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Using HTML to Code Your Web Pages

HTML lets you add descriptive tags to your Web page text, to change its appearance, or create lists, tables, links, and so on. HTML is designed to be something that humans can read and that machines can process, a kind of common ground for human-to-machine communication.

Suppose you want to add bold to a word in your text, such as

You can use HTML to specify that a word is bold.

To add bold formatting to a sentence using HTML, just take the regular sentence and add a couple of tags to specify where the bold starts and stops. Here’s the previous line in HTML:

You can use HTML to specify that a word is <b>bold</b>.

When you display the sentence with the HTML tags in a Web browser, the browser displays all the words, but not the tags — the information between angle brackets. The Web browser uses the tags to do extra things to the text, such as add formatting to it. In this case, the formatting is simple: Start using bold text immediately after the word “is,” and stop using bold text immediately after the word “bold.”

Because HTML tags exist alongside the text that users see on your Web page, a document with HTML tags in it is called HTML-tagged text. A file with HTML-tagged text in it is called an HTML file, but it’s really just a specific kind of text file.

An HTML file usually has the extension .htm or .html at the end of the filename. If you look at HTML-tagged text in a text editing program, you see the angle brackets and HTML commands; if you look at it in a Web browser, you see a Web page with formatting, links, and so on.

A document with no formatting — such as italic and other formatting added by a word processor — is called a plain-text document. HTML-tagged text documents are considered plain-text documents because they’re made up only of text characters, even though some of the characters (the tags) carry formatting information. Word-processing documents that aren’t plain-text documents have additional formatting codes embedded in them to tell machines how to display and print the text.

You can add HTML tags to regular text to create your own Web documents in any text editor, such as Notepad, or word processing program. (However, in a word processing program, you must explicitly save the Web document as a text file.) Or you can use a Web-editing tool that hides the gory details of HTML tags, such as the Visual Editor in CoffeeCup. (The Visual Editor creates an HTML-tagged text file, but displays to you what that file will look like in a Web page. It makes the HTML-tagged text available directly on the Code Editor tab.)

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