Chapter 3. Anatomy of an HTML Document

Most HTML and XHTML documents are very simple, and writing one shouldn't intimidate even the most timid of computer users. First, although you might use a fancy WYSIWYG editor to help you compose it, a document is ultimately stored, distributed, and read by a browser as a simple ASCII text file.[1] That's why even the poorest user with a barebones text editor can compose the most elaborate of web pages. (Accomplished webmasters often elicit the admiration of "newbies" by composing astonishingly cool pages using the crudest text editor on a cheap laptop computer and performing in odd places, such as on a bus or in the bathroom.) Authors should, however, keep several of the popular browsers on hand, including recent versions of each, and alternate among them to view new documents under construction. Remember, browsers differ in how they display a page, not all browsers implement all of the language standards, and some have their own special extensions.

[1] Informally, both the text and the markup tags are ASCII characters. Technically, unless you specify otherwise, text and tags are made up of eight-bit characters as defined in the standard ISO-8859-1 Latin character set. The HTML/XHTML standards support alternative character encodings, including Arabic and Cyrillic. See Appendix F for details.