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HWG-HTML Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a compilation of many of the "most asked" questions from the hwg-html list. If you feel something is missing and should be added, please contact your List Guides at lg-html@hwg.org.


  1. How do I create vertical white space larger than just 1 line?
  2. What is Copyright? How do I copyright my work?
    1. What does a copyright notice look like?
    2. Copyright - Helpful URLs
  3. How do I password protect my directory or site?
  4. What is Validation? Why should I do it? How do I do it?
    1. Helpful Validation URLs
  5. What is a DOCTYPE?
    1. Helpful DOCTYPE URLs
  6. What is the "NATURALSIZEFLAG" Tag?
  7. Is there any way I can speed up graphic download on my pages?
  8. How do I make my GIFs as small as possible?
  9. How do I replace a button on a form with a *.gif?
  10. I keep hearing about character codes, what are they?
  11. How I can convert a hex color value (i.e. #000000) to its rgb value?
    1. Helpful Hex/RGB URLs
  12. How can I find out how other browsers will render my page?
    1. Helpful Browser Information URLs
  13. What is the best way to indent?
  14. How do I remove the blue box around my image?
  15. When should I use Quotes within my tags?
  16. Other Helpful URLs

1. How do I create vertical white space larger than just 1 line?
There are many answers to this question, but the consensus seems to be "by using the <PRE> tag". For example:


Carriage Returns Here


2. What is Copyright? How do I copyright my work?
Though this discussion is off-topic for the -html list, it does come up often (future discussions/questions can be directed to hwg-business). The following information is for the United States, other countries may have different copyright laws.

Copyright is Federal Law (United States) stating that anything you create, write and/or produce, that is an original work, belongs to you (except under specific circumstances including work for an employer). On the web, this includes but is not limite d to; web pages, graphics, email, poems, and programs.

As many confuse actual copyright with registered copyright, here are the VERY basics:

Anything you create/write/produce is copyright to you (except under special circumstances). This requires no "registration", if you create it, it is yours.

To REGISTER that copyright, it will require submitting a copy to the US Government and paying a small fee. By registering your copyright, if anyone uses your work without authorization, it will help in your case for infringement.

Copyright notice on your work (graphic, page, etc.) is not required, but it WILL alleviate any doubts as to whether is it public domain or copyright material to those that have not read up on Copyright law. To give notice on your work you must meet al l of the following:

  • The letter "C" in a circle (the "copyright symbol"), the word "Copyright," or the abbreviation "Copr."
  • The year of first publication
  • The name of the copyright owner

For example:

Copyright 1997 HTML Writers Guild
© 1997 HTML Writers Guild
Copr. 1997 HTML Writers Guild
Helpful Copyright URLs
US Copyright Act of 1976
US Copyright Office
Copyright FAQ
Cyberspace Law for Non-Lawyers
10 Big Myths about copyright explained

3. How do I password protect my directory or site?
There are a few different ways to password protect your site or directory, none of which are technically "on-topic" for the -html list. But as this is asked often, we will go into the most secure (and one of the easier) ways here.

You must have Shell Access to your ISP. If you do have shell access, telnet into your ISP and create a directory for your password file (I show here the directory name "lock"). This should NOT be in a directory accessible from the web (i.e.: make this directory in your root directory, not in your public_html or www directory), then:

At command line type:

htpasswd -c /home/your-dir/lock/.htpass User-ID

The "-c" creates the file ".htpass" in the directory lock, (again, this should NOT be in public_html or www directory), the "User-ID" should be your User ID or Log-In name.

You will be prompted to enter the password twice.

The second part of this password protection is creating a file named ".htaccess" located in directory that you want password protected. This file should have the following information in it, in this order:

AuthUserFile /home/your-dir/lock/.htpass
AuthGroupFile /dev/null
AuthName Secured Files
AuthType Basic

<Limit GET>
require user User-ID

Then chmod 604 to both files, done :)

If you have any questions on this form of password protections, inquiries should be directed to hwg-servers.

Another "less secure" form of password protection can be done with javascript. If you have any questions or would like discussion on javascript password protection, please post you r question(s) to hwg-newtech.

4. What is Validation? Why should I do it? How do I do it?
Validation is using a program that will go through your HTML and check for accuracy against the DOCTYPE you have chosen. If there are any inconsistencies in your HTML from your DOCTYPE, the validator will give you an error message to help you track down the error and fix it before considering the work "done".

A few reasons for validation (NOT, of course, a complete listing):

  • You can be assured that your page will render similarly in all browsers that support the DOCTYPE standard you have chosen to write under.
  • There will be less unexpected rendering of your page.
  • Validating will catch "misspellings" in your HTML and find little things such as missing end tags or quotes (validators are NOT, however, spellcheckers).

To validate your page, choose a DOCTYPE and place the statement at the VERY top of your HTML (above the <HTML> tag). Then upload and go to one of the validator sites below and follow the instructions. It may take a little work finding the right validator for you, but keep trying, the results will be clean HTML!

Helpful URLs for Validating
Doctor HTML
A Kinder, Gentler Validator
NSGMLS as used at KGV

All of these (and more) can be found at:
Suite of Validation Suites

Disability Validators
Bobby Both for disabilities and regular validation

A validator that will run on your Win95 Machine:
CSE 3310 HTML Validator

5. What is a DOCTYPE?
A DOCTYPE statement (or DTD), located on the first line of an HTML document, designates the standard of HTML which you have chosen to use. HTML Validators require DTD statements. Without a DTD, they will usually fall back to a default DTD (many times HT ML 2.0), most times causing many errors.

Two common DTDs are:

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 3.2 Final//EN"> for HTML 3.2

There are many more DTD statements available for use, in the Helpful URLs section you will find a link for a listing of them.

Why Use a DOCTYPE?
Popular Document Type Definitions (DTDs)

6. What is the "NATURALSIZEFLAG" Tag?
The "NATURALSIZEFLAG" is a tag that Pagemill puts into your HTML when you resize graphics. Pagemill uses this to keep track of resized graphics, though it is not a true HTML tag. Most browsers ignore tags they do not understand, so in most cases leaving it in will not hurt anything.

7. Is there any way I can speed up graphic download on my pages?
No. Other than making the graphic files smaller this is not possible, BUT.. by adding the HEIGHT and WIDTH attributes to the IMG tag, you can load your page text before the graphics load. This allows the viewer to start reading while the graphics load. Example tag:

<IMG SRC="graphic.gif" HEIGHT="2xx" WIDTH="3xx" ALT="alternate text">

8. How do I make my GIFs as small as possible?
Though graphic creation/editing is off-topic to the -html list, this question is asked often. For future reference, this should be discussed on -basics or -graphics (once -graphics is in place).

The best way to reduce a graphic file size without reducing the file size would be to reduce your color count. Many times, a graphic is saved in 256 colors, but does not use that many colors. This only creates a larger graphic. Instead, if you reduc e the colors to the amount you need, you can lesson file size. Need help? Want to see if your graphic CAN be reduced? Help can be found at:

GIF Wizard from Raspberry Hill Publishing

9. How do I replace a button on a form with a *.gif?
<INPUT TYPE="image" SRC="graphic.gif" HEIGHT="xx" WIDTH="yy" ALT="submit" BORDER="0">

10. I keep hearing about character codes, what are they?
HTML reserves certain characters (&, ", <, and >) for the use of HTML. When the character codes are not used in place of the actual symbol, you will receive errors when validating, and unexpected results in some browsers. For a listing of character codes accepted into the 3.2 HTML Standard:

Numeric Code Character Entities

Keep in mind that the use of the numeric codes rather than text codes are more reliable.

11. How I can convert a hex color value (i.e. #000000) to its rgb value?
To convert between Hex and RGB values, you can either use a program to do the conversion for you (links below) or you can calculate it yourself.

For Windows users:

  • Open up your calculator under accessories, and switch to scientific mode.
  • Type in the first 2 letters with the "hex" button checked, then check the "Dec" button and you will have your first value.
  • Proceed with the other numbers (two at a time) for the R - G - B portions of the color.

This works both ways, if you already have the RGB and want the hex just reverse the process.

Hex/RGB Helpful URLs
Hex Converter
RGB Made Easy
Welcome to the Hexadecimal Color Code

12. How can I find out how other browsers will render my page?
As you know, different browsers render your pages differently. Even if they support the same DTD standard, the results of certain tags can be quite varied. The BEST way to see how other browsers render your page is to check them in all the browsers. Th ough, as this method takes a lot of time, most suggest testing in 2 or 3 of the most commonly used browsers, and make sure your page Validates.

Keep in mind, many people view with graphics turned off (or do not have the ability for graphics), and/or can not upgrade their browsers due to hardware compatibility (yes, there are still some people out there surfing the web with a 386, 4 MG RAM, and a 9600 baud modem).

Helpful Browser Information URLs
Webmonkey Browser Kit

Multiple Browser viewer site:

13. What is the best way to indent?
The short answer here is: There is no "best" way to indent your text. If you are working on a web page that will only be viewed with one browser, then there are many good ways, but unless you are creating an intranet site, that isn't likely.

The consensus of answers seems to be that the use of either the <PRE> tag or tables happen to be the "best" choices. You can make up your own mind however by going to:

Stupid HTML Indent Tricks

14. How do I remove the blue box around my image?
By adding the attribute BORDER="0" into your <IMG... tag you can take away the border around your image created when you are using that image as a link. If this is not needed for your page design, it is suggested to leave it in for those 'surf ers' that don't yet know that an image without a border can be a link. Your <IMG.. tag would look like:

<IMG SRC="graphic.gif" BORDER=0 HEIGHT=xx WIDTH=yy ALT="alternate text">

15. When should I use Quotes in my tags?
Quotes should be used in values of attributes (anything after an = within a tag), unless the value is a number combination(0-9), a letter (a-z, A-Z) or one of a few symbols (-, .). All URLs should be encased in quotes, example:

<A HREF="http://www.hwg.org/">The HTML Writers Guild</A>

As should any color references, example:

<BODY BGCOLOR="#000000">

ALT attributes should be quoted, especially if they have any spaces, example:

<IMG SRC="graphic.gif" ALT="Whatever you want here">

Anytime a non-allowed character is used, quotes are needed. Not using quotes can come up with unreliable rendering. BUT (there always is a but), you may use quotes on any and all values without any adverse effects. So, when in doubt, quote :)

16. Other Helpful URLs
HWG Resources
UCF Library: Writing on the Web
W3C Technical Reports & Publications
HTML Reference Manual
Wilbur HTML 3.2 All Tags
TNFT: Laying out frames
A list of resources for making your site Accessible

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This page maintained by lg-html@hwg.org. Last updated on 28 August 1997.
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