Scriptin’ with JavaScript and Ajax: A Designer’s Guide Book Review

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Scriptin' with JavaScript and Ajax: A Designer's GuideBook Author: Charles Wyke-Smith

The first thing you will notice about Scriptin’ with JavaScript and Ajax is that it presents a condensed yet thorough overview of JavaScript from the beginner’s standpoint and moves quickly into more advanced topics. The author attempts to present lessons in coding as well as ideas of good application development; addressing ideas of Software-as-a-Service as well as pointing out tips for clean functional programming. His writing style is simple and straightforward, which is great for a book targeted at beginners and puts learning within their reach.

From a new developer’s standpoint the concepts of a modern, browser-based application can be daunting but in Charles Wyke-Smith’s hands, these ideas are easily learned. As you move through the chapters, there are constant pointers to help you understand his ideas as well as how to avoid common pitfalls. The book is accompanied by code which can be downloaded from the author’s website and run so you can follow along and practice. I find that this kind of resource is becoming more common in development books as authors strive to find better ways to convey coding concepts. However, an inevitable downside to the code examples for this text is the need for a server-side scripting language to demonstrate the Ajax techniques, which requires a Web server to work. The author uses PHP in his examples so this is easily accomplished, and probably already available, to the average developer but may be difficult to acquire for the new student. The author does not provide instructions for how to obtain a Web server, which could create confusion when they student downloads and tries to run the example code.

The last chapter is most likely the best part of Scriptin’ since it provides examples of two full Web applications that combine the concepts that have been taught throughout the book. This is an excellent overview for the student and also shows how these concepts can be used in a real-world setting. Although these applications appear to be small, they are excellent examples of JavaScript and Ajax techniques that are used in many major browser-based applications.

There are few downsides to Charles Wyke-Smith’s book but if you are looking for a more comprehensive guide, this isn’t it. Scriptin’ provides a short, condensed set of lessons in six chapters, with the seventh presenting the two sample applications. The length is the greatest draw back and some students may find that it does not cover everything desired. He does not cover advanced topics such as closures or prototypes and he does not go into great detail on every object in the JavaScript library. However, the author does not try to misrepresent this as more than what it is. His goal is to provide examples and assistance so that by the end of this book you should have a strong foundation in JavaScript as well as an understanding of the possibilities that JavaScript with Ajax can offer. The icing on the cake is that this is a book that not only teaches you how to code, but it teaches you design concepts and how to create compact code that is robust and runs reliably in most Web browsers.

Overall, I would give Scriptin’ with JavaScript and Ajax four and a half out of five stars. It is an excellent foundational book for a beginner to JavaScript that is simplistic and well-written for its target audience. The examples are easy to follow and are explained in detail to help the new student as well as providing excellent assistance in crafting well-written code. I dropped half a star for this text due to the lack of instruction for the Web server part of Ajax. I would have felt better as a student if the author would have at least addressed this need but the only place I could find a mention was in the Introduction section as a small note. I disliked the short length since I feel that a beginner would want to take their learning a little further. At best, the author should have provided a “next level” set of references to guide the new developer on their journey. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to get started with JavaScript development whether they are a new developer or have worked with other programming or scripting languages in the past. It is an excellent introduction to the language of JavaScript and the concepts of application design.

Publisher: Scriptin’ with JavaScript and Ajax: A Designer’s Guide
Amazon: Scriptin’ with JavaScript and Ajax: A Designer’s Guide

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