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Thursday, May 20, 2010

HTML Basics 3: Links

In my last blog, I have been looking more closely at the <head> tag which is one half of every valid HTML document. A couple of blogs ago, I already talked about some of the most basic HTML tags that make up the <body> of the page: <p> for Paragraph, and the different levels of headers, <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, <h4> and <h5>. Today I'll introduce the next most important tag you'll find in almost any web page: Hyperlinks.

Hyperlinks - or links, for short - are fundamental to the whole idea of the internet. The very name of the coding language we use, HTML - short for Hypertext Markup Language - includes the idea that there be links. "Hypertext" means an enhanced form of text, where virtually every word or piece of information can lead off in a different direction, by virtue of linking that word or short piece of text to another page with additional information. Remember that originally, the internet was intended for academic and research purposes - and Hypertext is the triumph of the footnote. If you've ever written an academic paper of any sort, you may know how tempting it is to drown your main argument in reams and reams of footnotes providing additional - but sometimes barely related - information. With a Hypertext document, you can have all the footnotes you want, at a mouse click, without burdening down the main argument of your text.

All you need to do is insert a link that leads off to another page. And obviously, without links, there would be no World Wide *Web*, but only a vast collection of individual and separate pages, with no way to navigate from one to the other.

The link tag has a slightly different format than most of the other tags we have encountered so far, which simply open and close - for instance <p> and </p> which are the tags that surround a paragraph of text. The link tag also consists of an opening and closing tag, but the opening tag contains some additional information - most importantly, the url of the page you are linking to!

Say, I would like to insert a link to my own home page, The correct url for this page actually read: - and if you are linking to a different domain on the net, you always need to include the http:// prefix (links from one page to another on the same website are a slightly different matter, but I will cover this some other time when I talk about navigation menus and directory structures).

The format of the link tag is <a href="">Link to Asni's home page</a>. The basic tag is <a></a> - this stands for "anchor" - these tags enclose the link text which is displayed on the site. Note that the text of the link does not have to be identical to the url of the page you are linking to! I could have written this link as <a href=""></a>, but still, the bit that tells me where the link is pointing to is the part after the 'href=' - the url of the page I am linking to, which is always enclosed in double quotes, and needs to include the http:// prefix.

By default, the new page opens in the same browser window or tab you have just been looking at. It is often a good idea to tell the browser to open a new window or tab intead - for instance if you are linking to an external page but would really like your visitors to come back to your page after they have looked at your link. This is achieved by inserting a target="_blank" into your anchor tag. The tag then reads as follows: <a href="" target="_blank">Link to Asni's home page</a>.

Asni: Multimedia Art & Design:: ::

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