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2.10. Summary

By using selectors based on the document's language, authors can create CSS rules that apply to a large number of similar elements just as easily as they can construct rules that apply in very narrow circumstances. The ability to group together both selectors and declarations keeps style sheets compact and flexible, which incidentally leads to smaller file sizes and faster download times. Thanks to inheritance and the cascade, authors are able to create

P.intro:first-letter {font-size: 300%; font-weight: bold; float: left;
width: 1em;}

This will result in approximately what is seen in Figure 11-22.

However, as you probably know, older browsers don't support the :first-letter pseudo-element. In many of these -- Internet Explorer 3.x and Navigator 4.x, for example -- there is no alternative. In Internet Explorer 4.x and 5.0, however, you can use a SPAN element to fake sets of interlocking rules which, taken together, result in sophisticated document styles. This is all thanks to the fact that CSS is very deeply bound to the structure of documents, and that it uses this structure to determine how rules are applied, which rules should apply, and what elements should assume styles from their ancestors.

Selectors are the one thing that user agents almost have to get right, because the inability to correctly interpret selectors pretty much prevents a user agent from using CSS. However, the cascade and inheritance are different stories, and there have been some flaws in how they're implemented. Navigator 4.x, for example, has a rough time with inheritance into tables, as well as other structures such as lists. You can clear up many of these problems by using very strictly correct HTML, but not all of them.

There are many CSS rules describing lengths, colors, or other things that can be expressed using specific units and values -- and this is the subject (and title) of the next chapter.

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The last type of attribute selector isgenerally used for language matching, but it does have other uses.Any attribute selector using the symbols|= will match a value that begins with thespecified value, given that the value is at the start of ahyphen-separated value. For example:


This selector will match any paragraph whose langattribute has the value en,

Remember when we mentioned static-position much earlier in the chapter? Here's one example of how it works and how it can be very useful.

Another important point is that when an element is positioned, it establishes a containing block for its descendant elements. For example, we could absolutely position an element and then absolutely position one of its children, as shown in Figure 9-23.

Figure 9-23

Figure 9-23. Nested absolutely positioned elements