Playing with AJAX
Book review Everybody loves Ajax. Javaists, Rubyists, Pythonistas; even Microsofties get to play with Ajax in the form of Atlas. Book publishers love Ajax too, judging by the stack of new titles coming hot off the presses.
O'Reilly has added to the pile with a new title in their long-running "Hacks" series. The aim of the series is to present developers with a series of hacks, tricks, tips and gee-whiz moments. Think of it as a good place to dip-in for ideas, examples and code that can be lifted and re-worked for your own projects. Each book presents a numbered sequence of these "hacks", organised thematically so that readers can easily home in on the topics they're interested in.
The next two chapters – web forms and field validation – are also largely tutorial in nature. They pick up from the basics and present code to actually do some useful bits and pieces for creating forms and validating fields on the fly. It's at this point that the appeal of Ajax really becomes clear – no more having to round-trip to the server to check that users have entered valid credit card details, email addresses etc.
The gee-whiz element really kicks in with chapter four's collection of mash-up hacks for dynamically aggregating content from Google, Yahoo and other sites. Where novice Ajax programmers will find the first few chapters most useful, it's here that more experienced developers are likely to get excited.
The final chapter looks at some of the more thorny issues that Ajax applications have to deal with. For example, what does the back button do when your application is hosted pretty much on a single web page? In a data-heavy application, hitting the back button could cost your users a lot of lost work. This and other deployment issues get hacks devoted to them in this closing chapter.
While there's a lot to commend the book, there are a couple of things to note. The first is that this is clearly not the best book for someone wanting to learn Ajax from scratch. Ajax In Action (reviewed here), provides a more thorough grounding. Secondly, this is a fast moving area of software development with new tools, techniques, and libraries emerging all the time, so there's something of a timeliness issue to bear in mind.
Verdict: While not the ideal beginner's book, it has some good ideas and is designed to appeal to a range of developers wanting to get in on some Ajax action.
Author: Bruce Perry
List Price: £20.99
Buy this book at Register Books, at Reg Developer's special discounted price. ®