Using CSS Sprites to Reduce Load Time

I’ve found quite a few articles and tutorials explaining how CSS sprites are basically the be-all end-all of Web development, going on and on about the idea that all of the icons you use on your Web site should be stored in a single file, reducing the amount of time it takes to load them individually and reducing the number of times a browser has to request something from your Web server.

It’s a great idea, in theory, but it’s not always practical. CSS sprites are extremely useful when you are working with fixed-size (height or width) elements on your site. However, they can be extremely tricky to implement (and generally not worth the effort) when you’re dealing with items that have dynamic heights and widths.

When you are dealing with fixed widths or heights, though, CSS sprites can be fantastic, especially if you have a slower Web server or if a large number of your users have slower Internet connections.

A Fantastic Resource From Smashing Magazine

Earlier this week, Smashing Magazine put together a fantastic resource for PHP developers. The post is a list of “50 Extremely Useful PHP Tools.” The categories covered in the post are:

  • Debugging Tools
  • Testing and Optimization Tools
  • Documentation Tools
  • Security Tools
  • Image Manipulation and Graphs
  • PHP Code Beautifier
  • Version-Control Systems (though, according to the comments, the tools listed in this section arguably do not belong there)
  • Useful Extensions, Utilities and Classes
  • PHP Online Tools and Resources
  • In-Browser Tools (Firefox Add-Ons)
  • Frameworks for PHP
  • PHP IDEs and Editors
  • Sources and Resources

The descriptions of some of the tools in the article could have been a little better, as I don’t even understand what some of the tools are designed to do. However, there are quite a few interesting items in the list. I will definitely be trying some of them over the next few months to see how they work and what they might be able to do for me.