Review: Beginning JavaScript

Looking for a last minute Christmas gift? Beginning JavaScript with DOM Scripting and Ajax by Christian Heilmann may just be it.

I got this book awhile back but it has taken me awhile to get through it. I realized that JavaScript is just more involved to absorb than a CSS book. On the flip side, writing a book on JavaScript can be a complicated matter in its own right (as I've been discovering). The problem is, what to teach first? So many of the concepts are inter-related. Often times in reading Beginning JavaScript, Christian would say, "but I'll go into more detail on this later." I wonder if there's a better way? Anyways, I'm digressing here. Back to the book at hand!

The first third of the book is really focused on teaching JavaScript, DOM Scripting, event handling and building up some utility functions. The utility functions are probably my favourite because Christian hasn't just created functions willy-nilly. He's encapsulated them very nicely in its own DOMhelp object. He's demonstrating much of the current approaches to JavaScript development.

In the middle of the book, Christian spends a couple chapters covering some common tasks, such as working with images, windows, navigation and forms. This is pretty standard stuff and its good to see it covered.

Next up was the Ajax chapter, which covered much of the basics and included some nice examples such as populating select fields.

After that, Mr. Heilmann goes into Data Validation Techniques. This was a very practical chapter and one that I was happy to see in the book. Data validation with JavaScript is one of the most common tasks and Christian covers the topic well, including regular expressions and even a little bit on using Ajax.

Rounding out the book, the last three chapters were an image gallery case study, using third-party JavaScript (covering YUI, jQuery and Google Maps), and finally debugging JavaScript (with which I would have liked to have seen more coverage on third-party tools such as Firebug).

All-in-all, this was a decent book but I felt that the last two thirds of the book should have been rearranged to establish more flow. As it stands, each chapter stands alone on a singular topic, instead of subsequent chapters building on top of the previous. Whether either approach matters will be entirely up to you.

In comparison to Jeremy Keith's DOM Scripting, the two cannot be compared. I originally anticipated Beginning JavaScript to feel more like a sequel but its not. DOM Scripting is well suited to those who've never touched JavaScript and need an introduction. Whereas, Beginning JavaScript is well suited to those who really want to get into JavaScript (and who are more likely to subsequently buy Pro JavaScript Techniques).

If you're thinking of jumping head first into a career in JavaScript or just want to get to know it a little better than you do now, then Beginning JavaScript may just be the book for you.

Published December 22, 2006
Categorized as Book Reviews
Short URL: http://snook.ca/s/735

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Paul R. Redmond said on December 22, 2006

I'm reading this book now. I have noticed some good reviews of this book, yet, some unfair reviews (at Amazon.com). These reviews are largely due to some bugs in the scripts here and there, however, I have quickly learned that this is the nature of JavaScript. Debugging is a huge part of JavaScript. This book implicitly shares this theme.

I read Jeremy Kieth's book first, and this was a good primer for Christian's book. I love the object approach that he teaches early on with the helper methods. One thing I think wasn't explained very well are the properties of objects. Particularly, when to use them or use a var.

Dennis Lembree said on January 03, 2007

I agree this is an excellent book. Learn more about the book and author in the Web Axe interview with author Christian Heilmann.

Aukcje said on February 16, 2007

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