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Keywords: Java, programming, object oriented

Title: Beginning Java 2 (JDK 1.4 Edition)

Author: Ivor Horton

Publisher: Wrox Press

ISBN: 1861005695

Media: Book

Level: Introductory Java and programming

Verdict: A very good choice for the beginner

Don't be put off by the slightly scary face of old Uncle Ivor that stares out at you from the cover of this hefty volume. Kindly Uncle Ivor is here to help guide you into the wonderful world of Java programming. And, all kidding aside, Uncle Ivor does a fairly credible job of it.

The book makes no assumptions about previous programming experience, and so the book begins lite and then moves straight into Java. Over the course of 21 chapters, everything from program flow to I/O to Swing to XML is covered. There are numerous code snippets, (which can be downloaded from the Wrox site), many of which can be hacked and used in your own work.

Horton adopts the common strategy of building a sample application to illustrate the topics as he goes along. It's a useful strategy, as it allows him to build up functionality piece-meal and so have something solid to structure the learning. In this case the application is a simple drawing app called Sketcher, and it usefully illustrates both individual topics (Swing, exception handling, file I/O, printing etc), and also a way of showing how all these things fit together.

In contrast to Bruce Eckel's Thinking In Java, there is a decidedly less purist approach to this book. It's more hands-on, and likely to be easier to use for the programming virgin than Eckel's book. On the other hand if you are switching to Java from another language you may find the pace a little slow. Somehow I think that there is room for both books on the shelf, and at different times and for different problems one or other of them is likely to be useful.

For this latest edition, there is more emphasis on XML, and of course the new JDK 1.4 areas, such as file NIO, are also covered.

In conclusion, this is a great place to start if you are completely new to programming and Java. If, on the other hand you are switching to Java from something else then you might find some sections of the book way too light for you. What is clear for all readers though, is a real enthusiasm for Java and a strong emphasis on getting results quickly.

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