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Book Review: Murach’s JavaScript and DOM Scripting by Ray Harris

In early September I received a complimentary copy of Murach’s JavaScript and DOM Scripting by Ray Harris (Amazon) to review.  I got the book because my friend, Andy Warren, passed my name along to the publisher when they asked him to review the book.  He knew I was attempting to learn JavaScript, so passed along this opportunity to me.

This is the first Murach book I have read and it definitely has an interesting format.  The left page is text and the right page is code, examples, and summary of key points.  It took a couple of chapters to get used to the format, but once I did I found it to be very helpful.  For some of the early chapters I was able to just skim the right page to pick up the concepts as the content was already familiar to me.

The book is broken down into four sections:

  1. Introduction to JavaScript Programming
  2. JavaScript Essentials
  3. Dom Scripting
  4. Other JavaScript Skills

In the first section, Introduction to JavaScript Programming, you get the basics of web development including XHTML, CSS, and beginning JavaScripting.  As an inexperienced web programmer I found this information invaluable.  I’ve always been confused by CSS this book helped me to gain a basic understanding so I can now read, understand, and intelligently edit CSS pages.  An experience web developer will be able to skim/skip much of this section, but as a relative newbie, I ate it all up.

In section two, JavaScript Essentials, you delve deeper into JavaScript functionality.  Getting input and displaying output, working with native objects, control statements, arrays, functions, objects, regex, exception handling, and data validation.  Some of the topics in this section, like control statements, are common to other languages so I was able to skim parts of this section and just use the examples and summary on the right hand page.

In section three, DOM Scripting, you really get into the deeper topics.  This is where you really get to hone your skills and take advantage of the power of the DOM and scripting.  You learn to manipulate the DOM, CSS, and build libraries you can re-use to do this.  You get understandable examples and exercises that lead you through the concepts and help you build working examples of a slide show, manipulating tables, and animations.  From here to the end of the book, I would imagine that even experienced JavaScript developers would learn something.

In section four, Other JavaScript Skills, you learn how to manipulate the browser and leverage existing JavaScript libraries like jQuery to extend your applications.

The book was was easy to read and the examples and exercises were good.  Being a Microsoft developer I was a little disappointed that it the book did not really talk about using JavaScript with Visual Studio, but I guess that is to be expected.  I also didn’t think enough time was spent on showing how to deal with the situation when a user has disabled scripting in their browser.  The last thing was that I found the instructions in some of the exercises were too vague and while I finished them in a manner that worked, I wasn’t sure if I had done it correctly.  The finished scripts were included in the download, but I would have liked to have seen it in the book as an appendix.

So I did have a couple of issues, but overall a really good book.  I think it works for beginners all the way to experienced web developers.  The more you know you can “mine” the parts of the book that address your weak areas.  I’d recommend the book and would buy other Murach books based on my experience with this one.

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