What is CSS?

What is Cascading Style Sheets?

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Updated: August 4, 2023
By: RSH Web Editorial Staff

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What is CSS

Cascading Style Sheets

CSS provides a central location in which information about what colors, background colors, various font types, foreground colors, spacing should be applied to various HTML elements within a web page or Website. Cascading Style Sheets can also control how various parts of a page, such as the header, footer, body, article content, sections and asides, are laid out on the page. This is extremely helpful when content must be laid out in a dramatically different fashion depending upon whether it is being viewed on a desktop, tablet or smart-phones.

Proper use of CSS

In the early days and development of the World Wide Web, it was common for HTML files to include not only HyperText Markup Language and content, but formatting information and JavaScript as well. This made web pages difficult to write, difficult to read, difficult to update and difficult to maintain. As the WWW matured, it became a common practice to divide HTML, scripting content and style information into separate, easy-to-maintain files. And now most modern web pages are typically made up of three separate entities: a Cascading Style Sheet, a JavaScript file and the HTML file itself.

Web Pages Load Faster

Using CSS generally has less code for your web pages, which helps download rates.
When a browser sees outdated coding like HTML Tables, it needs to read through all the coding twice. Once to understand the structure of the table and once again to actually display the content within the table. Your Table Coding will exist on every page of your site and must be loaded again every time a new page is requested, even if the table structure is the same on every page. With Cascading Style Sheets being in one separate file, the code will be cached in the Browser after the initial request. It will not need to be downloaded again for subsequent pages.

Search Engine Optimization

While this is not generally agreed by everyone, it is likely that CSS can help with search engine ranking. Your CSS pages contain less code and has a simpler structure. It will be easier to read by the search engine bots. Allowing search engine spiders to index your coding faster means your web pages can be indexed faster. There are also reports that less code can be interpreted as text improving and keyword density. All other things being equal, the web pages that use CSS to lay out their design will load faster and are more likely to rank higher in search engines.

Printing with CSS

CSS can also be used to define how your pages should look when viewed in media other than a web browser. For example, you could create a Print Style Sheet. This will define how the page should print out. Because web page items like navigation buttons or web forms will not have any purpose on the printed page. A print style sheet can be used to not print those areas when the web page is printed. While not a common practice. The option to create print style sheets can be powerful and attractive. Although most web developers do not use this feature simply because of the additional time or budget for the work to be done.

CSS Formatting

The cascading nature of CSS files is attributed to the fact that style information for a web page can be defined in any of three different places, also known as style levels. The preferred practice is to put style information in a separate file with a .css extension. Using formatting information contained within an external cascading style sheet is accomplished via the HTML link tag. A web page can link to zero, one or may different external CSS files by using multiple link tags such as this example:
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="what-is-css.css">

However, on smaller projects or in cases where a given web page is interested in overriding some style information in an external CSS file, style information can be written within a <style> tag inside the web page. This is known as an internal style level. Internal style level information within a web page will override any style information provided by an external cascading style sheet.

h1 {
   font family: courier;
   font size: 16px;
   color: blue;
   border-bottom: 2px solid blue;
P }
   font-family: arial, verdana;
   font-family 12 px;
   color #6b6bd7
.red-text {
   color: red; {

In the above example you will notice that ALL h1 tags on every page will be the Courier font with size 20pt's, color is blue. Bottom border solid blue. Similar to our above Related Posts paragraph.

Next the P tag calls for ALL paragraphs to have the font family as Arial first, size 12pt's and the color to be #6a5acd or a Slate Blue in color.

Last, just by using the code <span class="red-text"> </span> You can have any word, paragraph or even a whole page red in color.


Cascading style rules

All HTML5 tags have a style property that one can use to override any style information defined at either the page style level or in an external style sheet. Using an HTML tag to define CSS information is referred to as an inline style. The fact that style rules dictate that parent-level styles are overridden by page-level styles and page-level styles are overridden by tag-level styles is what is meant by style sheets being cascading.

CSS Language

CSS syntax is relatively simple
The name of the element to style, referred to as the CSS selector, is followed by braces, within which various attributes, such as font-size and background-color are assigned values. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards organization defines the CSS attributes, although various browsers may offer supplemental support by defining their own custom fields. This is often done for proposed attributes that are expected to be included in future CSS releases.

CSS selectors

CSS selectors can be HTML tags, class attributes assigned to HTML tags and even states of a given element, such as the disabled state of an input field or the hover state of an anchor link. Making it possible to customize the style of components, depending upon their state. Or how they are classified on a page, providing the graphic designer a great deal of flexibility in determining how a web page will be rendered by the browser.

  CSS Resources

CSS Editors

Notepad++ is perhaps one of the most popular choices among web developers when it comes to free editor applications. It is well suited for Windows audience.

There are no specific tools for working with CSS or HTML languages. For writing basic code, it is a standard text editor that works excellent with plain content.

Rapid CSS Editor
Rapid CSS Editor is intended to streamline and quicken the process of website development. It is suitable for code in HTML, CSS, LESS, JavaScript, SASS, PHP, XML, and some others.

Bullseye feature allows you to see the related feature of a specific part of the website and update it.

Style Inspector feature allows you to add any CSS property in just few clicks.

WYSIWYG editor. It also provides comprehensive information about every CSS property.

Simple CSS
Easily create Cascading Style Sheets and modify the existing ones.

CSS Reference

CSS Recourses by RSH Web Services
Tutorials, Validators, Videos, Color References, Cheat Sheets. Complete Guide of Useful Resources for CSS.

W3C CSS3 Basic User Interface Module
It’s perhaps not the most user-friendly reference available, however the official CSS3 specifications from the World Wide Web Consortium lists everything you ever need to know about CSS.

HTML Dog CSS Properties
A list of all valid properties of CSS 2.1. Short descriptions, possible values, examples and related properties of each property are all given.

Mozilla CSS Reference
An alphabetical list of all CSS properties, pseudo-classes and elements, @-rules, and selectors. The CSS version of each property is listed along with its browser compatibility. It’s well presented and very easy to use.

CSS3 Click Chart
Learn dozens of CSS3 tricks by clicking on the property you want to reproduce and viewing the code at the bottom of the page. The browser support for each property, description and link to the World Wide Web Consortium information page are referenced too.

Meiert CSS Properties
A CSS property table that is updated regularly. Properties are listed alphabetically and linked to the corresponding W3 information page. The table also details what CSS version the property works with and its initial value.

CSS3 Compatibility table
Shows what version of Internet Explorer, FireFox, Opera, Safari and Google Chrome each CSS3 selector works with.

Can I Use
Support tables for HTML5, CSS3, etc. A fantastic browser compatibility table that shows you what CSS3 elements are supported on desktop and mobile browsers. It includes a large list of filter options such as browser, version, language and more.

CSS Tutorials

CSS Basics
Resource for beginners that will give you a basic understanding of how CSS works. The course is divided into 18 chapters, covering everything from CSS classes to lists and pseudo-elements. PDF form.

CSS Tricks
Arguably the best CSS blog online, CSS Tricks is a well-designed website from developer Chris Coyier that posts new CSS tricks and techniques every few days.

456 Berea Street
Don’t let the average design full you, 456 Berea Street is a fantastic resource that has close to 400 CSS tutorials.

CSS Tutorial
A tutorial website that is geared towards beginners. It helps beginners step by step through the basics of CSS. It also has over 50 video tutorials and several podcasts too.

CSS Cheat Sheets

CSS Cheat Sheet (V2)
One of the best CSS cheat sheets available. It displays a box model and lists of the most popular syntax, properties and units by category. Despite cries from a lot of fans, it has not been updated to from CSS2.1 to CSS3.

Core CSS
A good series of CSS reference cards. Part 1 covers CSS rationale and use, syntax rules, inheritance and more. Part 2 discusses element selectors, ID selectors, descendant selectors, attribute selectors and combining selectors. Part 3 discusses the CSS visual model, box model, problems with floats and positioning.

BlueprintCSS Cheat Sheet
A great cheat sheet that users of the BlueprintCSS Framework will find useful. The second page shows a grid for designing layouts, file structures and tools and resources.

CSS Generators and Testing

CSS3 Rule Generator
The Cross-Browser CSS3 Rule Generator that changes the elements on the right-hand side as you modify the CSS code on the main page as you type. Fantastic!!!

CSS3 Generator
Several CSS generators in 1. The service allows you to customize text shadows, font faces, columns and more.

CSS Color Gradient Generator
A user-friendly CSS gradient generator that has dozens of great looking preset gradients. You can choose the direction of the gradient and there is an option to add IE9 support too.

CSS Color Extractor
Extract colors from CSS files. Paste, drag or enter the URL to your CSS file. Works with hex, rgb, rgba, hsl, hsla and named colors.

Easily create your custom linear or radial gradient in HEX or RGBA color format.

Gradient is a combination of two or more colors where transitions between colors are smooth. These gradient is useful for background, banners and buttons.

Gradient to Image maker
Create multilayer transparent gradients styles and save png image. Create custom orientation of gradients and arrange them in layers, then convert into .png file. It also creates base 64 image code and CSS code.

CSS Generator
Code generator tool is to create source code for top most useful CSS styling.

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