Thursday, January 14, 2010

ON BLOGGING ~ What The Hell Is HTML?...

Photo courtesy mattgrimm @ Flickr


So what is HTML? To the newly exposed, it may mean “Horrifying Text Made Looney.” It is the script behind the pretty stuff on websites and blogs. But when you click, accidentally or not, on the “HTML” tab instead of “Compose” it may look like a bunch of gibberish and scary ass symbols that intimidate you into wondering what you were thinking trying to venture into the tech world. After all, you just wanted a spot to share your creativity. You didn’t want to have to become a geek in the process.

Well, I am here to tell you that it just looks complicated, perhaps to scare the less determined away. Techies are sneaky like that. But in truth, it is as simple as alligators, food, sticks and action.

HTML essentially is the instruction to move your text into action. It translates the idea of underlining text into an underlined word. It makes things bold. Or italic. It makes images viewable amongst the words. It positions letters on the page. It shades, outlines and indents. It is - your new pet - existing unconditionally for you, provided you know the right way to treat it.

Think of HTML as your new pet alligator. Now, don’t be scared. Alligators may not be very cuddly but they are persistent. They know how to succeed and survive. Which is what you want your blog or website to do for you. Gator is there to make things exciting. But he can also sabotage things if you make a wrong move. So pay attention.

Anytime you want an action to take place in your post, article or online display you need to provide instructions, or script, to the text or images. It is wonderful when your provider has handy buttons you can click to do the things you want done. Easy as pie. Highlight the words and click that B button to make it bold. But not all platforms have the buttons you want. Blogger, for example, does not have a U button. So unless you know how to call your text to action with HTML, you will never be able to underline anything in your post. This is incredibly annoying of Blogger, but it is also what led me to hang out in the HTML View tab and meet Gator.

Using the underlining action as an example, here is how you get ‘er done in HTML. First you need to call Gator over and tell him to open wide. Hit your Shift Key and the Comma Key at the same time to get the Less Than Bracket symbol, aka the Open Alligator Mouth…

<

Now that Gator has his mouth open he is hungry for a snack. So like all good pet owners, you need to feed him. So go ahead and feed him the action you want taken care of. In this case, the action is U as in Underline. HTML seems to prefer small caps which is nice and easy so go ahead and put that small u next to the open mouth...

<u

Now you want Gator to clamp down on that action to be a place holder for the text needing to be underlined so go ahead and hold down that Shift key and the Period key at the same time, resulting in a Closed Alligator Mouth, aka…

>

So now we have Gator holding the Underline action for you…<u>

While he is being ever so helpful, it is best to go ahead and type out the word or phrase that you would like to have underlined. Immediately next to the Closed Alligator Mouth type out the word Underline…

<u>Underline

Now that our text is in there we want to make sure Gator continues to hold the action rather than just swallowing it whole. So we need to prop his mouth open with a stick. For our purposes, the stick is the Forward Slash key located immediately to the left of the Shift key..

/

To prop Gator’s mouth open, it looks like this…

</>

But you need to keep that u in there to remind him what he is holding…

</u>

The end result looks like this in Gator World (aka HTML)…

<u>Underline</u>

In Pretty World it looks like this…

Underline

TA-DA!!!! That is all there is to it. For every action you need to call in Gator to surround the text or image with an open mouth holding instructions along with a stick propped in for good measure to keep the action in place.

The open mouth <> and propped open mouth with the stick </> are called Tags. The open mouth is an Open Tag <> and the stick propped mouth is a Closed Tag </>. The symbols within the mouths are the actions u and the words between the tags Underline are what is being manipulated by those instructions.

<u>Underline</u>
aka...
Open Tag w/Action, Manipulated Text, Closed Tag w/Action

The Golden Rule of HTML is that for every Open Tag there must be a Closed Tag. You don’t live in a barn after all (you live in an alligator farm) - you shut doors behind you that you have opened. If you just leave them open, it can create a mess due to all that untamed action, much like the Tasmanian Devil.

Go ahead - test out your new found understanding of HTML in your comment by underlining a word there. Or if you are really daring, try making something Bold (with a b) or Italic (with an i)! ED.NOTE - It appears Blogger hates Underlining soooo much that it doesn't allow for underlines in the Comment Box!!! So - you'll just have to leave an example of Bold or Italics instead!

14 comments:

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I don't know what html is either. I'll have to reread this tomorrow when not tired and give it a try.

Thanks for the info!

Sandy Nawrot said...

HTML is a big pain in my ass, that is what it is. Still, I do apprciate this little tutorial! I have bold and italics buttons, but not underline. I'll have to practice soon! Thank you!

Kaye said...

HTML is scary territory. I want tabs, I need tabs but I know I'll never have tabs. When I started reading the directions, I backed away very slowly before anyone got hurt. So not pissah!

Penny said...

ha ha ha.
I know HTML but that was a super cute explanation. :)

Diane said...

Okay....LOVE the alligator and HATE HTML. I find Blogger annoying. If they can have a bold, and italic thing to click on, why not an underline one? LOL

J. M. Bauhaus said...

I love it. I've had to teach HTML to people, only to be met with blank stares and "Huh?" I'll have to remember the 'gator's mouth illustration. I think that really helps to simplify the concept of tags.

Also, as a copy editor I feel compelled to point out to one of the above commenters that the purpose of the underline is to tell print setters to print the underlined text in italics. Italics and underlines mean the same thing and perform the same function, which is probably why Blogger doesn't offer both an italic and an underline button.

Patty Reiser said...

I love your take on teaching HTML. Brought some fun to an otherwise not so fun task.

stacybuckeye said...

Wordpress has an underline button Or else I'd never figure it out. Oh, wait...
Thanks for the lesson even if I still don't get it.
Um, blogger told me my HTML could not be accepted because the U tag is not allowed.

kaye said...

that was a great explanation--It kind of reminded me of 4th grade math (less than greater than). I do like working in the html box while working on a text, I get less formatting errors. I usually work it in word, copy it to notepad, and from there to the html edit box. It goes in just like I typed it. Then I add my pictures.

Margot at Joyfully Retired said...

Thank you for this nice tutorial. One of my goals this year is to master HTML. On Wordpress there is a button I can press which shows the post I'm writing with all the HTML spelled out. At first it was confusing but it's becoming clearer now. I've learned to go there to adjust the size of a photo as well.

Here's my sample: I (b>love<b/) the Bumbles.
It didn't work. Blogger said my tags weren't closed.

ds said...

I love the Gator image and I love The Bumbles, but I do not love HTML! And I don't get the "a" thingy at all! (I wasn't allowed to copy it from the list below--it wasn't closed. Figures.)
Thank you for being so clear, as always!

jehara said...

i really love the gator analogy. i became very excited way back when i learned how to make strikethroughs. great post!

The Gal Herself said...

I loved this post. You made it all accessible, and that ain't easy. Of course, it helps that I have always been fascinated by gators. (Chomp!)

Karen & Gerard Zemek said...

I like your comparison to the gator here. This is very basic though. I need to know more than this to really change my colors on my blogs. I looked for the color codes but I can't seem to find them in my HTML code for my blogs. HTML is still a pain. I agree with Sandy above.

In the book Blogging For Dummies it said it's best not to underline things in your posts because the underline is used for links. Perhaps that is why Blogger doesn't allow it--just guessing.

I'm going to share this though in my Friday "Things I Learned This Week" post at www.zemeks.blogspot.com with a link back here.