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W3C releases style spec draft

Based on the first Cascading Style Sheet spec, the consortium's new release will define various styles for Web design when it becomes a standard.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today released the first public draft of the Cascading Style Sheets 2 specification, which, when it eventually becomes a standard, will define various styles for Web design.

The W3C, the main standards-setting organization for the Web, has already established a foundation of style standards with the first Cascading Style Sheet spec. Software makers including Adobe, Microsoft, Netscape Communications, and Macromedia already have products based on CSS1, according to the W3C. Also based on CSS1, the CSS2 spec aims to let designers define style for a Web site with a single style sheet. A style sheet is a separate but related document that holds all the stylistic information about a Web page or Web site. By storing the style information separately, a Web designer can change an element once and implement it across multiple pages that share the element.

Style sheets are a key component of making Web design more dynamic and are part of the W3C's work on the Document Object Model. (See related story)

The organization also is working on several related technologies, many of which are sources of debate as large software companies--Microsoft and Netscape, in particular--battle to have their innovations adopted as standards. The companies outfit their browsers with non-standard features--for example, Microsoft's Channel Definition Format (CDF) or Netscape's "layer" HTML tag--with the hope that users and designers will adopt the new features, even though they aren't official standards.

CSS2 is meant to work with the work-in-progress 4.0 version of HTML as well as the nascent XML, or extensible markup language.

Enhancements in CSS2 include the following: printing from the Web, downloadable fonts, aural cascading style sheets for visually impaired users, and greater control over the position of elements on the page.

The CSS2 working group includes Adobe, Microsoft, Netscape, Electricité de France, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Novell, and SoftQuad.

The CSS2 spec will now undergo public and member review, after which the W3C expects to endorse it as a standard, the organization stated today.