Browser Support for CSS | Page 7 | WebReference

Browser Support for CSS | Page 7


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Browser Support for CSS

Other Browsers

In addition to the major browsers listed here, there are a number of smaller, less frequently used browsers you should be aware of. A huge list of many browsers can be found at the Evolt browser archive, http://browsers.evolt.org/. It's also important for you to understand screen readers, a type of assistive technology employed by users who are blind.

Lynx

Lynx is an old classic browser, which is most commonly used at a shell window or command prompt. Versions of Lynx can run on any system, although it is most commonly used on Unix-like operating systems, such as Linux or Mac OS X.

Lynx doesn't display images. It doesn't display colors. It doesn't do tables. It's the prototypical text-only browser—and it definitely doesn't do CSS. This actually makes it ideal for testing your CSS-based designs to ensure that the underlying page can be used even if the style sheets are not understood.

Figure 3.3 is an example of how Lynx displays the author's website—by ignoring the style sheet. You can compare this with Figure 1.2 in Hour 1, which shows the same site in Firefox.

Figure 3.3: Lynx displays the author's personal website.
Figure 3.3: Lynx displays the author's personal website.

Did you Know?

The download site for Lynx is http://lynx.isc.org/, and the browser runs on many operating systems.

Many people use Lynx because it provides a faster and simpler interface to the Web, without the extra download time of a graphical browser. Other examples of similar text-based browsers include Links (http://links.sourceforge.net/) and w3m (http://w3m.sourceforge.net/).

iCab

iCab is a Web browser created by Alexander Clauss of Germany, and is available for both Mac OS X and for earlier versions of Mac OS, making it the primary browser for Macintosh users who have not upgraded beyond Mac OS 9. The CSS support in iCab is good, and in June 2005 it was reported that iCab was the second browser to pass the Acid2 test. This high level of CSS support plus the small user base of iCab mean that you are not likely to need to make special considerations for iCab.

Did you Know?

You can download iCab for Mac OS X (or earlier versions of Mac OS) from http://www.icab.de/.

Internet Explorer for Macintosh

Even though they both originated at Microsoft around the same time, Internet Explorer for Windows and Internet Explorer for Macintosh are literally different pieces of software that confusingly share the same name. Internet Explorer for Mac was bundled with new Apple computers for years, and for a while was the best browser for Macs. In fact, it was probably the best browser for any operating system in 2000.

Internet Explorer for Mac was developed separately from the Windows version, and had a number of features that its Windows counterpart didn't have. From a CSS perspective, the most important of these was the layout engine, code-named Tasman, which provided superior (but quirky) CSS support, especially when compared with Trident, the equivalent in Internet Explorer on Windows.

You'd have to worry about providing support for Internet Explorer for Mac, except for one thing: It's officially dead. The last version for Mac OS X was 5.2.3, and 5.1.7 for Mac OS 8 and 9—both released in June 2003. Microsoft no longer has programmers working on it, Apple no longer bundles it with new computers, and as of January 2006 you can't even download it from Microsoft's site. They tell you to use Safari instead.

That's kind of a shame, really, but it makes your job easier as a Web developer—very few people are using Internet Explorer for Mac, and so you probably won't need to use the Mac IE workarounds from Hour 24.

Screen Readers

A screen reader is a specialized piece of software that works between the operating system and applications to read out a program's output to a user who is blind or visually impaired. This allows someone to access and use your website even if she is unable to see it.

The term "screen reader" is descriptive; most screen readers literally read only whatever they see on the screen. A screen reader needs to work with a browser to access the Web. The most common screen readers, such as JAWS or WindowEyes, are available only for Microsoft Windows, and work primarily with Internet Explorer.

This means that someone using a screen reader not only has to deal with the quirks of the screen reader and possible inaccessible Web design techniques in the HTML, but also the CSS quirks of the browser. Hour 24 has advice on how to make specific sections of your site available only to users with screen readers.

By the Way

You'll learn more about access by people with disabilities in Hour 22, "Accessibility and Print Media."

Test Drive a New Browser

The more browsers you use for testing, the better you'll be able to understand how your CSS works with those browsers. To get some hands-on experience with new browsers, follow these directions:

  1. Choose one or more browsers from earlier in this hour that will work on your operating system. If you've already used them all, download an older version or an alternate browser from the Evolt browser archive.
  2. Install the browser and fire it up for surfing the Web.
  3. Visit several websites that use CSS, including the site for this book, and the Web Standards Project, home of the Acid 2 test (http://www.webstandards.org/action/acid2).
  4. How does your experience using these browsers differ from your experience using your normal browser-of-choice? Note whether the CSS support is better or worse, and rank the browser you're using as "ancient," "broken," "quirky," or "compliant."

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