Listening To Reason

random musings about technologies by Andy Norris

09 February 2006

Book Review: Foundations of Ajax, Asleton and Schutta, Apress

Summary: friendly enough introduction, but could have been much better

This is a rather unambitious book. It's fairly good at what it tries to do, but it doesn't try to do very much. While Manning's Ajax in Action tackles the subject from the standpoint of engineering desktop-replacement applications, Foundations is content to talk about Ajax as a means of adding small-scale usability enhancements to a web application you're already building. Likewise, they assume you already know all you need to know about whatever HTML and about web development platform you're using, and just need to sprinkle some Ajaxy goodness on your site.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with that. And I have little doubt that there are a lot more people looking to use Ajax to spruce up an existing site or application than looking to build major web-based applications. And lots of those people will already know other aspects of web development and not need a rehash. For these sorts of developers, books like this one will fill an important niche. And Foundations has a lot to recommend it. It's well written and edited, and it has a friendly learning curve. It also covers building a toolset for working effectively with JavaScript, including such useful tools as JavaDoc, JsUnit, GreaseMonkey, and Venkman.

The main way in which this book shoots too low is by providing its straightforward examples only for Java on the server side. For a book that clocks in a thin 273 pages, it surely would have been easy to take the 50 pages of Java examples in chapter 4 and provide parallel chapters that implement the same examples in, say, PHP and ASP.Net. If the authors had merely done that, I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this book to Ajax newcomers. As it is, I can't help thinking that this book should be called Foundations of Ajax in JavaScript and Java. And since only the simplest of examples (the ones without any server-side interaction) will work on other platforms, this book will be completely useless to a large portion of its target audience. What a shame.

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