Get your Web site started

Before we start exploring in depth the structure of HTML, it is important to note that it is not a programming language, though you can be forgiven for thinking it is. HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) is known as a scripting language, a category that includes JavaScript and VBScript.

The main difference between scripting and programming is that the former is a lot easier to learn and implement. This is good news for budding coders who may have been put off learning HTML because of the complexity of true programming languages such as Java, CGI or C++.

Apart from simplicity levels, another variation is that scripting languages such as HTML are used specifically for the Internet: their purpose is to execute instructions through your Internet browser. Programming languages, on the other hand, can be run independently and may not have anything to do with the Internet.

Notepad - your free editor

At the simplest stage, you need two pieces of software to create Web pages. The first is Notepad (or Windows WordPad), and the second is a browser. Notepad is an application that most computers have by default. To open it, go to the Start menu on your computer, select Programs and then Accessories and you will see Notepad as an option. Once you open Notepad, you will see a blank page. This is where you will write your HTML code.

Browsers

All browsers are designed to view Web pages, though each has its unique traits. This may be the way they interpret your HTML code, or simply the menu options available. For this reason, you should always check your HTML pages in both Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator (these being the most popular browsers) to ensure your code looks good in both viewing platforms.

Browsers are simply applications designed to display and interpret your code. You cannot change the code through your browser. To make changes, modify and save your code in your Notepad document, then load the file in your browser to see the adjustments. If the file is already open, then click the Refresh or Reload button.

Create your first Web page

Once you have Notepad open, you can begin your coding.

The first tag you require is <HTML>, which lets the computer know that you are writing a Web page. This must be followed by:

<HEAD><TITLE>insert your title here</TITLE></HEAD>

The text that you place within the <TITLE> tags will appear in the top left of your browser. This information is used by search engines to determine the relevance of your page to search queries.

The majority of your script will fall inside the <BODY> tags. Here, you can insert text, images and hyperlinks, to name a few items. We will look at the latter two in the next Here's How column. Here are some tags you can use to format your text:

After you have finished with the content of your page, you should type </BODY> and </HTML> to let the computer know that you are completed.

Saving your HTML file

In Notepad, select File-Save As, browse to the location on your computer where you want to save your file, and name it something like firstpage.html.

Important: you must select "All Files (*.*)" in "Save as Type", or your file will be saved automatically as an incorrect file type and not as an HTML file.

How to view your Web page

You needn't be connected to the Internet to create or view your Web pages. You are simply creating a file on your local hard drive. At some stage (when you are ready for the world to see your work), you can upload the files to the Internet, and we'll show you how to do that in a future Here's How column.

Open the HTML file you just created. If you are using Internet Explorer as your browser, select Open... from the File menu, then click on the Browse... button. Locate the name of the file you created (firstpage.html) and click Open

If you are using Netscape, select Open Page... from the File menu, then click the Choose file button to locate your file.


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