Pete Freitag Pete Freitag

Interview with Christopher Schmitt author of the CSS Cookbook

Updated on November 17, 2023
By Pete Freitag

I recently had a chance to conduct an interview with Christopher Schmitt, author of the CSS Cookbook (ISBN 0596527411) from O'Reilly, among other books. Chris recently released a second edition of the CSS Cookbook which he updated for IE 7, and Firefox 1.5. The book gets my approval, I think there is something in there for everyone from beginners to seasoned css developers.

Let's get on to the interview:

PF: How did you get started with Web Development?

CS: I got started in late 92, early 93 working on my own web pages. I tried to make web pages that looked really good in Lynx, a text browser. At the same time, I was in college for graphic design. Thanks to my mentor in college, I started to merge my love of design with building for the web and I haven't looked back since then.

PF: Do you remember building your first tableless site? What was it?

CS: Yes. It was, a web design mailing list I moderate.

I was Senior Design Technologist for a web firm at the time. So I tackled all sorts of web design and development matters that could either give our company an edge over the competition or make production faster.

One of things I was tackling was pure-CSS layouts before anyone else had really thought about doing it. Building with CSS is so commonplace these days, that I believe most web developers coming into the field these days don't know what a really frustrating experience. The browser didn't implement CSS well, the concepts for CSS layouts were still raw and, well, it was a lot of frustration, but I believe it was all worth it!

PF:Which sites, blogs or mailing lists do you read to keep up with the latest on CSS?

CS: There are the usual suspects: IE Blog,, delicious links,, etc.

The best thing, though, is looking at good design and trying to implement it with CSS they best you can.

PF: What is your favorite underused CSS trick, property, psudo-class, etc?

CS: My favorite thing to do right now is to make use of PNGs with alpha transparency.

At, I have a background with a slight gradation fade. Then I use white PNG set to 10% opacity on the navigation bars menu so as to separate the navigation from the rest of the site. Since the image is tiled, the PNG image size is rather small.

The idea though is to keep from having to create separate rollover image slices. Instead, I re-use the PNG as a background image instead of managing multiple images.

PF: Do you have any CSS pet peeves?

CS: My main peeve is that I wish we would have CSS 3 specification finished by the W3C and fully implemented in the major browsers.

PF: You recently updated the CSS Cookbook to cover IE 7, now that IE 7 has been released how well do you think Microsoft did at making IE more standards compliant?

CS: The IE7 team did a fantastic job with browser. The problems web developers have faced with IE6 are pretty much all wiped out. We're going to be able to see a lot more advanced, dynamic web designs in the future. I'm really excited by it, actually.

For more about IE7 I wrote a Short Cut book called "Releasing CSS" that talks about CSS and moving from IE6 to IE7.

PF: How does IE 7 compare to Firefox for adhering to standards?

CS: I think IE7 does a fairly good job. It's somewhat unfair to compare Firefox to IE7. Firefox has a had a team of developers working on the browser for a long time with a more focused agenda.

IE7 is, by far, the best IE browser for standards support. Also, the IE team are working towards releasing at least two more major version updates after IE7. So, really, as a web designer and developer, I'm happy with that.

PF: What does a Christopher Schmitt do, when not writing books, or building web sites?

CS: Well, I do seem to do a lot of both, don't I? For fun, I do some rock climbing, yoga, traveling, and reading. I'd like to squeeze in time for learning how to swing dance and cook, but we will see what the new year brings.

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Interview with Christopher Schmitt author of the CSS Cookbook was first published on December 04, 2006.

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