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Webpage DOCTYPE Declarations Explained

DOCTYPE is a declaration that should appear as the first line in your webpage code. It defines the standard to which your webpage is coded, and provides information to the browser as to how the code should be rendered.

If you created your webpage with a WYSIWYG design tool, and that specific application was the only one you have ever used to edit the webpage, then you don't need to be concerned about the doctype declaration. The webpage design application will automatically provide the correct doctype declaration for its own coding standard.

But if you edited the code manually, or edited the webpage with several different applications, you need to understand doctype declarations and make sure your webpage's doctype matches it's coding standard.

There are two primary types of webpage documents, html and xml. If your webpage was initially designed several years ago, it was probably coded to the HTML 4.0 standard. If it was designed more than several years ago, it may contain code structures that have been deprecated - basically discontinued and possibly not accepted by future browsers.

Browser developers have been very tolerant of out-of-date html code and even the latest browsers will correctly display pages coded to the html 3 and html 2 standard - as long as you inform them with the proper DOCTYPE declaration.


<!DOCTYPE html>

The HTML 5 doctype was designed to make the DOCTYPE decalration less complicated and it specifies all the latest HTML and CSS for mobile devices (responsive design elements). It also drops more deprecated elements.

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd">

The HTML 4.01 transitional doctype supports all attributes of the HTML 4.0 standard and deprecated elements. Use it for webpages that may contain some deprecated html 3 elements. Webmasters like this doctype, and it's still widely used because it allows link targets.

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/strict.dtd">

The HTML 4.01 Strict doctype informs the browser that it doesn't need to support deprecated elements and attributes. Link targets are not allowed and CSS should be used to style all elements. Don't use this doctype with a <frameset>. With a <frameset> use the special doctype declaration shown below.

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Frameset//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/frameset.dtd">

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