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Keywords: JavaScript, Ajax, CSS, HTML, Web Development

Title: Learning JavaScript

Author: Shelley Powers

Publisher: Addison Wesley

ISBN: 0596527462

Media: Book

Level: Introductory

Verdict: Not really pitched at the beginner, and let down by too many typos


There's no disputing that there has been a surge of interest in JavaScript, a good part of it thanks to the buzz around Ajax, Web 2.0 and the delights of increasingly responsive web applications. Developments such as Atlas in the .NET universe and the release of Java 6.0 with a scripting engine supporting JavaScript is only set to increase the level of interest. For those who've not paid much attention in the past now might be a good time to take another look, and 'Learning JavaScript' would appear a good place to start.

Written for the JavaScript the book assumes little in the way of prior knowledge other than some basic HTML and CSS. Prior programming knowledge isn't specifically asked for, but in practice the text reads much better if you have some understanding of programming and programming structure (variables, looping, conditional execution etc).

The book starts pretty much at the beginning, with a bit of browser history, some stuff on the roots of JavaScript and some very simple examples. From there on the materials gets steadily more detailed - there are couple of chapters on syntax, data types, loops and other programming basics, objects and functions, events, form validation, the Document Object Model (DOM), DHTML and on into the brave new world of Ajax and some of the new JavaScript libraries (such as and dojo). It's a fairly broad sweep of topics but you'd not expect less from a modern book on JavaScript.

In addition to the core material, the book is sprinkled with snippets of best practices, pointers to useful tools and libraries and end-of-chapter questions. However, it's the core text that is at issue, not the extras and it's in the core text that there are problems. There's no doubting that the author, Shelley Powers, knows her stuff - she writes knowledgably about real world problems, historical anomalies and the horrors of cross-browser coding. But at times her explanations are pitched at readers who've already had some experience of web development and/or programming experience with another language. This isn't necessarily a problem unless you really are picking this book with no experience other than putting together a web page using HTML and CSS.

Also a problem, (again particularly for the beginner), is that the text is sprinkled with a fair few errors, including errors in the code. Some are simple typos but some are just down-right wrong. For an inexperienced reader this makes learning that much harder… All readers would be advised to take a look at the publisher's web site for errors and corrections. It's also worth pointing out that the book couldn't have done with a few more graphics. Sure, it's important to see the XHTML code that the text refers to, but a few more visuals would have been helpful.

On the plus side the author sticks to standards-compliant XHTML, points out the best practices for producing cross-browser code and clearly knows her stuff. For the absolute beginner this book just isn't pitched at the right level.

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Contents © TechBookReport 2007. Published January 24 2007