Review: Pro CSS Techniques

Pro CSS Techniques. I have to say, I was looking forward to getting this book. Pro CSS Techniques is as the tagline says, "real-world CSS techniques for real-world CSS professionals." It contains very practical approaches to the issues and considerations we run into every day.

The book is well structured for the most part, starting off with a bit of a refresher on introductory CSS topics and then moving into some fun topics like specificity and cascade. It moves into a discussion on browsers and then onto managing CSS files. From there, a whole chapter is devoted to hacks and workarounds.

Much of the meat of the book (in my opinion) is from chapters 7 through 13 with individual chapters dedicated to layouts, typography, tables, forms, lists and more. Having them broken out into separate chapters like they are make them a handy reference.

Hacks are revisted again at the end of the book in "Everything Falls Apart" along with appendices for a CSS reference, a specificity chart, and a browser grading chart detailing browser support for each CSS property.

Each chapter is well written and the writing style of each of the authors made the book a comfortable read. There's good coverage and would be a book I'd handily recommend to friends.


This peeve is really directed at publishers, but with multi-author books, it's nice knowing who wrote which chapter. Every author has a personality that comes through in the writing but when I can't attach a name to specific text, I'm irked ever so slightly. In this book, it was somewhat obvious just based on the writing styles of each author. Jeff Croft has a lot of humour. Dan did as well (plus he used examples that had "Dan Rubin" plastered all over them). Ian Lloyd took a more, "just the facts, ma'am" approach.


For a "pro" book, I felt more time should have been spent on covering hasLayout. It may have helped clarify some of the layout oddities that tend to occur in Internet Explorer and why certain fixes work at resolving them.

Print Stylesheets

I also felt that print stylesheets information was fairly introductory. Including some info on page-break-*, for example, would have been nice to see.

Is this the book for you?

Overall, this book was an enjoyable read and it was a good nuts-and-bolts type of book. They covered the practical day-to-day issues that we run into and ways to solve them. If you're an intermediate to pro-level developer, Pro CSS Techniques would be a practical addition to your bookshelf.

Published January 07, 2007
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Jeff Croft said on January 07, 2007

Thanks a lot for the review, Jonathan. I think your nitpicks are probably spot on. Oh well, makes a great reason for a second edition someday. :)

While it's not the same as including the information in the book itself, here's a list of who wrote which chapters:

Introduction: Jeff Croft
1. The Promise of CSS: Jeff Croft
2. The Language of Style Sheets: Jeff Croft
3. Specificity and the Cascade: Dan Rubin
4. The Browsers: Jeff Croft
5. Managing CSS Files: Jeff Croft
6. Hacks and Workarounds: Dan Rubin
7. CSS Layouts: Ian Lloyd
8. Creating Common Page Elements: Dan Rubin
9. Typography: Jeff Croft
10. Styling Tables: Jeff Croft
11. Styling Forms: Jeff Croft
12. Styling Lists: Ian Lloyd
13: Styling for Print and other Media: Ian Lloyd
14: Everything Falls Apart: Dan Rubin

Justin Kistner said on January 07, 2007

Well, Jeff, tell Jonathan thanks for selling me on my copy. ;)

Bramus! said on January 08, 2007

The book arrived here at work just last Friday. Good book indeed, yet not really pro I think (only a few things in it were new): the box model is basic knowledge imo.

Yet, I'm glad the book is here, as you say it: "a practical addition to your bookshelf" and nicely ordered content per chapter.

Bramus! said on January 08, 2007

To elaborate a bit further on my previous comment (now that I read it's giving the wrong idea): the first few chapters contain info that can be found spread out on the www, yet having them bundled in one book indeed is good. Above that the explanations are "easy reading" and you'll understand them immediately.


Nate K said on January 08, 2007

Just finished reading this book last night. I had the same curiosity: who wrote what chapter? (thanks for clearing it up, Jeff).

I thought the book covered CSS very well. I am very intrigued with mobile web design, and this book only confirmed my concern that there won't be a standard to use just a 'handheld' style. Hopefully Cameron will release his book soon.

I did notice that hasLayout was missing - which I think is something that should be included (Can you sneak that into a second version too?).

RE: Bramus
I didn't think the book dwelled on the box model, it just briefly covered it. For a professional, this is most likely common knowledge. However, they did share that you don't need a hack to get around it, just apply margins/paddings to inner elements.

Overall, I think the book was laid out very well (I will post more in a review later), and would recommend it to the more advanced CSS developer (otherwise, it might frustrate beginners).

Jeff Croft said on January 08, 2007

One thing to keep in mind: when we say "Pro," we mean "someone who works as a web developer." We don't mean, "an expert web developer".

Having worked at a couple of Universities on web teams, I can say with a great deal of certainty that there are hundreds, maybe thousands of people who have real jobs working on the web every day but don't read blogs, don't keep up on feeds, don't read ALA, and don't real Digital Web, and don' read Vitamin.

Not everyone that works on the web has our passion. The people who have to build web pages for their jobs but don't live and breath CSS and XHTML every day...this was our target audience.

Kilian Valkhof said on January 08, 2007

Nice review, Jon. hasLayout tends to be overlooked way too often (I try to put a little emphasis on it in some of my blogposts) while it is really the culprit of many of the IE renderring bugs.

I might pick this book up, if it's anywhere near the pleasant read jeff's blog is, it's bound (pun intended) to be a good book. :)

Bramus! said on January 08, 2007

@ Jeff: I indeed tend to forget that not everybody learning it is following a huge list of blogs, resource sites, etc. on a daily/hourl yintervals

The clarification of the title sheds a whole new light on the book, and I must say it's right on top: after reading it one should be familiar with the pro CSS techniques. As I've said before: especially the approachable writing style make the content all easy to understand (it's good to read different explanations on various subjects).

Kuldip said on August 28, 2007

indeed its a decent book, not sure about Pro thing :-)

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