Five Simple Questions with Rachel Andrewposted 05 February 2013 by Jo Brewer
With the successful launch of our first two Pocket Guide ebook titles behind us, we took advantage of a brief window of calm to ask CSS3 Layout Modules author Rachel Andrew about her background, her work processes and the inspiration behind her writing.
Tell us about yourself.
I'm a front and backend web developer based in the UK. I am managing director of a web consultancy called edgeofmyseat.com, we've been in business since 2001. These days most of our time is spent developing and supporting our product Perch - the Really Little CMS. I also write a lot and speak at conferences.
If I'm not working I am usually doing something fitness related. I'm a keen runner and really enjoy the time away from my desk I get through that.
What should we expect from CSS3 Layout Modules?
In this book I look at five of the newer CSS3 modules that give new ways to lay out web pages - multi-column layout, Flexbox, Grid Layout, Regions and Exclusions.
This book is a bit of a departure for me as I usually write highly practical stuff, often for beginners. I try and give code examples that will work robustly in all modern browsers and the likely older ones, when I am writing for that audience. The modules that I cover in this book however, have much patchier support. In each chapter, before diving in, I have had to outline which browser the reader needs to fire up to play with the examples. That said, in many ways this book is written in the same way as my other work. It is full of real examples that I encourage the reader to use as a starting point. Some of this stuff may not be practical in production today, but it is always helpful to understand what might be useful in the future.
What inspired you to write this book?
I enjoy writing about the things that interest me. We've waited a long time for better ways to do page layout on the web. Now there are some really interesting proposals out there and I'd like everyone to be looking at them.
I think the Pocket Guide format works very well when writing about emerging technologies like this. No-one wants to wade through an entire book on something that can't yet be used in production and may yet change. However a short read, just demonstrating what these things do and how they might be used, enables people to feel they are up to date. It gives a base of knowledge to build on later.
What tools and processes do you use?
I spend much of my coding time writing PHP. My IDE of choice for that is Zend Studio. I use that for front-end development as well. I tend not to follow the crowd in terms of trying out the latest editor of choice, if something is working for me I use it. That said I have recently shattered my elbow, requiring a lot of surgery, so I'm currently testing all kinds of new things to see what will make it easier to work one-handed. The reason I tend not to optimise my environment is that I am normally a very fast and accurate typist. Having that taken away from me, although hopefully temporarily, has forced me to think more about how the tools I have can help me be more productive.
Outside of my IDE I am a huge fan of OmniFocus. I use the GTD methodology to stay on top of the many ongoing projects I am involved with and I find OmniFocus the best app for supporting that. Another tool that I would struggle to run an international, multi-currency business without is Xero.
What's next for you this year?
I already have a few speaking engagements lined up, and I am writing a new talk based on some of the things I cover in this book so I hope to be taking that to some conferences this year. Other than that I'll be working on Perch, we've got some really interesting things planned over the next few months for the product.