Author: David Sawyer McFarland
Format: Paperback, 543 pages
Publisher: Pogue Press ( July 15, 2008 )
Review by James Pyles
September 21, 2008
This review has been a long time coming...mainly because I've been having such a good time with this book. That said, the title is a bit misleading. It's not really "The book that should have been in the box"
Ever hear of jQuery? Programming newbies don't usually learn about libraries straight off the bat. It's typically more important to become well versed in the basics of a language before delving into any advanced materials. In this case, the "basics" are covered in the first 6 or so chapters and then jQuery is introduced as the "secret" ingredient in how to add lots of dynamic style and functionality to a website. Oh, for those of you who haven't heard of jQuery, Wikipedia
are excellent resources to help you fill in the gaps.
Right now, I work with a group of software gurus as the company's technical writer, documenting their work on a web application designed to add security for businesses involved in eCommerce (which is just about everyone). As I was reading through McFarland's book, I started to notice that the tutorials he presented looked familiar. I checked a number of the dynamic effects on my employer's test web app and sure enough, they were almost the same. A quick peek under the hood and I saw that the gurus were using jQuery libraries to accomplish some of the same tasks that McFarland includes in his book. Talk about practical.
The book isn't perfect. While the tutorials in print seemed to be presented correctly for the most part, some of the files I downloaded from the author's site didn't quite work as advertised. The downloadable code samples are divided into those webpage examples you work on with the book and their counterparts which are complete. That way, if you have introduced a problem in your work, you can compare it against an identical page that works as advertised, to see where you might have gone wrong. I did encounter one of these "completed" pages that had an error and didn't work right (though it was a good lesson for me since I debugged and fixed it).
Another thing I liked about the tutorials is that it required the reader to actually keyboard in the relevant bits of code into the example pages. This is the only way to learn to code (by doing it) and copying and pasting doesn't teach a thing by comparison. There is no substitute when learning a programming language (or most other things) to a tutorial-driven textbook.