HTML+CSS, the Future of Print Media

This January, the interaction with Mr. Håkon Wium Lie, the Chief Technology Officer of Opera Software, best known for proposing the concept of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) was an interesting one at Techfest. Simply speaking he wasn’t there to teach us HTML or CSS. He was there to speak on where these technologies were headed in future. Thank god, he did that (and saved us from a boring lecture)!

To demonstrate this he was even presenting his slides in basic HTML and CSS. That’s what his whole point was. HTML/CSS was so simple and dynamic that you could adjust it to suit your needs – not just from making simple presentations to web apps, but to more diverse things as a presentation and even a printed book.

He spoke about the basic origins and the evolution of HTML and CSS as they are today. And how their simplicity makes it hard for developers to give up. People would rather use HTML/CSS for their webpages and avoid Javascript wherever possible. And how he and others were shaping it to suit both the needs of the future. Things that were earlier possible with Javascript are now possible with CSS. This even gives robustness to the page, because if we define the properties in CSS and not how to do them (as we do in Javascript), and let the browser decide how to do the hard work, it will be rendered across a range of devices without any hassles because that platform’s browser will be able to decide the best way to render the content.

Yes, with the dawn of CSS 3, now even animations in webpages were possible. You could design full complicated images with full CSS texts rather than loading an image, thus saving on bandwidth. He showed us a fully rendered logo of Opera rendered only in CSS. Even with HTML 5 the current limits were even pushed further. How open technologies like WEBM were helping make video a first citizen of the web. Oh, yeah… you can now play videos without Flash and also have hardware acceleration to display graphics on webpages. And even access the webcam, all right from simple HTML code. That is where we are headed.

The last bit of surprise came when he showed us a full printed book fully typeset in HTML/CSS. Yes, no word processing software nor LaTeX. All margins, headings, paragraphs all formatted by HTML and CSS. The thing he highlighted was HTML was moving from the virtual world to the real world. Now you could even design your pages and print media in full HTML/CSS. You get the feel of reading of book or a newspaper digitally. You turn the pages as you used to do actually to read the next matter. All this comes with the ability to format margins, headers, footers, paragraphs, headings, etc.

Does that mean that HTML/CSS will be the future of print media? Why use LaTeX now to design your print content when you can successfully use HTML/CSS to design content across a range of devices and online as well as for print now? It gives you power and flexibility that whatever you write once can be adapted across a variety of media. Agreed scientific research papers do require a lot of mathematical formulas and LaTeX is still a pro at it. But recent developments have been made in MathML, a markup language to write scientific formulas. But it still lags behinds LaTeX at its purpose. But I surely expect that to be at par with LaTeX soon. Maybe HTML+CSS will be the language that will be the perfect suite to make both digital and print media.

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