Categories
Apps & scripts Original Personal

My FT2010 slides and CSSS: My presentation framework

Screenshot of the first slideAbout a week ago, I was in Warsaw, Poland to give my first talk at a big conference, Front Trends 2010. As every first-time speaker, I was extremely nervous and worried that everything would go bad. That my talk would be boring or too basic or that I would just freeze at stage, unable to say a word. It was a 2-hour talk with a break in between, so I was also terrified that nobody would show up the second hour.

Contrary to my fears and insecurities, it went better than I could have ever hoped. The feedback on twitter and in general was enthusiastic! There wasn’t a single negative comment. Even people I look up to, like Tantek Çelik, PPK, Jake Archibald or Robert Nyman had something good to say! And instead of nobody showing up the second hour, the audience almost doubled!

At this point, I would like to thank Christian Heilmann for helping me become less nervous before my talk by going through all my slides with me and offering his invaluable advice for every part (I forgot to follow most of it, but it really helped in my attitude). I can’t thank you enough Christian!

Categories
Thoughts

On attr() and calc()

I recently posted my first suggestion to www-style, the official W3 mailing list for CSS development. It was about allowing attr() values inside calc(). In this post I’ll describe in greater detail why I believe this is necessary, since not everyone follows www-style. If anyone has something to add in the discussion, you may post in the list, it’s public.

Categories
News Personal

Lea Verou @ Front-Trends 2010

Just a quick note to let you know that I’m speaking in this year’s Front-Trends conference, which will take place in Warsaw, Poland on October 21-22. Front-Trends is a new conference (starting this year) but the organizers have managed to put together an impressive line-up (Crockford, PPK, Paul Bakaus, Dmitry BaranovskiyTantek Çelik, Robert Nyman and more).

My talk will introduce many aspects of CSS3, some of them in good depth (eg. selectors). Here is the official abstract:

Pragmatic CSS3

With browsers constantly adding support for CSS3, especially now that even IE jumped in the game, it’s quickly becoming a necessary tool of the trade. CSS3 offers exciting possibilities and changes the way that we design and develop websites.

In this 2-hour practical session, full of real world use cases, you will learn:

  • Everything you ever wanted to know about CSS3 selectors
  • Transparency and new color formats, including RGBA
  • New ways to work with backgrounds, including CSS gradients, multiple background images and natively supported CSS sprites
  • Rounded corners and border images
  • Box and text shadows
  • Transforms, transitions and their potential downsides
  • New values, including calc(), attr() and new units
  • Browser support information and techniques to take advantage of the exciting new stuff with respect to browsers of the past, to create experiences that are enjoyable for everyone

Tickets are very cheap (Just €198) but they’re selling quite fast, so if you want to come, hurry up!

Categories
Articles Original Personal

Organizing a university course on modern Web development

About a year ago, prof. Vasilis Vassalos of Athens University of Economics and Business approached me and asked for my help in a new course they were preparing for their Computer Science department, which would introduce 4th year undergrads to various web development aspects. Since I was always complaining about how outdated higher education is when it comes to web development, I saw it as my chance to help things change for the better, so I agreed without a second thought.

This is one of the main reasons I didn’t have time to write many blog posts for the past months: This activity took up all my spare time. However, it proved to be an interesting and enlightening experience, in more than one ways. In this blog post I’ll describe the dilemmas we faced, the decisions we made and the insights I gained throughout these 6 months, with the hope that they’ll prove to be useful for anyone involved in something similar.

Table of contents

  1. Content
  2. Homework
  3. Labs
  4. Personal aftermath

Categories
Rants Thoughts

“Wow, Mona Lisa with pure CSS!”

There has been a recent flood of CSS experiments that utilize CSS3 features to convert some meaningless markup to spectacular pictures. It all started when David Desandro used CSS3 to draw the Opera logo. This seemed to inspire lots of other folks who created similar demos:

I can certainly share their enthusiasm and I am also amazed by their results. Besides that, I think that pushing CSS3 to the edge like that, helps us understand the spec better, which leads us to find and file browser bugs or write comments regarding the spec itself. Filing bugs is crucial at this stage, with all browser vendors gradually adding experimental –and frequently buggy– CSS3 support to their products. Also, don’t get me wrong: I can easily see the benefits of reducing the number of images in a web application interface (far quicker/easier modifications, less HTTP requests and most of the time, less bandwidth).

However, I’m afraid we’re losing sight of the big picture. These aren’t demos that are or will ever be legitimate CSS use cases. Even after universal CSS3 browser support is achieved, they would (and should) still be considered “hacks”. Almost all the arguments pro their usage also apply to more suitable ways of including images in web applications:

  • Fewer HTTP requests: Same with any kind of embedded image (data URIs, inline SVG and so on)
  • Scalable: Same with SVG and symbols embedded in custom fonts
  • Easier to modify: Same with SVG
  • Less bandwidth (in some cases): Same with SVG (and it can be cached too, when not inline)
And apart from these, these illustrations require non-semantic crap to be included in the markup which, besides issues of theoretical purity, makes it harder for other people to use them.
As for the graceful degradation argument, yes, this does only apply to CSS “images”. But in this case, is it really an advantage? I seriously doubt it. People won’t notice rounded corners if they’re missing from an interface, but they’re definitely going to notice a blocky Opera logo. And they’re not used in thinking that their browser has something to do with how an image renders, so they’ll just blame the website.

CSS is supposed to enhance the presentation of a document or interface, not to be (ab)used for the creation of illustrations from scratch. It’s supposed to separate presentation from structure, not generate stuff. There are other technologies that are far more suitable for this (*cough*SVG*cough*). I think we should use our energy and creativity to make CSS3 demos that people will actually use in the future when all this is fully supported, not stuff doomed to be eternally considered hackery.

“Where should we draw the line?” one might ask. For example, is a Pure CSS analog clock a CSS abuse case? Or even my own CSS iPhone keyboard? Now that’s a good question! A rule of thumb seems to be “if it inherently (=not due to browser support issues) involves a bunch of empty (or with meaningless content) HTML elements, then that’s a bad sign” but that might be overly strict. What’s your take on it?

Disclaimer: Yes, I’m fully aware that most of the time, such experiments are created just for fun by their (very talented) authors, which are perfectly aware of all the things mentioned above. However, I’ve also grown tired of reading comments by people that seem to to think that “This is the future of the web!”. Let’s hope it’s not.

Categories
Articles Original

On CSS counters plus a CSS3 Reversi UI

CSS Counters have a lot more potential than most web developers seem to think. The common use case consists of something like:

somecontainer { counter-reset: foocount; }
Ε { counter-increment: foocount; }
Ε::before { content: counter(foocount) ". "; }

commonly used to add numbering to section headings or re-create an <ol>’s counters in order to style them (since browser support for ::marker is ridiculous).

Have you ever thought of applying the counter to different elements than the ones being counted? This way we’re able to count elements and display their total count somewhere with CSS alone! (and with the variety of selectors in CSS3, I see great potential here…). I’m referring to something like:

ul { counter-reset:foo; }
li { counter-increment:foo; }
p::after { content:counter(foo); }

From my tests, this works flawlessly in Firefox, Safari, Opera and Chrome (I’ve only checked the latest stable though), as long as the element that displays the count comes after the elements being counted (in the markup).

Another underutilized aspect of CSS counters (well, far less underused than the above, but still) is how we can combine multiple in the same pseudoelement. For instance, to count rows and cells of a table and display the count inside each cell:

table {
	counter-reset:row;
}

tr {
	counter-increment:row;
	counter-reset:cell;
}

td {
	counter-increment:cell;
}

td::after {
	content:counter(row, upper-alpha) counter(cell);
}

Which displays counters like A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3, etc in the cells. When the content property is more properly implemented, you wouldn’t even need the last rule.

Last but not least, a CSS3 Reversi UI (no images used!) I created a while ago that demonstrates the above (and various other things, like –finally– a use case for :empty 😛 ). Looks fine only in Firefox and Opera 10.5, due to lack of support for inset box shadows in Safari and buggy support in Chrome. Works fine in all 4 of them (IE is out of the question anyway).

Screenshot of the UI

The displayed counts of each player’s pieces (top right corner) are just CSS counters. Same goes for every cell’s name. This is mostly a proof of concept, since it’s impossible to determine if someone won by CSS alone, so we would have to count the pieces in JS too.

As a game it’s not finalized, you are basically only able to play against yourself and it doesn’t know when somebody won, so it’s not very useful or enjoyable. If someone wants to take it up and develop it further be my guest.

Note to avoid confusion: CSS Counters are not CSS 3. They are perfectly valid CSS 2.1. The “CSS3” in the title (“CSS3 Reversi”) is due to other techniques used in it’s UI.

Categories
Original

iPhone keyboard with CSS3 — no images

Yeap, this is yet another of those things that make no practical sense but are fun to make just to see whether it can actually be done. It’s also a proof of the fact that when I have too many things to do, I tend to procrastinate more. 😛

Here it is (resize the window to get the narrow version ;)):

http://lea.verou.me/demos/iphone-keyboard/

It should look correct in Firefox 3.6, Chrome 4 and Safari 4. It looks best on Firefox 3.6 due to it’s ability to render subpixel distances, whereas other browsers just round everything to the closest pixel. It also looks best in computers with Helvetica installed (it’s installed by default on macs btw) but it should look sufficiently OK with Arial too, since it’s a rip-off of Helvetica 😉 (the only problem with Arial is that the line-height of the buttons with the symbols will be slightly different since the custom font’s measurements are based on Helvetica Bold) Also, ironically, it doesn’t look ok in the iPhone!

For those of you that don’t use one of the aforementioned browsers as your primary and are way too bored to switch (or don’t even have them installed (!)), here are two screenshots from Firefox 3.6 (nicely cropped to only contain the keyboard):

Screenshot of the wide version
Screenshot of the narrow version
Categories
Original

New version of rgba.php is out!

It’s been a while since I posted my little server-side solution for cross-browser RGBA colors (in a nutshell: native rgba for the cool browsers that support it, a PHP-generated image for those that don’t). For features, advantages, disadvantages etc, go see the original post. In this one I’ll only discuss the new version.

So, since it’s release I’ve received suggestions from many people regarding this script. Some other ideas were gathered during troubleshooting issues that some others faced while trying to use it. I hope I didn’t forget anything/anyone 🙂

Categories
Apps & scripts Replies

A CSS3 learning(?) tool

In case anyone is interested, this is my take on the “challenge” that Brad Neuberg posted today on Ajaxian. It needs more properties, but it’s very easy to extend. I guess I should also add CSS3 values (RGBA/HSL(A) colors, CSS gradients etc) but oh well, I’m currently in a hurry. I will, if anyone actually finds it useful (?).

It didn’t prove much of a challenge actually and I honestly doubt it’s educational value (actually it’s value in general), but it was an interesting thing to do while drinking my first coffee in the morning — I really enjoyed writing it 🙂

Categories
Articles

Exploring CSS3 text-shadow

I consider CSS3’s text-shadow one of the most exciting CSS3* properties, which offers us a lot more effects than it’s name suggests. Of course, it can be used for creating drop shadows for text, and it carries out that task very well, but it’s inherent flexibility allows it to be also used for glow effects, outlines, bevels, extruded text, inset text, fuzzy text and many others (until browser bugs and backwards compatibility come into play… :(). This post is about various findings of mine (and others’, where a source is provided) regarding this property, including browser bugs and inconsistencies, effects that can be achieved with it, compatibility woes etc.