Essay by PaperNerd ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's December 2001

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HTML HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the backbone of the Internet. Although it's very limited in many ways, it is the framework that delivers programs written in much more powerful languages, such as Java and Perl. One of HTML's main benefits is that it is a cross-platform language, usable in PC, Mac, UNIX, and elsewhere. However, different browsers, such as Netscape and Internet Explorer, have different HTML standards, resulting in certain commands that will work in one browser and be disabled in another.

For the most part, HTML is a simple, straightforward language. Anyone working with HTML documents should be aware of the basic commands and structure of the language, and how to pick out display text from commands. There are many books and websites that teach HTML; see below for a short list of good ones. However, certain elements of HTML are controversial or confusing and need some clarification as to their uses and drawbacks.

Tables Originally designed as merely a way to format data in tables, HTML tables have become an important design element, because they allow fairly precise placement of graphics and text, thanks to their gridlike structure. They also have interesting characteristics. For example, a single cell of a table can have a different background than the rest of the cells. Tables are relatively complicated to build in straight HTML code, but most HTML editors have table generators.

Frames Frames break the screen into two or more separate areas in which different things happen. For example, many sites have a left-hand menu in a frame that remains on the screen while the rest of the page changes to something else. Used with care, frames can be powerful navigation tools. However, they have numerous disadvantages: *If not programmed correctly, a frame can "trap" a visitor...