HTML Fundamentals

We’re using bootstrap to manage most page layout needs, but you still need a little bit of HTML to place images, link to other pages or add breaks between paragraphs.

I like ReText for Ubuntu Linux or Mou for OSX.

Both programs allow you to write your text in a very simplified language called “markdown” — and they’ll produce clean HTML from it. By default a blank Mou document has everything you need to know about markdown right inside it.

I like a lot of things about writing in Markdown: you can stay focused on the content because it is super readable. Markdown enforces structured, heirarchical HTML which will make the web team swoon when you move to a working newsroom.

You can’t do much formatting in Mou, but you shouldn’t be doing much formatting anyway: focus on your reporting.

If you really want to start to understand how HTML works, these readings might help:

Why can’t I just use Dreamweaver?

You might have figured out by now that you can save a Word document as HTML. You might even have a “What You See is What You Get” (or WYSIWYG, prounounced whizzy wig) editor like Dreamweaver Handy. The problem is that both of these will do their utmost to replicate exactly what you’ve got on the screen in the HTML they produce. You won’t be able to read the results and you’ll have a hard time wrestling them into a different template.

Trust me: if you want more fine grained control than you can get in Bootstrap, a WYSIWIG editor is not the path to follow.

Think of it this way: you can make spaghetti sauce from a diced onion, two cloves of garlic and a can of tomatoes. Someone says to add a bay leaf, some thyme and oregano. Then your overbearing gourmet friend says you must start with a soffritto and … at this point no one would blame you for eying the jarred sauce aisle. If you’re just starting out as a cook, you are far, far better off making a super simple sauce from scratch so you can build on it. (There is a Cosby Show episode about what happens if you heat up a jar of sauce and try to pass it off as homemade: You will not impress Clair Huxtable.)

Plus, the truth is that you can read the ingredients on a jar of Ragu, but you can’t read the ingredients on generated HTML and you definitely can’t get the sugar out and the time you’d spend trying to figure out how to make the sauce taste less tinny would be far better spent dicing an onion and getting on with it.

Instead, use a Markdown editor to compose your text and break it into paragraphs, lists and blockquotes, and then use Bootstrap to lay it out.