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3.3 Character Formatting

The simple formatting applied by a paragraph format is not much to write home about, much less to advertise on a résumé. Heading 1, for instance, is generally displayed in black and bold using a large Times New Roman font. As mentioned in the box in Section 3.1.1, this type of paragraph formatting is intended to provide structure, not good looks.

To make your Web pages stand out, you'll want to apply different fonts, colors, sizes, and styles to your text. Unlike paragraph formatting, which applies to an entire HTML paragraph, you can apply character formatting to any selection of text, whether it's a single word, one sentence, an entire paragraph, or your whole Web page.

In general, you apply character formatting just as you would in a word processor: Select the text (using any of the methods described in Section 2.3) and then apply a format using the Property inspector or Text menu.

In this regard, Dreamweaver MX 2004 functions just like earlier versions. However, behind the scenes, there's been a significant change. While previous versions used the <font> tag to change the color, size, and type face of text, MX 2004 relies on Cascading Style Sheets to format text (see Section 3.3.5 for an explanation). Professional Web designers 梬ho not only want to keep up with technical trends but also must build functional Web sites that please the vast audience of Web surfers梙ave already embraced the more sophisticated typographic controls offered by Cascading Style Sheets.


Cascading Style Sheets aren't just for text, either. You can format any HTML element梚mages, tables, and so on梬ith the power of CSS. Read all about it in Chapter 6.

Using the instructions in the rest of this chapter, you'll learn how to apply basic CSSbased formatting to text using the Property inspector and Text menu. (A wider array of additional CSS formatting options is discussed in detail in Chapter 6.)


If you don't want to use CSS (perhaps you've built an entire site using the <font> tag and you wish to remain consistent), you can revert to Dreamweaver's old method of formatting text. Press Ctrl+U (figs/command.jpg-U) to open the Preferences window. Select the General category, turn off the "Use CSS instead of HTML tags" checkbox, then click OK to close Preferences.

But if you're building a new site, you're better off sticking with CSS, a standard that will last a lot longer than out-of-date HTML tags.

3.3.1 Text Styles

To add emphasis to your words, you can choose from several text styles. You can apply the two most common emphasis effects, bold and italics, from the Property inspector. For less frequently used styles choose from the TextStyle submenu (see Figure 3-8).

Top: While the Property inspector lets you apply bold and italic styles to text, the TextStyle menu offers a larger selection of text styles. Don't be confused by the term "styles," which, in this case, merely refers to different HTML tags. They're unrelated to Cascading Style Sheet styles, and are intended to identify very specific types of text, like citations from a book or magazine.

Bottom: As you can see, the many style options are usually displayed in bold, italics, the browser's monospaced font (usually Courier), or some combination of the three.

To add bold or italic formatting to text, select the word or words you'd like to make bold or italic, then click the Bold or Italic button on the Property inspector.

Use italics with care. While italics are frequently used in printed material to add emphasis or when referencing a book title, they can be difficult to read on a computer screen, especially at small type sizes.

As shown in Figure 3-8, HTML offers a host of different text styles, some of which fulfill obscure purposes. For instance, the Code and Variable styles are intended for formatting the display of programming code, while the Sample style represents the output from a computer program梟ot exactly styles you'll need often in promoting, say, your Cheeses of the World mail-order company.

Unless you intend to include content whose meaning is supported by the tag (for example, you include some sample computer code on a page so you format it with the "code" style), you're better off avoiding such styles. But if you think one of them might come in handy, you can find more about these styles from Dreamweaver's built-in HTML reference; see Chapter 10 for details.

In particular, avoid the underline and strikethrough styles: Both have been deprecated in the HTML 4 standard and may produce no effect in future browser versions. (You can, however, turn to Cascading Styles Sheets text formatting abilities to put lines through and under any text you'd like. See Section 6.7.1 for more.)

3.3.2 Fonts

Formatting fonts for the Web is very much like using fonts in a word processor. Sadly, it carries some of the same drawbacks. For example, if you create some beautiful document in Microsoft Word, using fancy fonts you just bought from a small font company in Iowa, you're in for a rude surprise when you email the document to your boss. He won't see anything resembling what the memo looked like on your screen. Because he doesn't own the same fonts, he'll see some default font on his computer桾imes, perhaps. Fonts show up in a distributed document only if each recipient happens to have the same fonts installed.

When Bold and Italic Are Neither

You may be confused by the HTML code that Dreamweaver produces when making text bold or italic. Instead of using the <b> tag梩he traditional HTML code for bold桪reamweaver uses the <strong> tag. And instead of <i> for italics, clicking the I button on the Property inspector gets you <em>, or the emphasis tag. That's because in MX 2004, Macromedia has decided to follow industry practices rather than stick to an old tradition.

For most purposes, <strong> and <em> behave identically to <b> and <i>. They look the same梑olded or italicized梚n most browsers. However, when encountered by screen readers (software or equipment that reads Web pages aloud for the benefit of the visually impaired), the <strong> tag triggers a loud, strong voice. The <em> tag also brings an emphasis to the voice of screen readers, though with less strength than the <strong> tag.

Since most Web browsers simply treat the <strong> tag like the <b> tag, and the <em> tag like the <i> tag, you'll probably never notice the difference. However, if you prefer the simple <b> and <i> tags, choose EditPreferences. Select the General category and turn off the box labeled "Use <strong> and <em> in place of <b> and <i>."

On the Web, you're in the same predicament. You're free, as a Web designer, to specify any font you want in a Web page, but it won't show up on a viewer's computer unless she's installed the same font on her system. Otherwise, your visitor's Web browser will show your text in a default font, which is usually some version of Times or Courier.

There are several solutions to this dilemma. One is to use Flash Text, described in Section 5.7, or to convert your text into graphic images. Another is to specify the font you'd like to use; if your viewer's computer has the specified font installed, that's what she'll see. You can specify secondary or tertiary font choices if the preferred font isn't available. In fact, Dreamweaver offers prepackaged lists of such "first choice, second choice, third choice" fonts, as you'll find out in the following section. Applying font formatting

Dreamweaver's approach to font formatting is straightforward:

  1. Select the text whose font you want to change.

    As in a word processor, you can also click somewhere and then choose a font for text that you're about to type. (If you're pasting text from another application, paste first, then select it and apply a font.)

  2. Select the font from the Property inspector or from the Text menu.

    Choose a font from the Font pop-up menu in the Property inspector, or choose TextFont and select a font from the submenu.

    You'll soon discover that Dreamweaver's font menus aren't quite what you're used to. When you apply a font to text, you have to choose a little list of fonts like "Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif." You can't just choose a single font, such as Helvetica.

    That's because, as noted in Section 3.3.2, in order for your viewer's computer to display a font correctly on a Web page, it must have the same font installed. If the font's not there, the browser simply replaces the font specified in the Web page with the browser's default font.

    Knowing Your Font Types

    You can find literally tens of thousands of different fonts to express your every thought: from bookish, staid, and classical type faces to rounded, cartoonish squiggles.

    Most fonts can be divided into two categories: serif and sans-serif. Serif fonts are best for long passages of text, as it's widely believed that serifs梥mall decorative strokes ("hands" and "feet") at the end of a letter's main strokes梘ently lead the eye from letter to letter, making text easier to read. Examples of serif fonts are Times, Times New Roman, Georgia, and Minion, the font in the main body paragraphs of this book.

    Sans-serif fonts, on the other hand, and are often used for headlines, thanks to their clean and simple appearance. Examples of sans-serif fonts include Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, and Formata, which you're reading now.

    In order to gain some control over this process, you can specify a list of fonts that look similar to your first-choice font (Arial, for example). Your visitor's Web browser checks if the first font in the list is installed on the computer. If it is, that's what your visitor sees when viewing your Web page.

    But if the first font isn't installed, the browser looks down the list until it finds a font that is. Different operating systems use different fonts, so these lists include one font that's common on Windows and another, similar-looking font that's common on the Mac. Arial, for instance, is found on all Windows machines, while Helvetica is a similar font for Macs.

That's it. You're just applied one of Dreamweaver's preinstalled fonts. If you'd like a greater degree of control of what fonts your page displays, read on. Creating custom font lists

Dreamweaver comes with six preset "first choice, second choice, third choice..." font lists, which incorporate fonts that are standard on both Windows and Mac. But you can easily stray from the pack and create your own font lists for use in your Web pages. If you proceed with the custom approach, make sure you know what fonts your visitors have梕asily done if you're designing a corporate intranet and know what computers are used in your company梐nd always specify one font that you know is installed. In this way, your page may not look exactly as you intended, but it'll at least be readable.

Here's how you create a new "first choice, second choice, third choice..." font list.

Font Convergence

While Mac and Windows used to come with very different sets of preinstalled fonts, there's been some convergence in the past few years. These days, you can count on the average Mac or PC having the following fonts:

Arial, Arial Black, Arial Narrow, Comic Sans MS, Courier, Courier New, Georgia, Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS, Verdana, Webdings.

If your audience includes Unix or Linux users, all bets are off. In that case, stick to these three fonts: Helvetica (make sure to also specify Arial for Windows users), Times (Times New Roman for Windows), and Courier (Courier New for Windows).

You can find a list of fonts included with various versions of Mac and Windows operating systems at the following Web sites:

Mac OS X: This doesn't cover Panther (10.3) which includes slightly different fonts.

Windows XP: .

Windows 2000: .


Technically, you can specify any number of fallback fonts in one of these lists, not just first, second, and third choices. Your list can specify only a single font, or a long list arranged in order of preference.

  1. Open the Edit Font List dialog box.

    Choose Edit Font List from the Property inspector's Font menu, or choose Text FontEdit Font List. Either way, the Edit Font List dialog box appears (Figure 3-9).

  2. Select a first-choice font from the list of Available Fonts, or type in the font name.

    All fonts on your computer are listed in the Available Fonts menu. Simply click to select the font you wish to add.

    Alternatively, you can type a font's name into the box that appears directly below the list of available fonts梐 handy trick if you want to include a font that isn't installed on your computer (a Windows font when you're working on a Mac, for example).

  3. Add the font you've just specified to your new, custom font list by clicking the << button (or just double-clicking the font name).

    Your first-choice font appears in the Chosen Font list.

  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for each font you wish to include in your custom list.

    The order in which you add the fonts is the order they appear in the list. These become the "first choice, second choice, third choice" fonts.

    Unfortunately, there's no way to change the order of the fonts once you've added them. So if you accidentally put the fonts in the wrong order, you must delete the list by clicking the 梑utton (at the upper-left corner of the dialog box) and start over.

  5. Add a generic font family.

    This last step isn't strictly necessary, but it's a good idea. If your Web page visitor is some kind of anti-font radical whose PC doesn't have any of the fonts you've chosen, her browser will substitute the generic font family you specify here. On most systems, for instance, the monospaced font is Courier, the serif font is Times, and the sans-serif font is Arial or Helvetica.

    Generic fonts are listed at the bottom of the list of Available Fonts and include Cursive, Fantasy, Monospace, Sans-Serif, and Serif. Select a generic font that's similar in appearance to the fonts in your list. For instance, choose Sans-Serif if your list consists of sans-serif fonts like Helvetica or Arial; choose Serif if you specified fonts like Times or Georgia; or choose Monospace for a font like Courier.

  6. Click OK.

    Your new font package appears in the Property inspector's Font menu, ready to apply.

Not only can you create your own font lists, but you can also edit, remove, or reorder the current lists in this dialog box. When you click a list in the Font List, the "first choice, second choice, third choice" fonts appear in the lower-left corner. To remove a font from that list, click the font name and then click the >> button. To add a font to the list, select a font in the Available Fonts menu and click the << button. Finally, to reorder the font lists as they appear in the Property inspector or TextFont menu, click the arrow keys near the upper-right corner of the dialog box.

3.3.3 Font Size

Varying the sizes of fonts on a Web page is one way to direct a viewer's attention. Large type screams "Read Me!"梕xcellent for attention grabbing headlines梬hile small type fades into the background梡erfect for necessary but unexciting legal mumbo jumbo like copyright notices.

Unless you specifically define its size, text in a regular paragraph appears at the default size specified by your visitor's Web browser, such as 12 points. (A point is a typographic measurement equal to 1/72 of an inch.)

In theory, 12-point lettering is roughly 1/6 of an inch tall. In practice, however, the resolution of the monitor, the font itself, and the operating system drastically affect the size of type on the screen. To the eternal frustration of Web designers who are used to, say, Adobe InDesign or Quark XPress, text on a Web page viewed in Netscape Navigator for Windows, for instance, appears substantially larger than when viewed in Navigator on a Mac. Add to this the fact that people can change their browsers' default text size to any size they like, and you'll quickly understand that Web design requires a Zen-like acceptance of factors beyond your control.


You may notice two options under the Text menu桽ize and Size Change. These submenus are used to apply the old-style <font> tag Size property, which was limited to only seven sizes (1-7). Unless you purposely turn off the CSS option (see the note in Section 3.3.1), these submenus are grayed out, making these properties inaccessible.

Dreamweaver MX 2004 has replaced the old <font> tag method of sizing text with CSS, which offers a much wider range of sizes. To specify a text size, first select the text, then use the Property inspector's Size menu to select a font size (see Figure 3-10). The choices available from the Size menu break down into four groups:

  • The None option removes any size information that you may have applied to the text. The text returns to its default size.

  • The numeric choices?span class="docEmphBold">9 through 36梚ndicate how tall you wish to make the text, in pixels. Nine-pixel-tall text is nearly unreadable, while 36 pixels makes a bold statement. One benefit of pixel sizes is that text will appear nearly the same across different browsers and different operating systems, overcoming the problems mentioned above.

  • The options xx-small through xx-large indicate fixed sizes, and replace the sizes 1? used with the old HTML <font> tag. The medium size is usually the same as the default size.

  • The last two choices?span class="docEmphBold">smaller and larger梐re relative sizes, meaning that they shrink or enlarge the selected text based on the default size. This comes in handy when you've defined a base font size for the entire page using the Page Properties window (see Figure 1-11 in Section 1.3.3).

    Suppose the default size of text on a page is 12 pixels. If you apply a "larger" size to a selection of text, it will get bigger (the exact amount varies by Web browser.) If, later, you change the base size to 14 pixels (in Page Properties), all of that "larger" text will also increase proportionally.

To change the size of text, simply select it again and choose a new size from the Property inspector (Figure 3-10). If you applied a number (that is, a pixel value), you have an additional option: If you don't like any of the sizes listed, you can type any number you wish. In fact, unlike HTML, CSS can handle humongous text梙undreds of pixels tall, if that's what you're into.

You can set a dizzying array of font sizes using the Property inspector. Dreamweaver MX 2004 now generates CSS styles when formatting text using the Property inspector. In this case, the style is unimaginatively named style1.

You're not limited to pixels, either. The units pop-up menu (to the right of the Size menu, shown in Figure 3-10) lets you specify pixels, points, inches, centimeters, millimeters, picas, ems, percentages, or exs (an ex is the width of the letter X in the current font). Most of these measurement systems aren't intended for on-screen display. The most popular options are:

  • Pixels are great for ensuring that text looks the same size across different browsers and operating systems. The downside, however, is that Internet Explorer for Windows doesn't let its users adjust the pixel size on their end. So people who can't see well, or whose monitors are set to very high resolutions, are stuck with your choice of pixel size. Make it too small, and they won't be able to read your text.

  • Ems are a relative measurement, meaning that the actual point size varies.

    1 em is equal to the default font size. So suppose a Web browser's default font size is 14 pixels tall. In that case, 1 em would then mean 14 pixels tall, 2 ems would be twice that (28 pixels), and 1.5 ems would be 21 pixels.

    The advantage of ems is that they allow Web visitors to control the size of onscreen text. If it's too small, they can increase the base font size. (In Internet Explorer, you do this by choosing an option from the ViewText Size menu [ViewText Zoom on the Mac].) Any text measured in ems then changes according to the Web browser's new setting.

    You can use pixels and ems together. You could, for instance, set the base font size on your page to 16 pixels (see Figure 1-11 on Section 1.3.3) and then use ems for other parts of the page. For example, you could set headlines to 2 ems, making them 32 pixels tall. If you later thought the overall text size of the page was too small or too large, you could simply change the base font size for the page, and the headlines and all other text would resize proportionally.

    Many Web experts advocate the use of ems, because they allow visitors to decide how big text should appear, thus making the site more widely accessible. Many designers, on the other hand, don't like the fact that other people can radically change the design of a page by simply changing a browser setting.

  • Percentages (%) are another relative size measurement. When applied to text-size percentage values, they're functionally equivalent to ems. If you're more comfortable with the notion of percentages than the typography-inspired ems, use percentage values instead.

The other measurement options, like inches and millimeters, don't make as much sense as pixels, ems, and percentages, because there's no consistent way to measure them on monitors. For example, on Windows machines, one inch is usually equal to 96 pixels, while on a Mac that same inch contains only 72 pixels.

3.3.4 Font Color

Most color formatting you do in Dreamweaver, whether it's for text or for a table cell, makes use of Dreamweaver's color box. For more information on applying color in Dreamweaver and using the color box, see Section 1.3.3.

To set the color of text, first select it and then take your pick:

  • In the Property inspector, click the color well and select a color.

  • In the Property inspector, click the Font Color field and type in the hexadecimal number (see Section 1.3.3) of the color you want. (Clearly, this is the option for hard-core HTML geeks. After all, surely you've memorized the hex number of that light shade of blue you always use; #6699FF, isn't it?)

Remember, as part of the properties for a Web page, you can choose a default color for all text on the page梥ee Figure 1-10 in Section 1.3.3. This is a useful shortcut for when you want all or most of the text on a page to be a color other than black.

3.3.5 Character Formatting Behind the Scenes

Unlike previous versions of the program Dreamweaver MX 2004 creates Cascading Style Sheets for most of the character formatting choices you make in the Property inspector. For example, if you select a paragraph of text and then apply a color to it, Dreamweaver creates a CSS style and applies it to the paragraph. You'll learn a lot more about Cascading Style Sheets in Chapter 6, but until then, here are the basics.

A CSS style is a set of instructions telling a Web browser how to display things on a Web page. When you use the Property inspector to change the font, color, or size of text, Dreamweaver creates a new style and places the code for it in the <head> of the document. The new style's name now appears in the Property inspector's CSS Style menu (Figure 3-10) with an unimaginative name like style1, style2, style3, and so on. (To change the name, see Figure 3-12.)


If you already know a thing or two about CSS, you might want to note that Dreamweaver creates these styles using a class selector.

Depending on how you select the text, one of two other things happens:

  • If you select an entire paragraph, Dreamweaver adds an HTML attribute called class to the paragraph. This ties the new CSS style to the paragraph of text and informs the Web browser to apply the style to this particular paragraph

    For example, if you add a dark blue color to the first paragraph of text on a page, Dreamweaver creates a new style called, say, style1. The HTML looks like this: <p class="style1">. All text in the paragraph becomes dark blue, and this new style's name appears in the Property inspector.

    You can apply a style to any text. In this case, style4 is applied to both the middle paragraph (<p> tag) and the bottom headline (<h1> tag). When you apply a style to only part of a paragraph, the <span> tag is used. The tag selector (at bottom) can help you identify and select these (and other) tags.

    The same process takes place when you style other block-level elements, such as headlines.

  • If you select just a few words of a paragraph and then apply some character formatting, Dreamweaver behaves slightly differently. It still creates a new style (style2, say), which still appears in the Property inspector. But it also injects a HTML tag called a span. The <span> tag might look like this: <span class="style2"> [your text here] </span>. This tag wraps around the text you selected, so that the style only affects the text inside the span. (See Section 6.3.2 for more on spans.)

A good way to determine which method Dreamweaver used is to look at the tag selector (Figure 3-11). If you see something like "<p.style4>," then the paragraph as a whole is in style4. If you see "<span.style6>," then Dreamweaver applied the style to just a portion of the paragraph, headline, or block-level element.

3.3.6 Character Formatting Styles

Once you've formatted text just the way you want it, you needn't repeat the same steps for formatting other text on a page. Since Dreamweaver has already created a style containing your formatting choices, you can reuse it freely throughout your document via the Property inspector. Applying styles

To format an entire paragraph, either select the paragraph (or click inside it) and choose from the Property inspector's Style menu (Figure 3-12). To format just a few words, select the text and choose a style name from the Style menu; in this case, Dreamweaver formats just the selected text (wrapping it in a <span> tag as described above).

In this example, you can apply style1, a style that Dreamweaver created when you formatted the top headline, to the bottom headline. You can change the uninformative style names? style1, style2梪sing the Rename option in the Style menu.
figs/03_12.jpg Removing styles

Removing a style is just as easy. Using the tag selector, select the paragraph, headline, or range of text whose style you wish to remove, and then select None from the Property inspector's Style menu. This action removes the class property (or eliminates the <span> tag) used to apply the style. Note that the style itself梩hat is, the code placed in the <head> of the Web page梤emains. (To remove that code, see Section 6.4.2.)


To reuse styles you've created on other Web pages, consider exporting them as an external CSS style sheet. See Section 6.2.1 for details. Editing styles

Editing styles can be a bit trickier, and you may find yourself running into some of Dreamweaver's strange antics pretty quickly.

Suppose you've selected a paragraph and applied Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif as the font, colored it red, and changed its size to 36 pixels. Dreamweaver creates a new style梥ay style1. You decide you don't like the red color, so you immediately change it to a deep orange. Dreamweaver (as you'd expect) updates the style1 style with a deep orange color. So far, so good.

But now suppose that you apply this style to another headline on the page. Now there are two headlines with the identical style1 style. However, you've again decided the color is wrong (man, are you picky!). So you select the second headline and change the color to a lovely chartreuse.

Several strange things happen: First, the Property inspector's Style menu now reads None instead of style1, implying that no style is applied. Second, the first headline doesn't change color.

No Style and Two Styles at the Same Time

Sometimes, after I format text, the Property inspector's Style menu says None. But the text is obviously formatted with a different color, size, and typeface. What's that about?

Not only does the Style menu say None, but you'll also notice that the tag selector at the bottom of the window indicates that you've applied two styles to the text. For example, you might see something like <p.style1 style2>, indicating that two styles, style1 and style2, are applied to the paragraph.

This usually happens when you've applied one style to a paragraph and then changed some of the formatting settings 梖ont, color, and size梪sing the Property inspector. Dreamweaver is trying to apply both the settings of the first style and the new options you just selected (which are now a new style).

To make matters worse, not all Web browsers comprehend this use of CSS (applying two CSS styles to a single HTML tag). If you find yourself in this situation, it's often best to start over and recreate a fresh, new style, with all the properties you want. First, remove the styling from the text as described at the top of this page; then use the Property inspector to apply all of the style settings you want, creating a fresh, new style.

Instead of updating the original style, Dreamweaver created yet another style and applied it to the paragraph in addition to the first style (see the box). This may seem crazy, but it happened because Dreamweaver had no idea what you wanted. Did you intend to change the color of just that one headline for special emphasis? Or were you trying to change the color of the whole style?

In any case, Dreamweaver's behavior may seem erratic, and it's certainly not helping you edit the style. You have two choices if you want to update the style. First, make sure that no other text on the page uses the style. You can then change the color, typeface, and size using the Property inspector, causing Dreamweaver to update the style. Once you're done梤eally done梩hen you can use that style elsewhere on the page.

Of course, a better choice, if you wish to edit the style itself, is to use Dreamweaver's CSS tools and not the Property inspector, as discussed in Section 6.4.

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