Scriptin' with JavaScript and Ajax

Author: Charles Wyke-Smith 
Publisher: New Riders, 2009
ISBN: 978-0321572608
Pages: 312
Aimed at: Web designers wanting to use JavaScript
Rating: 5
Pros: Well organised, easy to read
Cons: Could go further
Reviewed by: Mike James

This is quite a successful introduction to Javascript and all of the many different technologies that you have to master to make use of it. You can mostly ignore the "Ajax" part of the title, which is just there to catch your attention.

Ajax is only covered towards the end of the book and if you are really interested in using it then you will need a lot more information. However this said even in this fairly advanced topic the author manages to convey something that is understandable.

The book isn't a reference guide to Javascript or Ajax and it isn't an introduction to Javascript as an isolated computer language. The approach tackles the more difficult topic of JavaScript in the browser doing useful things.

However, given its subtitle, A Designer's Guide, and the broad remit, you can't expect the book to get very far and given it's quite thin you might suspect that it doesn't get anywhere.This isn't the case and you need to be warned that while the ideas are clearly explained there are a lot of them in a very few pages. Of course if you are looking for something that gets to the practical point as quickly as possible this is an advantage.

It starts off with a simple introduction to JavaScript that by page 55 covers most of what you need to know about the core language. The style is clear and to the point but unless you have a rough idea of what programming is all about, or are prepared to put some work in, you are not going to follow. It doesn't spoon-feed the reader and there are few catchy gimmicks - just good quality honest explanations.

By Chapter Three you have started on object-oriented programming and the DOM. Then on to events and some of the problems of browser compatibility and in Chapter 5  we meet Ajax. From this point on we consider wider issues - frameworks - and then build two simple applications.

Overall this is a good approach - sometimes the initial examples might be a tiny bit too long but the author has made a choice between simplicity and letting the readers see something closer to reality than the very simplest example. The longer listings are annotated by side notes and this works reasonably well. You might argue that if the book that tackles these sorts of topics would be better adopting a framework from the start  - but which one? At least with this grounding the reader has a chance to pick one themselves.

To sum up - a good book, well written and as long as you're not a dummy and are willing to learn it's fun.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 07 November 2009 )