Review: Professional JavaScript for Web Developers
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Published: 17 Jul 2006
Unedited - Community Contributed
This recent book by Nicholas C. Zakas is a great way to gain a solid foundation for current Javascript development.
by J. Ambrose Little
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With all the talk of AJAX, Atlas, JSON, and rich internet applications these days, I felt I needed to get back to the basics after a few years hiatus from active web development. Although I started out in this industry (professionally) doing web development, for some time I have been more focused on middle tier development.

Sure, I have still been creating web applications here and there as well, but they have been mostly for corporations that were less concerned with fancy user experience and certainly unconcerned with web standards and the like. They (thankfully) just made it a requirement to use recent versions of Internet Explorer, and that greatly simplifies concerns when doing anything fancy on the client-side.

Well, things change, and I found myself feeling the need to reacquaint myself with web development standards. These days that means JavaScript which is the foundational client-side technology for the hot webby things like AJAX and the re-emergence of DHTML as a viable approach for rich clients on the web (thanks largely to the immense popularity of Firefox).

I am still of the opinion that we should not be trying to do rich user experience with the likes of JavaScript and HTML (or even XML and XHTML). We are on the verge of tremendous user experiences that are being made possible with WPF (like these) and they could be hosted inside of the browser or be web deployed. Adobe just put out Flex 2, which is another great option for great UI on the web. However, for some odd reason there is still this fascination with JavaScript and HTML.

Who am I to stand in the way of *gress (I do not say "progress" because I feel like we are standing still or going backwards with this technology)? We can retrofit JavaScript to be more OO. This is good, and this book will tell you all about OO JavaScript. You can talk to servers, but as the author, Nicholas Zakas, points out, it is hard to do this reliably from one browser to the next. Besides, what is the big deal about it anyway? Yes, you can manipulate the BOM (Browser Object Model--a term I'd not heard prior to reading this book) and DOM (Document Object Model), but I cannot shake the sense that we are trying to use a hammer to do the job that tweezers can do.

In my opinion, it is quite maddening to think of all the hugely intelligent people (at Microsoft and elsewhere) who are investing their valuable brain power retrofitting these aged technologies. It is like a bad episode of Pimp My Ride, the one where the guy's car was actually two different cars welded together in the middle. Did they try to pimp that? No. They got a new Scion xB and "pimped" it for him instead. That is what we, as an industry, should be doing. But instead, we are "pimping out" the welded junker.

Despite how maddening it is, it is a popular technology, the heavyweights are sadly tossing their weight into it, and the rest of us poor schmucks have to go along with it. This is why I purchased this book--to gain a much more foundational understanding of JavaScript as it stands today and where it might be going in the future from an experienced web developer's perspective.

This is precisely what this book is about and does, so I was thrilled with it. Zakas does not waste a lot of time patronizing us. The bulk of the book is a valuable insight into how to use JavaScript in a professional way rather than in the odd one-off ways in which it has been so often used (by myself and most others I know) in the past. If we have to do this, let us do it the right way. He references valuable free libraries to help with common tasks, and he does not spend a lot of time just focusing on the current hype of AJAX, though the core aspects of it are covered. Before you read any books on AJAX, you should read this.

All in all, I was pleased with the book. It was spot on in what it said it wanted to deliver and what it actually did deliver. The only thing I would have liked to see more of is using JavaScript for animation. He has a chapter on drag-n-drop and one on sorting which were useful selections that discuss how to achieve common scenarios. For the most part he stayed within the bounds of cross-browser/platform functionality which, as I see it, is the only reason to use an AJAX/DHTML app over something like ClickOnce, WBA, Flash, Flex, or Java Web Start. If you are looking for a way to update your knowledge and get a foundational understanding of the most popular web development technologies today, this book is a good place to start.

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User Comments

Title: You know..   
Name: Darius
Date: 2008-06-02 6:58:49 AM
You know what..? I actually wanted a review of the book, not you personnal view on whole Ajax techology..and I'm a bit dissapointed.
Title: Give some Ex   
Name: Manish
Date: 2006-07-21 1:44:19 AM
Give some example .............

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