DHTML allows scripting languages to change variables in a web page's definition language, which in turn affects the look and function of otherwise "static" HTML page content, after the page has been fully loaded and during the viewing process. Thus the dynamic characteristic of DHTML is the way it functions while a page is viewed, not in its ability to generate a unique page with each page load.
By contrast, a dynamic web page is a broader concept — any web page generated differently for each user, load occurrence, or specific variable values. This includes pages created by client-side scripting, and ones created by server-side scripting (such as PHP or Perl) where the web server generates content before sending it to the client.
DHTML is often used to make rollover buttons or drop-down menus on a web page and interactive web pages.
A less common use is to create browser-based action games. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, a number of games were created using DHTML, such as Kingdom of Loathing, but differences between browsers made this difficult: many techniques had to be implemented in code to enable the games to work on multiple platforms. Recently browsers have been converging towards the web standards, which has made the design of DHTML games more viable. Those games can be played on all major browsers and they can also be ported to Widgets for Mac OS X and Gadgets for Windows Vista, which are based on DHTML code.
Some disadvantages of DHTML are that it is difficult to develop and debug due to varying degrees of support among web browsers of the technologies involved, and that the variety of screen sizes means the end look can only be fine-tuned on a limited number of browser and screen-size combinations. Development for relatively recent browsers, such as Internet Explorer 5.0+, Mozilla Firefox 2.0+, and Opera 7.0+, is aided by a shared Document Object Model. Basic DHTML support was introduced with Internet Explorer 4.0, although there was a basic dynamic system with Netscape Navigator 4.0.
Structure of a web page
Typically a web page using DHTML is set up the following way:
Displaying an additional block of text
The following code illustrates an often-used function. An additional part of a web page will only be displayed if the user requests it. In e-learning, such function could be used to display additional hints or an answer the student initially should not see.