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Precision Web Pages with Style Master

In the early days of the Web, a common complaint was HTML’s insufficient control over how a browser would display the layout and appearance of a document. Tricks with tables and font tags helped, but the real solution, which has been emerging gradually for several years, is Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Style sheets let you specify such things as the size of text, the spacing and margins of paragraphs, and the positioning of graphics. Unfortunately, style sheets are complicated to use: the options for different elements can be hard to remember, and worse, different Web browsers support different standards and sometimes support them incorrectly. You can consult a book, code by hand, and test painstakingly; or you can let Style Master make your life easy. Style Master 1.5.1 comes from Western Civilisation; like their Palimpsest (which I reviewed in TidBITS-364) demonstrates clean, original interface design.



Each main window represents a style sheet; you can have multiple style sheets open. You edit style information through dialogs and floating windows where your options are obvious; the results are translated into style sheet syntax and displayed in the main window. The real magic starts when you ask to preview your styles: Style Master displays, in all your open browsers simultaneously, a particular style component (using sample text), or, even better, an entire HTML document of your own, to which it has applied the entire style sheet! Your original HTML is untouched, and Style Master makes a new temporary copy on every preview, so it’s easy to tweak and test both your styles and your HTML document. When you’re done, Style Master can either add the style sheet link to your original document, ready to serve along with the style sheet itself, or it can embed the style sheet into the document.

There’s so much help you could plotz. There’s balloon help. There are Help windows explaining each particular aspect of style sheets. There are warnings if you do something that a browser might not support. There is dialog text describing the meaning of selectors as you create them. There is superb documentation (using HTML which itself demonstrates style sheets): a Quickstart that really does get you started quickly, a complete manual, a hands-on tutorial, and a handbook on style sheets. Western Civilisation has also made its Web site a major reference on style sheets, well worth visiting.

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Although I have some quibbles with inconvenient interface elements, and the misspellings in the manuals pain me, I still like everything about this program, right down to the clever purchase policy. You download a 2.4 MB time-limited demo (15 days of use, not necessarily consecutive) that you can test and ultimately register either as Style Master or as Style Master Pro. Style Master costs $29; Style Master Pro, unlike any browser known to me, supports the next-generation style sheet standard, CSS2, and costs $39 until 20-Oct-99, $49 thereafter. Style Master requires a Power PC-based Macintosh, System 7.1.2 or later. A full installation is about 7 MB, and it uses 8.5 MB of RAM.

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