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Starting with HTML

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. HTML is not a programming language per se, it is a markup language. If you want to learn about the differences and more about what programming languages are I suggest you read the article, Programming Languages for non-programmers. In a nutshell, markup means that the text in the file is encapsulated with instructions on how to behave. In the case of HTML, the behavior of the text is how it should appear. HTML markups are called tags. Think about the tags as a box bounding the text. Keep this bounding box on mind every time you need to work with HTML. Every tag comes in two pairs, an opening tag and a closing tag. An opening tag will contain a character or string between triangle braces. A closing tag will contain the same character or string but will begin with a single forward slash. For example:


<p> Hello World! </p>

The ‘p’ character indicates that “Hello World!” is a paragraph. We will examine more tags soon, but it is necessary to understand the nature of tags before we move forward. At a more closer look the character or sting inside the tag are called elements. Elements sometime come ‘naked’ as the example above. Elements may also contain attributes that can can provide more information about the element. Going back to the same example, we can add a language attribute describing the specific language of the text.


<p lang=“en-us”> Hello World! </p>

Notice that the closing tag does not need to contain extra information. Only the opening tag contains attributes to enrich the element. We can also add multiple attributes. Adding an ‘id’ attribute will name our paragraph. That way we can assign functionality to a specific a paragraph. We will use this later on in our quest through HTML.


<p lang=“en-us” id=“hello-world”> Hello World! </p>

If you are comfortable with the idea of tags, elements and attributers, we can move forward to the structure of an html document. Before rushing forward, note to those of in a rush. Learning any programming language takes time. This means time spent in trial an error. Writing code and observing the results. Set aside the time you require to learn a lesson at a time.

A note about HTML5. The new HTML5 standards introduces new tags, elements and attributes. However, the principles of the language remain the same. I will try to point out most of the differences, but at whole I will try to comfort with HTML5 standards.

A final note about what all this means in the greater scheme of things. Web browsers, of all kind convert HTML according to the tags and display them. Out of all the programming languages that run web services, it all comes down to HTML. That is what our browsers know how to translate into the beauty virtual net that makes the World Wide Web.

Things to take away:

  • Markup Langauge
  • Tags, Elements and Attributes

For further readings I suggest looking at the HTML tutorials from w3schools and looking over the HTML reference from sitepoint. Both are very good recourses that will help you, not only now, but any time you deal with HTML code.

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