JavaScript Book References

Motivation: Bring a list of good JavaScript references for developers.
Inspiration: Having to look all over the place for some good JavaScript references

Lets face it writing books on JavaScript is really no fun. Blame it on Rio and 1 Microsoft Way. Despite its promises, Microsoft continues to renege, delay, fall short and otherwise breech its trust and promises to developers on supporting standards - both the de facto and Web developed. Right now Microsoft Internet Explorer is furthest away from fully implementing the de facto, W3C, ECMA and other web standards and particularly regarding DOM2 , JavaScript, and CSS. In contrast,. Mozilla 1.02 (and therefore Netscape which uses the Mozilla engine as its backbone) plus Opera 5 are much closer to supporting Java, JavaScript, DOM 2, HTML 4, CSS 2 and other Web standards than Internet Explorer.

And so the result is that writers of JavaScript books have to spend literally hundreds of pages accounting for all the differences in implementations between browser versions. Worse, web developers have to spend countless days and months making sure their code works across browsers. So It is no surprise that the recommended references for JavaScript are massive tomes; but despite this, these books manage to convey the essence of JavaScript and the role it plays in DHTML.

JavaScript:The Definitive Guide by David Flanagan
O'Reilly - January 2002 - $45, 916 pages

David Flanagan and O'Reilly together have solid reputations for writing outstanding reference materials and this book is no exception. It is divided into three parts. The first part explains the theory and syntax of JavaScript. It comprises 22 chapters, 424 pages and covers everything from statements, functions, objects to arrays, windows and frames. The book has an excellent mixture of diagrams, screenshots, and sample code (available for download from the O'Reilly website). This combination makes certain that the concepts not only get conveyed well but the user gets some very realistic sample code to try out their JavaScripting skills.

The next part of the book is the Core JavaScript reference. This contains the core predefined objects and functions like arrays, dates, error, math, regular expression, string and other basic functionality of the language. The functions are grouped by category with synopsis, arguments, description, and snippets of example code. Many references default to absolute alphabetic order with very few code examples. In contrast, Flanagan spices his text with excellent samples of code. This core JavaScript is safe to use in almost all browsers in contrast the next

The third part of the book covers the Client-side JavaScript which is

very much browser dependent and so readers must be careful in applying these routines. The bulk of these routines can be safely ignored when developing Server-side JavaScripts(in fact the iPlanet Server-side JavaScript has its own special objects and functions). The final section deals with W3C DOM properties and functions that will be of interest to both client and server-side coders.

The manual reflects the realities of JavaScript - by having a browser war, many proprietary extensions were introduced into JavaScript. Fortunately, Mozilla/Netscape are back on track; unfortunately the same cannot be said for Microsoft- version 6 of Internet Explorer due soon will tell a lot about its seriousness in committing to open standards. In the meantime JavaScript:The Definitive Guide in the way its structured and its excellent examples and diagrams is an excellent guide to the language for either web development or as a guide to its use a macro language by Macromedia nd many others ISVs.

Dynamic HTML: Definitive Reference by D.Goodman

Danny Goodman's reference is clearly earmarked for web developers with its coverage of HTML, CSS, DOM as well as JavaScript. As such it is even thicker than the JavaScript 4th edition - covering 1401 pages packed with reference material.

In fact, the major differences between the two books is that Goodman sacrifices theory and coding examples for comprehensive coverage of HTML and CSS which are only touched upon in Flanagan's JavaScrpt reference.

And the coverage of HTML is comprehensive. The HTML section includes XHML and HTML 4.01 syntax while the DOM and CSS include both versions 1 and 2. Also Goodman has done a thorough job of the thankless task in spelling out all the different support among browser types. This is becoming increasingly difficult as new browser versions appear, Microsoft has cross platform differences in its Mac and Windows IE browsers and the basic standards change themselves .Examples are the deprecation and obsolescing of some basic tags like <center> and <comment> plus many of the new CSS2 and DOM 2 capabilities.

However, there are two drawbacks to this edition. First, the coverage of CSS concentrates primarily on its implementation through DOM function calls and not the practical usage directly in HTML. CSS is

discussed and a few examples are given; but not enough to get your bearings if you come into CSS with no/minimal background. And examples are the other problem. A reference is only as good as the tested examples it shows - and again, Goldman goes light here. .

The bottom line is that this reference does an admirable job of keeping developers straight on what is the latest status of HTML, DOM, CSS and the language that manipulates them all, JavaScript. I value a reference by roughly the number of times it answers my questions - and on that basis Goldman rates a 3 on 4.

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