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Doctypes - An Introduction

Last updated on by Freeola Support

When writing the HTML for a website, there are various different markup standards that you may choose to use depending on the requirements of your pages. A Doctype (Document Type Declaration) is the way that you as the designer tell the web browser interpreting your page which of these standards you wish to follow. If a Doctype is not specified, the browser can often mis-interpret your website causing some elements to be mis-aligned and mis-sized.

All HTML documents must start with a <!DOCTYPE> declaration. The declaration is not an HTML tag. It is an "information" to the browser about what document type to expect.

The Doctype element is supported in all modern web browsers.

Some common Doctypes that you may wish to use are as follows:

<!DOCTYPE html> 

If you are creating your website using the current HTML5 web standards, only this short Doctype is required and allows you to use all of the newer features, limited only by what is supported by the viewer's browser.

HTML 4.01 Strict

This Doctype tells the browser to follow the HTML 4 standard without allowing for older deprecated element types. Framesets are also not allowed.

HTML 4.01 Transitional
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN" "">

Using transitional will allow for older HTML tags to be used and displayed correctly on the page. This may be useful when using pages that have not yet been updated to the newer standards. This Doctype however does not allow framesets.

HTML 4.01 Frameset
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Frameset//EN" "">

As the name suggests, this Doctype allows for framesets, as well as the older tags allowed by the Transitional Doctype.

Adding a Doctype

A Doctype is placed at the very top of your HTML text in your HTML file before the opening HTML tag. A short example of a HTML page using a Doctype may be as follows.

<div style="margin:auto;width:500px">
<h1>Doctype Sample</h1>
<p>This page uses a strict Doctype</p>

This tells web browsers to read the page as strict HTML 4.01. Without the Doctype declaration, some browsers may fail to interpret the page as expected and not adjust the margins correctly.

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