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Title: Ajax In Action
Authors: Dave Crane, Eric Pascarello with Darren James
Level: Introductory Ajax
However, there's much more to it than simple page count or range of topics. The quality of the content is very high. The writing is clear, with good technical content matched by a conversational tone that hits just the right note. The book is a pleasure to read. Furthermore, the content does not stick to simple expositions of this technology or that, it's much more about how the Ajax combination of technologies leads to a sea-change in development without dropping core skills or processes.
The first part of the book introduces Ajax and explains what it is and why it exists at all. It discusses the limitations of the classic web application, talks about the problems of round-tripping between the browser and the back-end database and shows how asynchronous communication between browser and datastore can change things radically. The point that comes through very strongly is that Ajax can and should lead to a change in the user experience of web applications, and how this change opens to door to a new generation of complex web-based applications. This is followed by a quick introduction to Ajax technologies to show how it all fits together.
Part two of the book looks in more detail at core techniques, with special emphasis on how Ajax implements the Model-View-Controller design pattern. The server side of things isn't neglected, and this too is covered in some detail.
Part three is entitled 'Professional Ajax', and devotes three chapters to the end user experience, performance and security. As always there's attention to different ways of achieving things, available tools and libraries and best practices in terms of design patterns.
The final section of the book is 'Ajax by example', with five chapters that look at extended examples. These are providing a double combo, type ahead suggest (a la Google suggests), providing an enhanced Web portal, live search using XSLT and finally building a standalone application. In each of these examples there's a focus on producing refactored, maintainable code, discussions of the pros and cons of different approaches and lots of sample code. This section of the book is excellent in that it brings everything together in some real projects that show what it is that Ajax brings to the web development party.
In all this book provides an excellent introduction to Ajax. It does more than just give the reader of menu of technologies, it shows how the different strands fit together in a cohesive way that opens the door to web apps that are more responsive and provide richer functionality without sacrificing performance. If you want to understand what the Ajax fuss is about then this is an excellent starting point. Recommended.