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5.5. Using Shorthand: The font Property

All of these properties are very sophisticated, of course, but using them all could start to get a little tedious:

H1 {font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 30px;
font-weight: 900; font-style: italic; font-variant: small-caps;}
H2 {font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 24px;
font-weight: bold; font-style: italic; font-variant: normal;}

Some of that could be solved by grouping selectors, but wouldn't it be easier to combine everything into a single property? Enter font, which is the shorthand property for all the other font properties (and a little more besides).



[ <font-style> || <font-variant> || <font-weight> ]? <font-size> [ / <line-height> ]? <font-family>

Initial value

refer to individual properties



Applies to

all elements

Generally speaking, a font declaration can have one value from each of the other font properties. Thus the preceding example could be shortened, while having exactly the same effect as the preceding example (illustrated by Figure 5-31):

H1 {font: italic 900 small-caps 30px Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;}
H2 {font: bold normal italic 24px Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;}
Figure 5-31

Figure 5-31. Typical font rules

I say that the styles "could be" shortened in this way because there are a few other possibilities, thanks to the relatively loose way in which font can be written. If you look closely at the preceding example, you'll see that the first three values don't occur in the same order. In the H1 rule, the first three values are the values for font-style, font-weight, and font-variant, in that order, whereas in the second, they're ordered font-weight, font-variant, and font-style. There is nothing wrong here, because these three can be written in any order. Furthermore, if any of them has a value of normal, that can be left out altogether.

H1 {font: italic 900 small-caps 30px Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;}
H2 {font: bold italic 24px Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;}

In this example, the value of normal was left out of the H2 rule, but the effect is exactly the same as in Figure 5-31.

It's important to realize, however, that this free-for-all situation only applies to the first three values of font. The last two are much more strict in their behavior. Not only must font-size and font-family appear in that order as the last two values in the declaration, but both must always be present in a In order to create applications of this category, you might have to define a DTD for your information. Then you have to write classes to import and export information from your XML document(s) (validating using your application's DTD if you have one). You must also write the classes which create the user interface in your application. The user of your application can view and modify information using the GUI (graphical user interface), and they can save (and load) their information to (and from) an XML file (that might use your DTD); in other words, they can save (and load) their information to (and from) an ApplicationML file (where Application is the name of your application). Some examples are AddressBookML, MathML, SVGML, etc.

The classes that import and export information from your ApplicationML file must use the parser and SAX or DOM API in order to import the information. These classes can access this information by using one of the following strategies:

  1. Use DOM to directly manipulate the information stored in the document (which DOM turns into a tree of nodes). This document object is created by the DOM XML parser after it reads in the XML document. This option leads to messy and hard-to-understand code. Also, this works better for document-type data rather than just computer generated data (like data structures and objects used in your code).
  2. Create your own Java object model that imports information from the XML document by using either SAX or DOM. This kind of object model only uses SAX or DOM to initialize itself with the information contained in the XML document(s). Once the parsing and initialization of your object model is completed, DOM or SAX isn't used anymore. You can use your own object model to accessed or modify your information without using SAX or DOM anymore. So you manipulate your information using your own objects, and rely on the SAX or DOM APIs to import the information from your ApplicationML file into memory (as a bunch of Java objects). You can think of this object model as an in-memory instance of the information that came was "serialized" in your XML document(s). Changes made to this object model are made persistent automatically, you have to deal with persistence issues (ie, write code to save your object model to a persistence layer as XML).
  3. Create your own Java object model (adapter) that uses DOM to manipulate the information in your document object tree (that is created by the parser). This is slightly different from the 2nd option, because you are still using the DOM API to manipulate the document information as a tree of nodes, but you are just wrapping an application specific API around the DOM objects, so its easier for you to write the code. So your object model is an adapter on top of DOM (ie, it uses the adapter pattern). This application specific API uses DOM and actually accesses or modifies information by going to the tree of nodes. Changes made to the object model still have to be made persistence (if you want to save any changes). You are in essence creating a thin layer on top of the tree of nodes that the parser creates, where the tree of nodes is accessed or modified eventually depending on what methods you invoke on your object model.
  4. font declaration. Period, end of story. If either is left out, then the entire rule will be invalid, and very likely ignored completely by a user agent. Thus the following rules will get you the result shown in Figure 5-32:

    H1 {font: normal normal italic 30px sans-serif;}   /* no problem here */
    H2 {font: 1.5em sans-serif;}   /* also fine; omitted values set to 'normal' */
    H3 {font: sans-serif;}   /* INVALID--no 'font-size' provided */
    H4 {font: light 24pt;}   /* INVALID--no 'font-family' provided */
    Figure 5-32

    Figure 5-32. The necessity of both size and family

    5.5.1. Adding the Line Height

    So far, we've treated font as though it has only five values, which isn't quite true. It is also possible to set the line-height using font, despite that fact that line-height is a text property, not a font property. It's done as a sort of addition to the font-size value, separated from it by a forward slash (/):

    H2 {font: bold italic 200%/1.2 Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;}

    This rule, demonstrated in Figure 5-33, sets all H2 elements to be bold and italic, using the face for one of the sans serif font families, plus it sets the font-size to 24px and the line-height to 30px .

    Figure 5-33

    Figure 5-33. Adding line height to the mix

    This addition of a value for line-height is entirely optional, just as the first three font values are, and need only be present if it is needed for some reason. Remember, however, that the font-size always comes before line-height, never after, and the two are separated by a slash.

    This may seem repetitive, but it's one of the most common errors by CSS authors, so I can't say it enough times: the required values for font are font-size and font-family, in that order. Everything else is strictly optional.

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    Applies to

    all elements

    heightIE4 Y/Y IE5 Y/Y NN4 N/N Op3 Y/-

    This is usedto set the height of an element. Height is most often applied toimages, but can be used on any block-level or replaced element,although support for such behavior is not widespread as of thiswriting. Negative length values are not permitted.

    6.1.2. Background Color

    Ina fashion very similar to setting theforeground color, it's possible to declare a color for thebackground of an element. For this, you use the propertybackground-color, which accepts (unsurprisingly)any valid color.

    Figure 5-8

    Figure 5-8. Making the B tag bold

    However, what's really happening is that a heavier variant ofthe font is used for displaying a B element. Thus,if you have a paragraph displayed using Times, and part of it isboldfaced, then there are really two variants of the same font inuse: Times and TimesBold. The regular text is displayed using Times,and the boldfaced text uses TimesBold.