Introduction to CSS: Part 2

How to create a linked external stylesheet

To create an external style sheet all you need to do is create a simple text document (on windows you simply right-click and select new -> text document) and then change the file from type .txt to .css.

You can change the file type by just changing the file’s extension. The file’s extension on windows tells the computer what kind of file it is and allows the computer to determine how to handle the file when for example you try to open it.

You probably guessed it; CSS files are just specially formatted text files, and much in the same way HTML pages are. There is nothing special or different in the file itself, rather it is the contents of the file that make an HTML document and a CSS page what they are.

When working with a external CSS document, there are a couple of points to remember:

1. You don’t add these tags in the CSS page itself as you would if you embedded the CSS code in your HTML:

<style type="text/css"></style>

Since the CSS link in your web page says that you are linking to a CSS page, you don’t need to declare (in the external CSS file) that the code in the CSS page is CSS. That is what the above tags do. Instead you would just add your CSS code directly to the page like so:

.myNewStyle {
   font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
   font-weight: bold;
   color: #FF0000;
.my2ndNewStyle {
   font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
   font-weight: bold;
   color: #FF0000;
.my3rdNewStyle {
   font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
   font-weight: bold;
   font-size: 12pt;
   color: #FF0000;

In the above example I have created a series CSS classes that can be applied to any HTML tag like so:

<p>My CSS styled  text</p>


<h2 class=”my3rdNewStyle”>My CSS styled  text</h2>

You will notice that in the above example I applied a CSS style to a <h2> tag. Normally this tag sets the size of the text that it wraps to a size that is preset in the browser (ex: 10 pixels).

When you apply a CSS class to it, the CSS code overrides the default size that you would normally get with an <h2> tag in favor of the size specified in the CSS class. So now you can see that CSS can override default HTML tag behavior!

In the above examples, I have CSS code where I define my CSS classes and then ‘apply’ them to various elements in the page. Another way to apply CSS is to globally redefine an HTML tag to look a certain way:

h1 { font-family: Garamond, "Times New Roman",  serif; font-size: 200%; }

What this CSS code does is set the font style and size of all <h1> tags in one shot. Now you don’t have to apply a CSS class as we did before to any <h1> tags since they are automatically all affected by the CSS style rules.

Here is another example of where I give the whole page bigger margins:

body { margin-left: 15%; margin-right: 15%; }

As you can see, you can redefine any tag and change the way it looks! This can be very powerful:

div {
   background: rgb(204,204,255);
   padding: 0.5em;
   border: 1px solid #000000;

The above CSS code sets that any <div></div> tag will now have a background color of ‘rgb(204,204,255)’ and have a padding of 0.5em and a thin 1 pixel border that is solid black.

A few things to explain about the above:

Color in CSS can be expressed in a few ways:

  1. In Hex -> for example: #000000 – this is black and this: #FF0000 is red.
  2. In rgb -> rgb(204,204,255) is a light purple blue color.
  3. With named colors like: ‘red’ or ‘blue’

I typically use hex color since I am familiar with them or I just use named colors. So the last example can be rewritten like so:

div {
   background: green;
   padding: 0.5em;
   border: 1px solid #FF0000;

So instead of ‘rgb(204,204,255)’ , I just specified ‘green’.

By using RGB (RGB is the acronym for: ‘Red Green Blue’) and Hex color, you can really get the exact color you want easily when you know your codes. Luckily many programs (like Dreamweaver) provide easy to use color pickers for you so you don’t need to know the values for the code.

In this last example I will show you the ‘super cool’ CSS code that allows you to create link roll-over affects without images:

a:link { color: rgb(0, 0, 153) }
a:visited { color: rgb(153, 0, 153) }
a:hover { color: rgb(0, 96, 255) }
a:active { color: rgb(255, 0, 102) }

The above CSS will cause your links to change color when someone hovers their mouse pointer over it, instant rollovers with no images! One important note with the above code, is that it is important that the style declarations be in the right order:


… otherwise it may break in some browsers.

CSS is very powerful and allows you to do things that you can’t do with standard HTML. It is supported nicely now in all the modern browsers and is a must learn tool for web designers.

The above examples are just a small sample of what you can do with CSS, but it should be more than enough for you to start styling your pages nicely.

Like with many technologies CSS has a lot of capability that most people will not need to use often, if at all. So don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that if there is some functionality/feature available that you have to use it.

BTW: The killersites forum has a search engine that allows you to do some pretty powerful searches against what was discussed.

For example if you type ‘CSS’ in the search box, you will get a list of all the post regarding CSS. This feature will makes the forum archive a great source of information.