Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Review: Sitepoint's Simply JavaScript by Kevin Yank & Cameron Adams

My life has finally slowed down over the last few weeks which has allowed me to start to tackle my huge list of books to read.  The first book I decided to read was SitePoint's Simply JavaScript written by Kevin Yank and Cameron Adams.  This was also the first book I read on my new Nook Color (I previously had a e-paper Nook) and I have to say that I waas very impressed with the quality of SitePoint's ePub format.  The code was fairly easy to read in within the constraints of the ePub format and the illustrations generally looked really good.   The splashes of color were also a nice touch when reading, its amazing much a subtle detail like a blue line can make your reading experience a little more enjoyable.  

So why did I choose this book to read first from the list of about 15 books I want to read?  I've been a software developer for over 10 years but I never really learned the basics of JavaScript.  I've spent a good part of  my career behind a firewall where I only had to target my company's standard browser so I was always able to hack away a solution that worked.  Once I moved on to a company that had more public facing sites I picked up jQuery and pretty much learned how to write jQuery code and not worry too much about the JavaScript behind what I was writing.  This always somewhat bothered me and when Site Point (http://www.sitepoint.com) offered this book as one of their 25 days of Christmas deals this year I jumped on it.

I immediately felt comfortable with the way the authors spoke to me in this book.  Some technical books are so dry they could suck the mositure out of the desert air, however this book has a plesent delivery that made reading it that much more easy.  Another caviat I have about a lot of technical books is that they typically spend too much time delving into a topic and bore me into glazing over the pages and not really absorbing what the author is trying to convey.  Kevin and Cameron do a great job of pacing the concepts they cover in this book.

The first chapter is all about one of the fundamential building blocks of JavaScript in the browser: the DOM.  They start by explaining the concepts of the DOM and some of its idiosyncrasies. A good example of this is their explanation of how whitespace can actually create new text nodes in the DOM structure. The next chapter dives into the event model, and goes quite in-depth about all of the cross browser issues that developers used to complain about before frameworks became popular and took care of most of these issues automatically.  After events are covered the authors then delve into the world of animation, another thing that the popular libraries do a great job of abstracting out for modern JavaScript developers.  This book did a very good job of explaining a lot of the details qne techniques behind animation, again providing some very good examples along the way.  After animation is covered the authors build upon the lessons learned in previous chapters and introduce the conepts of form enhancement using JavaScript.   In this chapter the authors will walk the reader through creating some common form enhancements, which after you'll begin to really appreciate how much work goes into plugin development for your favorite JS library.  Next the authors walk you through the black art of debugging JavaScript code and finish up with a brief introduction to Ajax.

What I really liked about this book is that the sample code in this book is easy to follow and really helps strengthen the concepts that are discussed throughout. The code builds upon the concpepts that are introduced throughout the book and by the end you feel very comfortable using the techniques described througout.   Kevin and Cameron also do a great job of breaking down the code after it is presented and give an in-depth description important steps throughout the code.  Other important JavaScript concepts are sprinkled throughout text as well, for example closures and object literal syntax are both covered  in this book.  In addition basics like variable scoping, array creation, looping concepts and conditional statments are also introduced and explained in this book.  One of the biggest compliments I can give this book is that after reading it I actually understood the concept of closures, something I had been trying to grasp for sometime.

Since this book is aimed at a beginner to JavaScript I feel like it could have done a better job of explaining some of the built in functions of the JavaScript language and perhaps touched some more on a few of the shorthand methods that one will see in many scripts such as ternary operators.  

I'd definately reccomend this book to anyone that wants to learn a little bit more about JavaScript and whats behind the magic of some of today's popular JavaScript frameworks.  An advanced JavaScript developer will probabaly find this book a boring, but thats not the intended audience for this book anyway.
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