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The W3C validator is a great tool. It allows developers to quickly and easily find and fix the inevitable problems that creep into any markup document.

As well as the quick’n'easy version, the advanced interface allows you to get a more verbose output. Until recently, one of the options was to view an outline of the document being validated. I found this feature very useful: I could see at a glance whether or not the order of my headings (H1, H2, etc.) made sense.

A little while back, the outline functionality disappeared. This wasn’t deliberate, but it turns out that it was due for deletion anyway. There’s actually a different dedicated service for examining the semantic structure of documents: the semantic data extractor. This tool will do outlining and more. Personally, I think it’s a bit of a shame that validation and outlining have been split into two different services, but both services are immensely useful in their own right.

For a quick and easy way to validate the current document in your browser, drag this bookmarklet to your bookmarks bar and click on it whenever you want to run a check:

Validate this

Here’s a bookmarklet to do semantic data extraction:

Extract semantic data

If you need to do batch validation, check out this desktop validator, which is available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux.

But don’t forget that the W3C validator is there for your benefit. If you think it can be improved in any way, be sure to give your feedback. Consider joining the mailing list, or simply hanging out in the IRC channel, #validator on the freenode network.

If you can contribute to the ongoing improvement of the validator, you’ll be in good company. Sir Tim Berners-Lee recently said:

The validator I think is a really valuable tool both for users and in helping standards deployment. I’d like it to check (even) more stuff, be (even) more helpful, and prioritize carefully its errors, warning and mild chidings. I’d like it to link to an explanations of why things should be a certain way.

The W3C validator is already a great tool. With the help of developers like you, it can become even greater.

Your Replies

#1 On October 31st, 2006 11:01 am Phill Kenoyer replied:

Don’t forget that Safari and Firefox both have HTML Validators that use Tidy to validate web content. You can have your validator built right into your browser. And combine that with FireBug on FireFox, your set for the ultimate debugging system.

#2 On October 31st, 2006 2:00 pm Patrick replied:

There’s also Marc Gueury’s validator extension for Firefox that’s based on Tidy and OpenSP:

#3 On October 31st, 2006 6:39 pm Mike Cherim replied:

I use the local HTML validation link on the web developer toolbar for Firefox, which has the advantage of showing the line-numbered markup and will also check password-protected pages. But that said, Nice bookmarklets you’re offering, Jeremy. Very cool. I grabbed them even though I don’t really need them… one can never be too valid ya know :-)

#4 On October 31st, 2006 9:00 pm Emirates Mac replied:

Also check out the Web Developer add-on for Firefox (

#5 On November 1st, 2006 9:47 am Robert Wellock replied:

I am happy again, that they re-introduced validation for customised DTD.

#6 On November 1st, 2006 7:31 pm Max Design - standards based web design, development and training » Some links for light reading (2/11/06) replied:

[...] Feeling validated [...]

#7 On November 1st, 2006 10:13 pm Web Standards Group: Here’s a Bit of Light Reading : Jason Ruyle replied:

[...] Feeling validated [...]

#8 On November 2nd, 2006 7:55 am Steve Tucker replied:

I also use the FF web developer toolbar. Quick keyboard shortcut is all it takes…

Another good tool for batch validation is the validator provided by HTMLhelp;

#9 On November 2nd, 2006 9:35 am Pixel Surfers » Blog Archive » Light Reading From WSG replied:

[...] Feeling validated [...]

#10 On November 2nd, 2006 9:57 pm Britney Simpsons Blog » Feeling validated replied:

[...] Feeling validated [...]

#11 On November 3rd, 2006 4:10 am olivier replied:

Excellent post, thank you. The fact that the validator can be improved by anyone motivated (and indeed, that has been one of its major driving energies for the past years) is particularly dear to us, indeed.

One tiny note: is the URI of the XSLT used for the extraction of semantic information (including outline). It is decently presented via CSS to most browsers, but for browsers without XML styling capabilities, it looks a little bare. is a plain HTML frontend to the same tool, it may be interesting to link to that instead.

#12 On November 10th, 2006 9:24 am Filter for 31/10 2007 - Felt replied:

[...] The Web Standards Project: Feeling validated The document outline feature has been removed from the W3C Validator, but Jeremy Keith has some tips on where to find a similar tool. [...]

#13 On November 14th, 2006 7:29 pm olivier replied:

Notable update: the latest version of the validator, released today, gets the outline feature back.

Also, the feature is not scheduled for deletion any more, as I have found a decent way to make it work again with the new architecture of the development version of the tool.

#14 On December 1st, 2006 5:17 am Alice Pretchet » Feeling validated replied:

[...] Feeling validated [...]

#15 On December 19th, 2006 5:35 am Stephen Kelly replied:

Also extremely useful for firefox is the firebug plug-in. A more serious tool than the web developer bar, and the most useful debugging tool I’ve used.

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