What is HTML?

HTML, which stands for Hyper Text Markup Language, is the language used to create Web pages. Don’t let the angle brackets intimidate you. Here is a guide to getting started with HTML:

What is HTML?
HTML is a markup language, or a computer language, that uses tags to provide additional information so text can be formatted a certain way. For example, you use HTML to divide text into paragraphs and to designate headings.

“As Web [markup] languages go, it is arguably the easiest to learn for novices,” says Michael Mitchell, Chestnut Hill College’s website manager. “But it is those who are willing to master its compatibility with other languages that will truly get the most of out of it.”

Mitchell says he has been working with HTML for a decade and, thanks to revisions like Web 2.0 and HTML5, he is still mastering it.

While HTML is for structure and content, Cascading Styles Sheets (CSS) is for styling and layout. You don’t need to worry about that at this stage, but it is good to keep in mind that you don’t use HTML to change things like the font color. Leave the design aspect of your website until after you have mastered the basics of HTML.

How do I use it?
According to W3Schools.com, a Web development and educational site, all you need is a basic text editor to get started with HTML. This would be Notepad for PCs or TextEdit for Macs. If you decide to learn HTML through the tutorial, you don’t even need a Web server or site, other than the one you are using to get the information. As you become more familiar with HTML, you can make the jump to an editing program like Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft’s Expression Web.

The HTML tags are placed inside angle brackets (the “less than” or “greater than” symbols on your keyboard) so they look like this: <p>. They usually come in pairs called opening and closing tags, which are sometimes referred to as the start and end tags. These indicate that whatever comes between them, known as the element content, should follow the tag command. So, your first paragraph in your HTML document would look like this: <p>This is my first paragraph.</p>

Additional tips
Mitchell says for those just starting out with HTML, read as much as possible about the subject and take advantage of free online sources. He says new learners shouldn’t be afraid to experiment and learn by trial and error.

“You aren’t going to break the Internet should you write some code that doesn’t work correctly,” Mitchell says.