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Introducing DHTML Behaviors
by Nadav Savio 18 Nov 1998

Nadav Savio runs Giant Ant Design, a human-centered interactive design shop. When he's not cursing non-standard browser implementations, you can find him drawing futuristic utopias or updating his interface-design weblog, antenna.

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Nadav Interviews Michael Wallent

One of dHTML's biggest challenges is that its implementation requires a uniquely balanced skill set: A good dHTMLer needs to be both code-savvy as well as design smart. So determined page authors can teach themselves way more than they want to know about coding, or coders can try to fake their way through design. But people who are actually talented in both disciplines are white-tiger rare. As a result, many have simply opted not to use dHTML on their pages.

DHTML-savvy editors like Dreamweaver offer one solution. They enable coders to create custom dHTML "behaviors," which Web page authors can use without necessarily knowing how the code works. Unfortunately, while some of these products are excellent, they can't fully separate the coding from the page design, since all the necessary JavaScript (or other scripting code) remains in the HTML source of the page. This introduces a lot of unnecessary complexity to the Web page author's task, and can easily lead to troubling inconsistencies in the code from page to page. Ideally, there'd be some way to both encapsulate the code away from the page and to abstract its complexity away from the Web page author.

Enter DHTML Behaviors. DHTML behaviors (not to be confused with Dreamweaver's behaviors) are a new feature in Internet Explorer 5.0. Essentially, they allow the encapsulation of behavior (scripting) information in files separate from a document's HTML (or XML) source. They also provide an HTML-based interface to make it easy for non-coders to implement the code. This means a site's star JavaScript-jockey can write all the code necessary to accomplish some given behavior (a popout navigation bar, for example), and can then provide a tag (<popnav>) to control it. Web page authors can then use the tag like they would any other HTML tag, and can even specify properties within the tag (<popnav position="left">, say), which the code will use to do its thing.

Nadav recently had the opportunity to get the lowdown on behaviors from someone who should know, Michael Wallent, Microsoft's Group Program Manager for Internet Explorer and all-around DHTML Dude.

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