Practical Exercises #5 -- HTML Stuff

NB: These prac exercises date from an earlier era, when HTML was new and exciting, and hardly anyone knew about it... It's not really very interesting anymore, but we've kept it here because.... well, because... OK, because we haven't gotten around to writing a new one yet. Keep watching!

  1. It's easy to create your own HTML. So, before you go on to try other methods, you should first try using a text editor to create a simple HTML file. The first step is to find a suitable text editor on your system. On Unix this easy -- all of the standard editors are of this type. On Windoze systems there's a system-supplied text editor called "NotePad" (or somesuch -- I don't do Windows). There are also a great number of other suitable text editors available. On a Mac, my favourite is "Edit II", but there are lots of others, including the system-supplied "SimpleText" editor.

    Once you've located a suitable editor, and created a "New" document, try typing in some of the HTML discussed in the lecture and tutorial. Save your creation to a disk file (normally with an extension of .html, or .HTM on MS systems), and then fire up a browser (Netscape, IE, etc). Use the browser's "Open Local" menu (usually under the "File" menu -- it may go by a different name, depending on the browser version) to open your HTML document. Voila!

  2. One of the fun things I like to do (yes, I know I need to get a life!) is to leave out bits of HTML, or make deliberate errors, and see how the browser handles them. Try it! You should be amazed at how well it does cope!

  3. Now try editing your HTML file using a dedicated HTML editor such as Netscape Composer, MS FrontPage, HotDog, DreamWeaver, etc. View the HTML file afterwards and see what damage the editor has caused -- most of them can't keep their hands off your HTML. They like to have it in their format...
    One last teensy thing about HTML editors -- if you use a few of them, after a while you start to see that they all have their own particular "style" of HTML -- how they lay out the page, what markups they generate automatically, etc. Then, if you do a "View Source" on a Web page, you can often tell what they used to make it. I don't know why you'd necessarily want to do this, but it's fun. Actually, one guy thought this was such a clever idea that he analysed the Web pages of all of the 2000 USA Presidential Candidates to see what HTML editor they used...

  4. Lastly: many other software packages (eg, most modern word processors) now have an option to "Save As" HTML format. Try it. Have a look at the resulting HTML. How does it look? Utterly unreadable, with a structure that looks like a dog's breakfast? I thought so! You can fix this mess, and turn it into perfectly readable HTML using the excellent (and free) Tidy utility.

  5. Now you've got your page, the next job is (usually) to "upload" it to a Web server. If you're using the Unix systems, this is trivial -- you simply copy the file into a directory called public_html off your home directory. The directory is probably there already. Provided the file is "world-readable", anyone can now access it as http://redgum.bendigo.latrobe.edu.au/~username/filename.html

  6. If you've been creating your masterpiece on, for example, a home machine, you'll have to learn the intricacies of an FTP utility to transfer the file to a suitable server. How to do this is outside the scope of our prac. exercise, but you should be able to work it out pretty easily.

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Copyright 2003 by Phil Scott, La Trobe University.
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