CSS keeps growing

Once used for simple formatting, CSS now dominates the web presentation layer.

Eric Meyer, the author of CSS: The Definitive Guide (and much more) has taught thousands of people CSS through his books, his talks, and his articles. I’ve always enjoyed hearing his take on the state of CSS, as he manages to find combinations of capabilities that make CSS more powerful than I thought it was when I first looked.

We sat down last week to discuss the many huge changes CSS3 is bringing, from improvements to old capabilities to completely new tools for animations, transforms, and layout. The continuous rate of change and the size of the specification are driving him to serialize the next edition of the Definitive Guide, releasing it in pieces. Developers can work from familiar foundations, but reach new destinations. The declarative strength of CSS3 lets you create presentation by describing it, and that style keeps proving more powerful.

Highlights of the interview include:

  • CSS3 brings big changes in font capabilities, letting you send fonts to users [discussed at the 2:30 mark] and sites putting those improvements to work [15:50].
  • The many options can make choosing a set of parts seem difficult [discussed at the 4:21 mark], but JavaScript shims that add support for CSS properties can make it easier to use properties even if browsers haven’t come around to them [6:08]
  • Which of your features are like rounded corners? Will progressive enhancement let you worry less about those? [Discussed at the 6:55 mark.]
  • More and more CSS modules apply its declarative approach to behavior, and changes over time. [Discussed at the 8:28 mark.]
  • The new stuff that really has Eric excited? Layout improvements, using pieces designed for explicit layout rather than turning floats into a layout system. [Discussed at the 12:36 mark.]

You can view the entire conversation in the following video:


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