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Review of The CSS Anthology by Rachel Andrew

Buy at Sitepoint.com | Buy at Amazon UK | Buy at Amazon USA

This review is based on the 2nd edition of the book.

The CSS Anthology: 101 Essential Tips, Tricks & Hacks Book Review

A Confession

I used to be a table based designer and only recently managed to escape this prehistoric way of building websites for the wonderful world of CSS. It had become so quick and easy working with table layouts that I clung to this method for as long as possible. Stupid, eh?

The fact was, I was good at using tables to build websites and had learned all the tips and tricks. Sticking with tables was the easy option. I always knew this was wrong but could never fully grasp the seemingly complex world of CSS enough to build websites the correct way.

I’m pleased to say these days are now long behind me and I am a fully converted CSS designer and it is all thanks to this book. The CSS Anthology was the one book that finally helped me “get” CSS and see the light. Better late than never! 😀

Book Content

The CSS Anthology was written by Rachel Andrew and is published by Sitepoint. The book aims to be both a good introduction to CSS and a reference point for 101 common CSS tips, tricks and hacks. The book is split in to the following chapters:

The CSS Anthology

  1. Making a Start with CSS
  2. Text Styling and Other Basics
  3. CSS and Images
  4. Navigation
  5. Tabular Data
  6. Form and User Interfaces
  7. Cross Browser Techniques
  8. Accessibility and Alternative Devices
  9. CSS Positioning and Layout

As you can see from the list of chapters the book covers pretty much all basic areas of CSS that would be used on a standard website. The tips, tricks and hacks are all organised into the above categories and the book acts as a great reference aid for specific CSS tasks.

The book is packed with full-colour screenshots to display the result of the CSS or HTML code snippets giving you a visual representation of what the code does which really aid the learning process.

Early Chapters

The first couple of chapters are especially well suited as a starting point to learning CSS. Rachel’s writing is clear and concise while providing details as to why you would use specific selectors for certain tasks. I can still remember back to early 2008 when I read the first chapter and feeling like a light bulb had been switched on, it all started to make sense.

Once you’ve learned the basics of how CSS selectors work Rachel teaches you practical implementations like basic text and link styling with several examples to try yourself. When I was learning CSS I found the book made me want to try the code for myself and, as a result, the previously daunting world of CSS became much clearer in a short space of time.

Whatever method you are using to learn CSS I really do recommend taking time out to try what you’ve learned in a practical environment. Actually typing up the code you are reading up on will help you remember it so much more. Jump in and give it a go!

The book, like many other Sitepoint publications, features lots of little notes scattered around the pages to point out important or useful information. Code snippets are also very clear and explained fully which compliments the practical nature of the book.

The CSS Anthology code snippet

Essential Tips, Tricks & Hacks

Once you’ve learned the basics of how CSS works you’ll want to learn more. The book naturally progresses in to the 101 essential tips, tricks and hacks section which are all grouped together in relevant categories. These can either be read through in order to help novices learn about each category or you can dip in to certain sections that you want to brush up on.

I found the chapter on ‘CSS Positioning and Layout’ to be particularly useful to me because this was the area I’d always struggled to understand. Simple explanations of the box model, positioning images and using columns are all covered and provide a great foundation for learning how CSS website layouts work.

In addition to teaching CSS techniques the book covers lots of common tricks and hacks to help you fix specific browser problems. The pragmatic style means you can be confident the things you learn should be future proof and the third edition of the book has been updated to cover IE8 and Chrome and Firefox 3.

At nearly 400 pages The CSS Anthology is bursting with information yet never feels overwhelming. The logical and well thought out organisation of topics and tips means you can come back to this book at any time to revise a particular section or to solve a specific problem you are having.


I can highly recommend this book for people wanting to learn CSS. It will teach you the right way to build websites and set you on the road to embracing CSS rather than fearing it.

If you’ve already got a good working knowledge of CSS this book can act as a useful reference guide to help solve specific problems time after time.

I fear that without this book I might still be using tables to design websites and that is a scary thought. This book set me on the road to learning and loving CSS and for that reason I will always be very fond of it!

Buy at Sitepoint.com | Buy at Amazon UK | Buy at Amazon USA

Further Reading

Once you’ve learned the basics of CSS I think you’ll find the following books a natural progression towards developing your CSS skills:

CSS Mastery by Andy Budd

CSS Mastery

The Internet abounds with information on CSS based design. However it’s spread across a large and disparate group of sites and can be very difficult to find. The purpose of this book is to pull all this information together in one place, thus creating a definitive guide to modern CSS based techniques. The book can be read cover to cover, with each chapter building on the previous one. However it can equally be used as a reference book, dipping into each chapter or technique to help solve specific problems.

Pre order 2nd edition: Amazon UK | Amazon USA

Handcrafted CSS by Dan Cederholm

Handcrafted CSSWhether you’re a Web designer, project manager, or a graphic designer wanting to learn more about the fluidity that’s required when designing for the Web, you’ll discover the tools to create the most flexible, reliable, and bulletproof Web designs. This book explores CSS3 that works in today’s browsers, and you’ll be convinced that now’s the time to start experimenting with it.

Buy at Amazon UK | Buy at Amazon USA

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  1. Sitepoint have a number of decent books. I quite like jQuery: Novice to Ninja, plus you can get them in paper form, eBook (PDF/Kindle/iPad/iPhone) and both at a discount. I think they offer money back guarantees and you can get some sample chapters too.

    They do run promotions from time to time. I think I picked up 5 eBooks (cannot claim to have had time to read them all) for $20 and they had an interesting offer during the world cup…a number of books were assigned teams and the further the team got the cheaper the book got. The winning book was free for 24 hours.

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