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Introduction To HTML

An introduction to HTML5
What is HTML? Who invented it? What is it used for? How can I learn it? 

Who Invented HTML?

HTML was invented in 1990 by a scientist called Tim Berners-Lee. HTML is an abbreviation of 'HyperText Mark-up Language' although that probably doesn't help you much so let's explain that a little more.
  • Hyper is the opposite of linear. Computer programs used to run linearly, i.e. when the program had executed one action it went to the next line and after that, the next line and so on. But HTML is different - you can go wherever you want and whenever you want. 
  • Text is text, that's self-explanatory
  • Mark-up is what you do with the text, similar to formatting. You are marking up the text the same way you do in a text editing program with headings, bullets and bold text and so on.  
  • Language is what HTML is. It is a computer language but written using many English words or abbreviations of English words. 

What is HTML Used For?

The purpose was to make it easier for scientists at different universities to gain access to each other's research documents. By inventing HTML he laid the foundation for the web as we know it today. HTML is a language, which makes it possible to present information on the Internet. What you see when you view a page on the Internet is your browser's interpretation of HTML. To the untrained eye, HTML code looks complicated but this tutorial will help you make sense of it all.

If you want to make websites, there is no way around HTML. Even if you're using a program to create websites, such as Dreamweaver, a basic knowledge of HTML can make life a lot simpler and your website a lot better. The good news is that HTML is easy to learn and you can even use any basic text editor, such as 'Notepad', 'Simple text' or 'Pico' to write your HTML and save it as a web page by giving it the .html file extension. You can then open it in any browser to see as a web page. It is not important which browser you use. The most common is Microsoft Internet Explorer. But there are others such as Chrome, Opera and Mozilla Firefox and Safari.

How Can You Code HTML?

HTML is mainly English words, as already mentioned, but these words need to be 'Marked Up' or 'Tagged'. The way in which they are tagged and the order in which they are marked up needs to follow particular rules. Here are a few basic rules...

  • HTML tags are keywords (tag names) surrounded by angle brackets:
  • HTML tags normally come in pairs like <p> and </p>
  • The first tag in a pair is the start tag, the second tag is the end tag
  • The end tag is written like the start tag, but with a slash before the tag name

Basic text editors such as Notepad are excellent for coding HTML because they do not interfere with what you are typing by highlighting what it perceives as errors. It gives you complete control. The problem with many of the programs that claim they can create websites is that they have a lot of standard functions, which you can choose from. The downside is that, everything needs to fit into these standard functions. Therefore, these types of programs often cannot create a website exactly as you want it or, even more annoyingly; they make changes to your hand-written code.

With Notepad or other simple text editors, you only have yourself to thank for your successes and errors although they can be difficult to use when you have a lot of code and don't offer any features or functions to make your coding life any easier. A happy medium between the likes of Dreamweaver and Notepad are FREE programs like Context and Komodo Edit which describe themselves as small, fast and powerful freeware text editors. However, whatever program you decide to use HTML will still be the cornerstone of creating your website. Although this series of notes is focussed on HTML programming it is also important to mention that the overall aim is to create a website and that the web design process should also be something you learn and utilise.

What Next?

Now that you have an understanding of what HTML is all about why not continue reading and learn how to make your own websites using HTML. A HTML website must follow a structure or template so that it  is 'read' correctly by the browser. Let's look at that structure now.