PHPBuilder - PHP enabled stylesheets Page 10



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PHP enabled stylesheets - Page 10

by: Bertrand Potier
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November 24, 2002

Contextual Behaviors

I call contextual behavior the capacity of a style or class within the stylesheet to depend on an external information that is, in most case, the value of another configuration or visual parameter. The code sample in the "Code Generation" section was demonstrating that kind of behavior by using the default text font size visual parameter to calculate the font size of the Headings in order to obtain a certain consistency between the different font sizes.
This is not the use of contextual behaviors I prefer. Contextual behaviors are a lot more interesting when used to make the stylesheet react on non visual parameters. Again, there can be hundreds of examples and choosing one is quite difficult so I will list some:
  • Adapt borders of an HTML table depending on the page layout: That's the main use I make of contextual behaviors in eDContainer. In eDContainer, the page layout can be easily customised by the web designer via a configuration file and, for example, two horizontal tables of the page can be joined (with no margin or spacing) or a blank space left between them (like a line break). If both tables have a 1px border, having them joined will have the common border displayed as a 2px border. To correct that, I implemented a simple test in the stylesheet that remove one of the borders if this layout configuration parameter is set to 'joined'.
  • Adapt font size based on the length of a string: Let's imagine that the main title of your website or any other text is displayed from a PHP variable that you define in a configuration file or in your index file. This text is displayed in a specific area of your page and this area is limited in width. The longer this text is, the smaller the font size should be (still without certain boundaries) to be able to display it properly. PHP can easily be used in the stylesheet to determine the number of characters of this string and you can set the font size based on it.
  • Anything that you could think of ...

Conclusion

Bringing the power of PHP inside the already powerful CSS stylesheets can bring you a lot of new opportunities and as many problems.
The importance of a good design prior to development (or during a prototyping phase) is always essential and always more essential when dealing with technologies as rich as PHP and CSS, and this all the more true when they are combined.
That the reason why making a clear distinction between the structure, the visual and the content related aspects of your web sites or web applications is an absolute must if you want to achieve good results.
All your comments and suggestions are, of course, welcomed.

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