HTML5: The Missing Manual

Author: Matthew MacDonald
Publisher: O'Reilly, 2010
Pages: 448
ISBN: 978-1449302399
Aimed at: JavaScript programmers
Rating: 5
Pros: An easy, yet authoritative, read
Cons: Weak on CSS3
Reviewed by: Ian Elliot

 

HTML5 - there's no way to avoid it and no going back. Does this book help you embrace it?

 

HTML5 probably doesn't deserve all the fuss it is receiving - most of the glory should go to CSS and JavaScript. But there is still a need to find out about it and there is a lot misinformation to hamper your attempts. There is also the big problem of browser compatibility. This particular book aims to make it all much clearer and in the main it succeeds.

 

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Part One "Meet the New Languages" goes over the history of HTML through XHTML and the problems that eventually resulted in HTML5. It explains the design philosophy and then takes you for a brief walk through creating a very simple HTML5 page. This is small scale stuff that has little overall impact on what you do, but it is still nice to see it at this early stage.

From here we move on to the central innovation of HTML5 - semantic markup. Chapters 2 and 3 explains how to use these "meaningful" tags to mark up a page. This is fairly straightforward and goes over ARIA, RDFs, Microformats and Microdata.

Part Two is about creating modern web pages. What this means is using the new functional tags in HTML5. Chapter 4 is on forms including validation, default values and so on. Chapter 5 is on audio and video and covers the complexities of what is and what is not supported and how to get round these difficulties. Next we have two chapters on the star of HTML5 - the Canvas element. This covers not only basic Canvas use, but also more advanced general topics such as animation and hit testing. You need to have a good understanding of JavaScript to get much from these chapters.

Chapter 8 is a lightening look as CSS3. This is probably the weakest chapter in the book as it simply doesn't do CSS3 justice - but then the book is on HTML5. Another book by this author on CSS3 would be a good idea, but my guess is that it wouldn't sell as well as something with HTML5 in the title.

Part Three has the mysterious title "Building Web Apps with Desktop Smarts". What this is all about, is the various APIs introduced along with HTML5 to extend the way that you can use JavaScript to write web apps that behave more like desktop apps. Chapter 9 is on data storage and it covers web storage. Chapter 10 is on offline applications. Chapter 11 is on messaging and web sockets. Chapter 12 wraps it all up with geolocation and web workers. All are much more advanced than the earlier chapters and you need to be able to program in JavaScript to get much from them.

The final section of the book consists of two appendices, an introduction to CSS and one to JavaScript. Neither are sufficient to get up to the standard that the book expects but they might act as refeshers.

Over all the style of the book is excellent. You feel as if you are reading a chat with a knowledgeable friend who isn't afraid to occasionally say something that is definitive and perhaps even controversial. A constant topic throughout the book is the matter of how and when to adopt HTML5 features and occasionally the author says, "Don't do it - yet".

This isn't a very deep book, simply because the technology it deals with isn't that complicated, but it doesn't fall into the trap of making it seem more complicated just to justify the existence of a book!

If I had to pick a single HTML5 book to read, this would be it. It is an easy read and it gives you a clear idea of what is and is not in the current HTML5 specification. Recommended.


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Programming Android (2e)

Author: Zigurd Mednieks, Laird Dornin, G. Blake Meike & Masumi Nakamura
Publisher:O'Reilly
Pages: 566
ISBN: 978-1449316648
Aimed at: Proficient programmers who want to get up to speed on Android 
Rating: 4.5
Reviewer: Harry Fairhead

Programming Android has been updated to cover Android 4 for its [ ... ]



Beginning R: An Introduction to Statistical Programming

Author: Larry Pace
Publisher: Apress
Pages: 336
ISBN: 978-1430245544
Audience: Not suitable for programmers
Rating: 2
Reviewer: MIke James

An introduction to statistical programming sounds like a really good idea. You know your stats, so now let's program...


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