Review: The Book of CSS3 – A CSS Book Even Experts Should Read

by on 13th May 2011 with 6 Comments

Think you know everything there is to know about CSS3? Thing again. Author Peter Gasston just released “The Book of CSS3: A Developer’s Guide to the Future of Web Design“, which takes an in-depth look at all things new to the CSS world.

Is it just another CSS book or a must-have addition to your library? Read on to find out.

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Another Book on CSS?

Books on CSS are notoriously boring for anyone who already knows their way around a style sheet. Most of those that I’ve seen and own spend a great deal of the book covering the exact same basic topics: here’s how the CSS box model works, padding works like this, margins work like this, style your text this way, etc. Even books that promise to get into advanced topics usually do so only in the last few chapters, meaning you just paid $40 for 40 pages!

Since I’m a full-time professional blogger (can you believe that such a thing exists?) I know very well where to find basic CSS instruction completely free online, which is exactly how I learned. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of amazing CSS books out there, but I’m hesitant to fork out the dough for one because of these reasons.

These thoughts went through my mind as I agreed to take a look at a book by Peter Gasston titled “The Book of CSS3″. As further fuel to my skepticism, I considered that CSS3 is the single most written about topic at the moment on sites such as this one. Again, why pay for content that’s free and more than plentiful online? I know how box-shadows work thank you very much and don’t require any further assistance!

I Was Wrong: This Book Is Great

The Book of CSS3 starts off with the following passage:

“Let me tell you a little about who I think you are: You’re a web professional who’s been hand-coding HTML and CSS for a few years; you’re pretty comfortable with creating complex layouts, and you know not only your div from your span but also your bold from your strong; you’ve read a little about CSS3 and may even have started experimenting with some of its more decorative features like rounded corners, but you want to gain a deeper understanding of the fundamentals.”

Right away, Gasston grabs my attention. He’s writing to an audience who already knows how to hand code websites, meaning he’s not going to bore me with entire chapters on the difference between internal and external style sheets! Well played sir, I will continue to read your book.

Gasston then begins to explain what CSS3 is and isn’t. In this discussion he introduces the box-sizing property. In his very first property introduction, he’s hit on something that I know very little about! At this point, I’m beginning to realize that this book just might be genuinely useful.

In the very next section, he goes straight to media queries, what I believe to be one of the most important new aspects of CSS3. With this and every other topic that he covers, one thing really stands out: Gasston has done his research. He doesn’t briefly cover almost anything but rather really digs in and explores every aspect of the spec, whether proposed or already implemented.

With just about everything that I read about, I learned quite a bit that I didn’t already know. He successfully adds value that you simply never get out of a brief, one-off blog post about a topic and therefore makes the book well worth the purchase.

I especially enjoyed the latter part of the book, which covers properties and methods that aren’t yet supported by any browsers but represent huge potential changes to the way we code websites should they be accepted into CSS. Gasston even points out some useful JavaScript plugins that let you try out these fancy new methods right away!

The Physical Book

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The book itself is quite hefty and comes in at just under 300 pages. The cover is attractively illustrated and is therefore definitely the kind of thing I don’t mind having around (who wants an ugly book on their desk?). The content inside is laid out nicely with plenty of charts and graphics to make for quick and enjoyable browsing.

One thing that I particularly appreciated was that, with every property discussed, Gasston would conclude with a chart discussing browser compatibility. This is extremely handy and I’m confident it will be something that causes me to come back to the book again and again.

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The pages are grayscale, but for the most part I didn’t really mind at all as learning code doesn’t necessarily require full-color prints. The one exception is the section on Color and Opacity, where it would’ve definitely been nice to see some examples in color. It’s important to recognize though that they’re keeping your cost down by running single color print jobs!

Table of Contents

Just to give you a good idea of everything the book covers, here’s the table of contents (excluding the preface, introduction, etc.). As you can see, the topics are all dedicated to brand new and advanced CSS3 goodness so you won’t have to skip half the book if you already know how to code. Also, the topics are split up so nicely that it’s perfect to keep on hand purely as a reference even if you’re not interested in reading the whole thing. The next time you’re struggling with building a custom CSS gradient, flip open to that chapter and you’re good to go. The thorough index obviously helps out with this as well.

  • Chapter 1: Introducing CSS3
  • Chapter 2: Media Queries
  • Chapter 3: Selectors
  • Chapter 4: Pseudo-classes and Pseudo-elements
  • Chapter 5: Web Fonts
  • Chapter 6: Text Effects and Typographic Styles
  • Chapter 7: Multiple Columns
  • Chapter 8: Background Images and Other Decorative Properties
  • Chapter 9: Border and Box Effects
  • Chapter 10: Color and Opacity
  • Chapter 11: Gradients
  • Chapter 12: 2D Transformations
  • Chapter 13: Transitions and Animations
  • Chapter 14: 3D Transformations
  • Chapter 15: Flexible Box Layout
  • Chapter 16: Template Layout
  • Chapter 17: The Future of CSS
  • Appendix A: CSS3 Support in Current Major Browsers
  • Appendix B: Online Resources
  • Index

Conclusion

As you can tell, I really enjoyed this book. My expectations were admittedly low but it definitely blew them away. Gasston’s writing style is informative and even witty at times but cuts straight to the point instead of being overly verbose. He does a great job of explaining each property quickly and getting to what you really want to see: the syntax. I have several books on web development that have been sitting in a closet collecting dust almost since the day I received them, The Book of CSS3 will avoid that stack for some time as I already find myself referring to it on a daily basis.

Want to score a free copy of The Book of CSS3? Check back next week for your chance to do just that!

Comments & Discussion

6 Comments

Comments & Discussion

6 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    This post just inspired me to place an order for this book. Can’t wait to read it!

  2. Sean Hanford says:

    Andrew, I have to second that. A well written post describing the kind of CSS book I have been waiting years to read. Thank you Joshua!

  3. Jon Howard says:

    Great review. Makes me want to run out and buy the book today!

  4. Alisa Armsid says:

    Thanks for the interesting review! It would be great, if you could write a post about “must-have” books :)

  5. Istvan says:

    Great post, and also interesting to read another post about “must-have” books.

  6. Adam says:

    Another book you managed to convince me to buy! well played sir.

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