to have been decided in the favour of the latter. I’d agree with this, as it uses an existing declaration.

    Something else I noticed, which is not a change as it was in the original draft, I just overlooked it, is that vertical-align can now be used to position a block-level element inside a slot; that’s right, like inside a table. Rejoice! No more workarounds!

    The Advanced Layout module has been described by the W3C as a concept album – that is, an explorative spec; therefore, don’t expect to be seeing it implemented any time soon. You can, however, download a cross-platform Javascript emulator, written by César Acebal, if you want to try it out for yourself.

  • 200725 Jul

    Since the idea of CSS2.2 was raised, there’s been some discussion as to what it should encompass, who should be responsible for the spec, and what it should be called; here’s what I think:

    First, it doesn’t matter what it’s called. Whether it’s referred to as CSS2.2, CSS2.1+, CSS3 Interim, or whatever, makes no difference. It doesn’t need to have a name at all; the important thing is that we have it.

    Second, it doesn’t need to be an official recommendation from the W3C; in fact, it may be easier if it’s not. The optimal solution would be communication between developers and browser manufacturers, and – crucially – between the browser manufacturers themselves. What’s needed is an agreement as to which features are implemented, and to make sure those features are implemented in the same way; a de facto standard.

    Finally, what feature should it include? For me, it has to be the elements which have already been implemented and tested in at least one browser for an amount of time sufficient for developers to have used them.

    The most-requested feature is multiple background images; if you’re going to have that, background clip, origin and size would be wanted too. Border images would also be useful, as would an agreement on implementation of border radius.

    Opacity, and with it RGBA and HSLA, box shadow, and text shadow would round off the decorative declarations.

    Even if those few could be agreed on, a lot of workarounds could be avoided.

    I would have said that multi-column layouts were less urgent, but as they are already part of the Gecko engine and about to be introduced in Safari 3, it seems that that should be part of the standard. Media queries would be pretty necessary as we move into the mobile era, too.

    Nothing I’ve mentioned above would be unrealistic; most have already been implemented in at least two current or imminent browsers. As they are available, why are we being kept waiting before we can use them? Think of all the extraneous markup we could be freeing ourselves from!

    Come on, browser makers: open up lines of communication and get talking to one another; float the ideas on your company blogs, see what your readers have to say. There’s a whole big community of developers who love to download nightly builds and test new features, and are hungry to improve their pages.

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